News & Highlights

  • JUNE 2019

Faculty Immersion in Nigeria and Kenya

This June, 26 Harvard Business School Faculty took part in a weeklong immersion to Nigeria and Kenya. They had the opportunity to visit and learn from close to 20 African companies and hear about both the unique challenges these companies face as well as their innovative business practices. Further, they participated in the 2019 HBS Fung Global Symposium in Lagos, connecting with over 100 local alumni and business leaders in the region. Faculty also met with the Vice President of Nigeria and the President of Kenya during their time in the region. HBS’ Africa Research Center contributed significantly to the intellectual content of the program and will have the opportunity to engage a number of the faculty participants on new case studies that emerged from the visit.
  • MAY 2019

Seni Sulyman: Building an Africa tech hub

As Vice President of global operations at tech company Andela, Seni Sulyman (MBA 2014) is working to rescript Africa’s role in the world by creating highly skilled African workers who will attract foreign investment and help build the businesses of the future. Faculty recently got a glimpse into this effort during their visit to Andela as part of the 2019 Faculty Immersion in Africa. “Thirty years from now, I want to enjoy living here,” Sulyman says. “For me, that means building businesses that will alter the trajectory of society and thousands and thousands of people.”
  • APRIL 2019

HBS New Venture Competition

Wil Eyi (MBA 2019) from Gabon was awarded one of the top prizes in this year’s New Venture Competition. His venture, MyToolbox Technologies, is a B2B labor marketplace for the construction industry that provides a platform where subcontractors can secure work and empower their workers. MyToolbox Technologies received The Dubilier $75,000 Grand Prize as well as the $5,000 Crowd Favorite Prize. The annual Harvard Business School New Venture Competition is open to all students and alumni interested in launching new business and social impact ventures. The School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and its Social Enterprise Initiative, in partnership with HBS Alumni Clubs & Associations, host the annual competition. This year, 266 teams entered and 12 finalist teams competed in the 22nd annual HBS New Venture Competition that took place in Klarman Hall on April 23rd. The new venture pitches were vetted by more than 200 judges, including many HBS graduates, from fields such as venture capital, private equity, law, accounting, philanthropy, impact investing, and social entrepreneurship.
  • FEBRUARY 2019

2019 Africa Business Conference

The 2019 Africa Business Conference was held on February 15 and 16, 2019 at Harvard Business School. This year's theme, "Africa Forward: Forging New Alliances for the Future" was chosen given key economic and geopolitical events across the continent in 2018, including the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and the landmark peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Over 1,200 guests attended the conference, attending diverse panels on private equity, healthcare, entertainment, consumer goods, and infrastructure on the continent. Guests also heard keynote addresses from Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Vice Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity and former Minister of Health of the Republic of Rwanda; Mr. Vincent Le Guennou (MBA 1997), Managing Director, Founding Partner and Co-CEO of Emerging Capital Partners; and Mr. Momar Nguer, President of Marketing & Services, Total S.A., and Member of the Total Executive Committee. The Africa Business Club also hosted the New Venture Competition, highlighting the diversity of entrepreneurs on the continent today. Ship’nbag, an automated matching marketplace fulfilled by travelers who buy and ship orders on their way back and thus provide a secured low-cost shipping service, won the first prize after a careful review of hundreds of applications.

New Research on the Region

  • October 2019
  • Case

Agility Africa

By: Juan Alcacer, Caroline M. Elkins and Esel Çekin

This case illustrates the challenge and opportunities that firms face when developing and executing new business models in high-risk, low-infrastructure, low-trust countries. It features a global logistics group, Agility, that aimed to become the leader in supplying innovative solutions that provide the backbone to growing consumer markets across Africa. Agility’s objective was to fill the institutional voids in the warehousing and logistics space that prevented multi-nationals and local firms from successfully operating at a level similar to Western countries and other emerging markets. After proof-of-concept success in Ghana’s free zone, Agility faced the challenge of expanding its business model across a diverse continent of 54 countries. Agility Africa’s CEO, Geoffrey White, needed to plot the way forward. Should he set a high entry barrier by building several warehouse parks in one of Africa’s economic regions? Or, should he expand across the continent with one facility in each of the large and growing countries? If the decision was to pursue regional expansion, should he try to open one park per country—even in small ones—or build satellite developments in secondary cities where Agility already had facilities? He also needed to consider the pace of phasing in each park and the possibility of developing multiple parks in existing locations. With the world’s fastest growing middle-class population and an internet revolution poised to spur the growth of consumer products and industrialization, Africa was considered by many as the world’s leading and largely untapped, emerging market. White needed to make difficult and nuanced decisions that took account of the continent’s many differences, as well as business similarities.

  • Article
  • Journal of International Business Studies

Organizational Innovation in the Multinational Enterprise: Internalization Theory and Business History

By: Teresa da Silva Lopes, Mark Casson and G. Jones

This article engages in a methodological experiment by using historical evidence to challenge a common misperception about internalization theory. The theory has often been criticized for maintaining that it assumes a hierarchically organized MNE based on knowledge flowing from the home country. This is not an accurate description of how global firms operate in recent decades, but this article shows it has never been true historically. Using longitudinal data on individual firms from the nineteenth century onwards, it reveals evidence of how entrepreneurs and firms with multinational activity faced by market imperfections changed the design of their headquarters and their organizational structures.

  • 2019
  • Working Paper

The Value of Communication: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Entrepreneurs in Togo

By: Stefan Dimitriadis and Rembrand Koning

Why do some entrepreneurs benefit from their portfolio of peer advisers while others do not? In this study, we argue that communication practices are an important but overlooked factor in the formation of useful advice relationships between entrepreneurs, particularly in the context of developing economies. We hypothesize that improving entrepreneurs’ communication practices will affect the relationships they form and have implications for their business performance. To test our theory, we conducted a field experiment in Togo with 301 entrepreneurs who were randomized into a communication practices intervention that was embedded in a business training program. We found that entrepreneurs who were exposed to better communication practices perceived interactions more cooperatively and exchanged more information during those interactions. Moreover, improving communication practices also led to a 50 percent increase in the number of relationships entrepreneurs formed with peers. These relationships exhibited more matching based on skill and were more ethnically diverse. Finally, communication practices training also substantially increased entrepreneurs’ business performance. Our findings highlight how communication practices play a central role in entrepreneurs’ ability to form portfolios of relationships and perform in challenging business environments.

See more research

Johannesburg Staff

Pippa Tubman Armerding
Executive Director
Dilyana Botha
Senior Researcher
Tafadzwa Choruma
Administrative, Research and Program Assistant