Management skills – the missing link in Africa’s development

By Rebecca Harrison, Project Director, African Management Initiative

Management skills: the missing link in Africa’s development

Africa has reached a turning point. No longer viewed as the hopeless continent, it has an abundance of natural wealth, its economies are growing, investment is on the rise and its population is young, large and increasingly affluent. Yet, a key ingredient is missing. Africa lacks effective and competent managers – across the private, public and NGO sectors – with the skills and competence required to translate the opportunities of the next decade into greater prosperity and a better life for all.

At the African Management Initiative (AMI), we are working to address Africa’s management gap by catalysing innovative solutions to help equip and empower African managers on a massive scale.

AMI is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder effort to transform Africa through high quality management. We have conducted extensive research into Africa’s management gap, and recently launched an innovative learning and coaching platform to provide free resources and support to hundreds of thousands of managers across Africa. AMI is also developing a range of new approaches to empower African managers, including a low-cost ‘Mobile Business Clinic’ for small businesses, and a blueprint for new African, entrepreneurial business schools.

At AMI, we believe that the paucity of management competency on the ground is one of the greatest constraints facing the continent. Our research shows that Africa boasts good business leaders, but not nearly enough. Smaller businesses in particular often lack the management know-how to take their businesses to the next level.

We believe good management is the missing link in the African growth and development story. Africa urgently needs effective and responsible managers to build competitive global companies, a thriving SME sector and visionary public and civil society institutions.

While Africa has some great business schools, and impressive programmes for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs, these existing efforts are simply inadequate to meet the scale of the need. The continent needs innovative, accessible and massively scalable solutions to help close the management gap.

Our vision is for one million highly effective and responsible African managers by 2023. To realise this vision, we are working to extend access to management education on the continent, and to catalyse innovation in the management development space.

One of our main projects is the AMI online learning platform and community at African managers can sign up to the platform for free, accessing a range of tools and resources contributed by the continent’s leading business schools and training providers. We plan to supplement this with an innovative online mentoring and peer-to-peer accountability system, to help managers translate their new knowledge into improved on-the-job performance. Over 2,000 managers from across the continent are already using the platform every month, only a few months after its launch.

We are also catalysing new approaches to empower and equip African managers through the AMI Innovation Lab. We have designed a model for an entrepreneurial African business school that can be established for $2-5 million – a fraction of what is spent launching most business schools. This model will be piloted in Nigeria during 2013, and is available for others to use. AMI has also helped developed a model for an accessible and highly practical ‘Mobile Business Clinic’ management development programme for small businesses, which is currently being piloted in Ghana.

Realising our vision for one million effective and responsible managers will only be possible with commitment and collaboration across the private sector, education, government and among donors and philanthropists. We have already partnered with several visionary organisations including the African Management Services Company, African Capacity Building Foundation, CDC Development Solutions, Results for Development Institute, United Bank for Africa and of course our founding organisations, the Association of African Business Schools, Global Business School Network, Lundin Foundation and The Tony Elumelu Foundation.

We are now looking for more companies and donors to join us as pioneers of excellent management in Africa. We are particularly keen to partner with large companies that are expanding in Africa and are interested in signing their managers up to our online platform, or by providing mentors or other pro bono support. We also welcome partnerships with providers of management education and training.

If you or your organisation would like to join us in transforming Africa through excellent management, or for more information on the African Management Initiative, please contact re*****@af*************.org" target="_blank">Rebecca Harrison. To join our online platform, please go to

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