The American University in Cairo ( AUC ) signed a novel partnership agreement with a consortium of leading African business schools from four major countries. The newly formed African Academic Association on Entrepreneurship (AAAE) is committed to sharing resources, expertise and research to give a much-needed boost to entrepreneurship, job creation and economic development on the continent.
AAAE will promote and develop academic cooperation – particularly in the areas of entrepreneurship, small business development, innovation and start-ups – through research, case study development, the academic exchange of students and faculty as well as academic materials and publications, professional internships and technical cooperation.
“The inception of the AAAE is an important step towards enhancing entrepreneurship across Africa and it will play a key role in leading the continent towards stronger linkages among African business schools focusing on teaching and research in the areas of entrepreneurship and small business development – including family business – as well as promoting global collaboration,” said Karim Seghir, dean of AUC School of Business.
AUC will serve as the coordinator of the collaboration until a structured steering committee has been set up. The other five participating business schools are the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, South Africa (UCT GSB), Stellenbosch University of Stellenbosch, South Africa (USB), Esca Maroc Ecole De Management of Casablanca, Morocco (ESCA), The Lagos Business School of Lagos, Nigeria (LBS), and Strathmore Business School of Nairobi, Kenya (SBS).
According to Seghir, entrepreneurship and innovation are widely regarded as key mechanisms to address chronic unemployment and poverty on the continent. The most recent International Labour Organisation Global Employment Trends report has shown that paid employment opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa are scarce and the vulnerable employment rate, at 77.4 per cent in 2013 are the highest in the world. “The AAEE will seek to address this directly. A sustainable solution to unemployment on the continent is a well-directed entrepreneurship ecosystem and a more effective educational system,” he said.
According to Sarah-Anne Arnold, manager of the MTN Solution Space at the UCT GSB who represents the UCT GSB in the AAEE, promoting the exchange of ideas, experiences and skills is core to building up an entrepreneurship ecosystem on the continent. “If we want to build our continent then we need to invest in building networks that are broader than any one single institution. The fuel to innovate is created when people with different experiences, realities, passions and ideas come together with the mandate and support structures to develop new possibilities,” she said. “Our work in the MTN Solution Space at the UCT GSB is very much geared in this direction and we are excited to be able to share what we are learning through the AAEE.”
Professor Khaled Ismail, Willard Brown chair for International Business Leadership and director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at AUC believes that this agreement will enrich the entrepreneurship education at AUC and partner schools. “We expect an exchange of faculty and students between the academic partners, which will enrich their understanding and expand their horizons around what is happening in Africa.”
Seghir said the new association will seek to expand over the coming months to include more African business schools. There is also an explicit objective to invite collaboration between global business schools in the academic study of entrepreneurship. The AAAE will also seek to build bridges between academic and industry knowledge.
“We have a common interest in building a stronger, economically active Africa. And working together we can achieve more than working alone,” concluded Seghir.
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The American University in Cairo ( AUC ) was founded in 1919 and is major contributor to the social, political and cultural life of the Arab Region. It is a vital bridge between East and West, linking Egypt and the region to the world through scholarly research, partnerships with academic and research institutions, and study abroad programs. An independent, nonprofit, apolitical, non-sectarian and equal opportunity institution, AUC is fully accredited in Egypt and the United States.