Immersive Field Course: Africa; Building Cities - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Immersive Field Course: Africa; Building Cities

Course Number 6087

Senior Lecturer John Macomber
Four on-campus sessions: Tuesday late afternoons at 5:45 and ending by 7:30 pm: September 10, October 29, November 12, December 3
Dates: Arrival on Sunday, January 12, 2020; departure on Saturday, January 25.
Program fee & travel costs: see Course Credit and Fees
Credits: 3.0
Enrollment: 40

Career Focus

This course will be of interest to students who would like to investigate business solutions to three of the major problems of our time: rapid and massive urbanization; increasing scarcity of clean water, clean air, clean power, and effective transport; and the apparent inability of federal governments to fully address these problems with their own capabilities and financial resources.

Cities are often the right political unit to tackle the impact of these trends, and private investment in public infrastructure is a major tool to address the issues. Students in this course will test these solutions in the real world with companies, investors, and city leaders. Students will emerge with significant understanding of urban development, the competitive advantage of regions, and the private finance of public infrastructure.

Educational Objectives

Rapidly growing cities in Africa and around the world are constrained by the funding and delivery of basic infrastructure including water, transit, power, and communications. New technologies, new business models, public-private partnerships, and increasing interest from financial investors should be able to mitigate some of these constraints, help individuals to improve their lives, and provide attractive business and investing opportunities. In theory, well-matched finance, appropriate design, and capable execution in addressing these components of cities can help urban areas to be more competitive with other cities, more environmentally friendly, and more able to provide opportunity for residents.

Students will gain extensive understanding of two major West African cities (Abidjan, Ivory Coast and Accra, Ghana); rich awareness of the basics of infrastructure design, finance, and delivery; and an advanced sense of what private investors and businesses need in terms of revenue opportunities, regulatory and contractual environments, and technical skill to succeed in these areas.

The work is informed by and closely aligned with current faculty research in building sustainable cities and infrastructure. The investigation builds on past Building Cities immersive courses in Latin America and in Eastern Africa, and the output is put into use at once.

Course Content and Organization

Overview and Introduction: The course will meet for four class sessions in the fall to discuss the basics of infrastructure development and finance across each asset class, and to learn fundamental background on the history, legal systems, and prior development efforts in each urban area. There is no project work in the fall.

Schedule: In January, the course will visit both Abidjan and Accra, spending five to seven days in each. Each week includes selected full group plenary sessions with companies, the investment community, and city government as well as extensive independent work at the team level. There are also cultural, historical, and business site visits.

Projects: Participants will work on a research project in one of eight teams comprising 4-6 students. Each team will have a sector for focus: Traditional Energy, Renewable Energy, Urban Transit, Inter-City Transit, Water and Sanitation, Municipal Solid Waste, Commercial Real Estate, or the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. In each discipline, the research question revolves around attracting private capital to the sector. Following plenary kick-off sessions, each team will start its work by meeting with pre-identified “content experts” who will help them to connect with other resources to help explore their research questions. In this manner, each group is exposed to many different organizations. Students are largely responsible for arranging their own meetings with resources in country.

Deliverable: Students will present their initial findings and recommendations at capstone events in each city. Each team will also submit a final report shortly after returning to campus, synthesizing learnings from both cities. Ultimately, findings of the Immersive Field Course can be disseminated as Open Knowledge entries, case studies, journal articles, HBS Working Papers, and technical notes.



The Immersive Field Course Model

Immersive Field Courses are designed to offer second-year students an off-campus, experiential learning opportunity during the January term. A cornerstone of these courses is the expertise of faculty, who develop course content focused on teaching objectives that are met primarily through student-centered active learning opportunities including project work, site visits and participating in discussions with key contacts. As such, these courses provide students with an opportunity to apply first-hand the knowledge and skills gained from their on-campus MBA coursework in an off-campus setting.
Due to the nature of Immersive Field Courses students may be required to sign legal agreements requested by project partner organizations. Additional requirements and documentation may also be requested of students by organizations.

Course Credit and Fees

Students who successfully complete this course (including participation in all on-campus sessions during the Fall and Spring terms) will earn 3.0 course credits.

HBS will provide in-country logistics for IFCs (including accommodations, select meals, and local travel) but students will need to contribute a fee of $3,500 towards defraying a part of these costs. In addition, students are responsible for their round-trip air travel and any costs associated with required visa documentation and immunizations. Students must ensure adequate processing time for all visas. Students who have applied for financial aid may apply for additional financial support to participate in this course. Please see the Financial Aid website (login required) for more information on financial support for Immersive Field Courses.

For detailed information about what the course program fee includes and excludes, as well as information about student accommodations, please visit the GEO website.