Harvard Kennedy School’s Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA-ID) is designed to prepare the next generation of leaders in international development. It is an economics-centered, multidisciplinary program combining rigorous training in analytical and quantitative methods with an emphasis on policy and practice. When combined with Harvard Business School’s Masters in Business Administration (MBA), students will demonstrate exceptional aptitude in the areas of policy expertise and cross-disciplinary management and will assume positions of influence spanning business, government, and nonprofit organizations, through which they will contribute significantly to the well-being of society.

About Nanako Yano

Nanako Yano grew up in Tokyo, Japan and attended Pomona College in California. After graduating, she worked with Oliver Wyman in New York City and then moved to Swaziland to work with the Clinton Health Access Inititiative (CHAI) until two years later she was admitted into the HBS/HKS Joint Degree Program. We caught up with Nanako to learn more about her experience with the HBS/HKS joint degree program and her plans to make an impact on the world.

A long-term view
Prior to pursuing a joint degree at HBS and HKS, I worked with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in Southern Africa, supporting the Ministries of Health in Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and South Africa to scale up their HIV and tuberculosis programs. While I felt incredibly passionate about the work and strongly believed in its impact, I also began to observe the risks, limitations, and skewed incentives foreign aid creates within local governments. I began taking a longer-term view of the countries I was in and realized that ultimately, what these governments need most are internal sources of revenue that can then finance their public goods and services – which means a strong local private sector that creates jobs and generates tax revenue. This interest in private sector development in Africa is what motivated me to pursue a joint degree.

Learning in practice & the HKS toolkit
After my first year in the joint degree program at HKS (MPA/ID Program) with leading development economists such as Professors Lant Pritchett and Dani Rodrik, I developed the analytical and quantitative toolkit necessary to diagnose a country’s binding constraints to economic growth and used my first summer internship to put my newly acquired skills to use. That summer, I worked at the Rwanda Development Board, a government agency whose mandate is to facilitate private investment into the country. While there I analyzed access to finance as the private sector’s binding constraint and what policies could best alleviate it.

A nuanced perspective through the HBS MBA
After my second year in the program at HBS, where I developed a more nuanced perspective of the role of business in Africa through the Africa Business Club, I decided to put my MBA hat on for the summer and worked at Schulze Global Investments in Ethiopia, the country’s first private equity fund. I specifically wanted to see, in a country with a banking system off-limits to foreign investment and where there are no local capital markets, if foreign private equity could plug the gap in financing for local companies – and ultimately contribute to private sector development.

Moving forward and making a big impact
Through these two internships and my joint degree education, I have decided that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the investment arm of the World Bank Group, is where I can make the biggest impact in alleviating financing constraints in Africa, developing the local private sector, and ultimately shifting countries away from foreign aid into more sustainable sources of financing. Specifically, IFC’s direct investments into local companies alleviate their immediate financing constraints, but more importantly, catalyze other investors through demonstration effects, creating and shaping markets in places where there are none today. As a financially autonomous, legally separate entity within the World Bank Group, the IFC is mandated to find the right balance between financial and social returns – ensuring strong financial performance that maintains their AAA-rating and a low cost of capital, but also fulfilling the World Bank Group’s mandate of poverty elimination. The IFC will truly put my joint degree education to good use, as I have spent the last three years thinking about how to best manage expectations and create more shared value between business and society.  

Unlimited possibilities and increasing the presence of Africa at HBS
My interest in and entry into the IFC would not have been possible without my joint degree training and the two summers I had to hypothesis-test where I could add the most value in Africa’s private sector development.

As I leave HBS, I am most excited to see how invested the school has become in increasing the presence of Africa on campus, whether it be the new HBS Africa Research Office in Johannesburg that opened in 2017, the generous GO: Africa Fellowship that encourages MBAs to work on the continent post-graduation, the new Doing Business in Africa elective course, or the “Africa Rising” short intensive program that was offered in January 2018 in which 30 African alumni returned to campus to share their experiences working on the continent.

I look forward to seeing Harvard welcome more students from the continent and expand the school’s impact on the development of Africa. For these reasons, and for all the classmates, alumni, professors, and staff at HBS/HKS who have inspired and encouraged me in ways that I will never be able to fully articulate, I am immensely grateful to have been in the joint degree program.

This post was originally published on the MBA Voices blog.