News & Highlights

  • November 2022
  • Event

Virtual Event with Professor Deborah Spar

This November, the Africa Research Center hosted a virtual discussion with Professor Debora Spar on the challenges of evolving capitalism and starting a conversation in Africa. Professor Spar is currently spearheading efforts at HBS to create a new Institute for the Study of Business in Global Society (BiGS), of which she is the Senior Associate Dean. By gathering a community of scholars, students, and practitioners, BiGS aims to re-examine how capitalism is functioning today, and what responsibilities—and opportunities—business has to make it work better. Professor Spar is currently writing two cases on African firms: one on Afrigen Biologics, based in Cape Town, and the other on Equity Bank of Kenya. These cases will be an integral part of the School’s new Institute. Professor Spar has done extensive work in Africa and South Africa over the years. During her dialogue with our HBS and Harvard alumni, she shared plans for BiGS but also her thoughts on how Africa and African firms can help tackle some of society’s greatest challenges.
  • November 2022
  • MBA Experience

MBA Admissions Events in Africa

In November, Chad Losee, Managing Director, MBA Admissions and Financial Aid, hosted four events in Africa. Two of these events were in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa while the other two were in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria. These events were designed for prospective applicants to learn more about the MBA Program and life at HBS through the voices of alumni and other community members. The events gathered more than 100 attendees.
  • November 2022

Virtual Book Discussion with Professor Jeremy Friedman

Professor Jeremy Friedman gave his insights from his new book, Ripe for Revolution: Building Socialism in the Third World. The book seeks to tell the story of the global evolution of the socialist project during the Cold War through an iterative process of trial and error. The book explores how socialists sought to build a model of socialism that would fit the conditions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, then referred to as the “Third World,” and now more often called the “Global South.” This event was co-hosted by the Middle East and North Africa Research Center with nearly 50 HBS alumni and community members attending the virtual event.
  • September 2022
  • Event

Virtual Conversation with Professor George Serafeim

The Africa Research Center and Middle East and North Africa Research Center co-hosted a virtual event with Professor George Serafeim. With his new book Purpose and Profit: How Business Can Lift Up the World, Professor Serafeim provided answers to the following questions: Are purpose and profit in conflict, or can both be achieved simultaneously with the right mindset and tools? What are the forces that are reshaping the relationship between the two? What can we all do to strengthen the relationship between purpose and profit as entrepreneurs, managers, employees, consumers, and investors? Approximately 50 HBS alumni and community members attended the event.
  • JULY 2022
  • Event

Africa-Focused Case Studies Highlight Fast-Changing Business Environments

Since the Africa Research Center launched in 2017, case studies have been essential to our efforts in supporting Harvard Business School with deepening faculty and student understanding of and exposure to management issues, trends, and practices in Africa. This year makes it 100 years since the first case study was taught at HBS. To celebrate the HBS Case Centennial, members of our community shared insights into what impacts Africa-focused HBS case studies have had both in the classroom and across wider, global academic and business communities. Watch our five-part video series featuring these insights below.

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Case Studies from Africa: Insights from Alumni Fola Laoye and Akinseye Akinola

Alumni Fola Laoye (MBA 1999) and Akinseye Akinola (MBA 2013) discuss their experience of the HBS classroom at a time when Africa-focused case studies were newly emerging.

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Case Studies from Africa: Insights from Mo Abudu, Chinua Azubike, and Senior Lecturer John Macomber

Mo Abudu the founder and CEO of EbonyLife, explains why being part of an HBS case study was important to her as a business leader. John Macomber, Faculty Chair of the ARC and Senior Lecturer in the Finance Unit, and Chinua Azubike, CEO of InfraCredit, also discuss the value of writing case studies on African companies.

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Case Studies from Africa: Insights from Temie Giwa-Tubosun and Peter Njonjo

In this video, Temie Giwa-Tubosun the founder and CEO of LifeBank, and Peter Njonjo, Co-founder and CEO of Twiga Foods, discuss working with the ARC on case studies about their companies and what participating in the case study process has meant for their companies.

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Case Studies from Africa: Insights from Helena Conradie and Gregory Rockson

In this video, Helena Conradie the former CEO of Satrix Investments, shares her experience and learnings from participating in the Satrix case study. Additionally, Gregory Rockson, Co-founder and CEO of mPharma, discusses the impact of the case study process on their companies.

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Case Studies from Africa: Insights from Anywhere Sikochi, Okendo Lewis-Gayle and Laetitia Tiani Vessah

Anywhere Sikochi, Assistant Professor in the HBS Accounting and Management Unit, and Okendo Lewis-Gayle, founder of the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance, explain the impact Africa-focused case studies have both within and beyond classrooms. Current MBA student, Laetitia Tiani Vessah also shares how Africa-focused case studies have enriched her MBA experience, and why she is excited about the rapidly growing number of such case studies and the future of learning at HBS.

New Research on the Region

  • 2023
  • Working Paper

Design of Off-Grid Lighting Business Models to Serve the Poor: Field Experiments and Structural Analysis

By: Bhavani Shanker Uppari, Serguei Netessine, Ioanna Popescu and Rowan P. Clarke

A significant proportion of the world's population has no access to grid-based electricity and so relies on off-grid lighting solutions. Rechargeable lamp technology is gaining popularity as an alternative off-grid lighting model in developing countries. In this paper, we explore consumer behavior and the operational inefficiencies that result under this model. Specifically, we are interested in (i) measuring the impact of inconvenience (of travelling to recharge the lamp) along with the impact of liquidity constraints (due to poverty) on lamp usage, and (ii) evaluating the efficacy of strategies that address these factors. We build a structural model of consumers' recharge decisions that incorporates several operational features of the low-income regions. We conducted large-scale field experiments in Rwanda in partnership with a local rechargeable lamp operator and use the resultant data to estimate and test our model. We find that the complete removal of inconvenience and liquidity constraints from the current business model results in 73% and 126% increases in both recharges and revenue, thereby suggesting that these constraints are major sources of inefficiency. By implementing simple operations-based strategies — such as starting more recharge centers, visiting consumers periodically to collect their lamps for recharge, and allowing consumers to partially recharge their lamps and pay flexibly for the recharge — more than half the benefit of completely eliminating the inefficiencies can be attained. By contrast, the price- and capacity-based strategies that vary the economic variables (i.e., the amount paid per recharge and the amount of light obtained in return) but not the operational model perform far worse than the aforementioned strategies. Overall, our analysis emphasizes the importance of managing operations effectively even in markets with cash-constrained consumers, where firms may have a natural tendency to focus more on reducing prices.

  • October 2022
  • Teaching Material

The SAH Group: The Time is Right, Spreadsheet Supplement

By: Juan Alcacer and Alpana Thapar

In January 2021, Jalila Mezni, CEO of the SAH Group, was preparing to present the company’s future growth plans to its board of directors. The Tunisian company was a leading producer and distributor of personal care and packaged hygiene products. In 2019, it expanded further by entering the detergents market. By 2020, the company employed over 4,500 people and had a presence in 20 African countries. The Lilas brand had become a household name in Tunisia, outperforming brands owned by global players like Procter and Gamble. In detergents, SAH was steadily gaining ground over multinational consumer goods companies like Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, and Henkel. As Mezni looked ahead, she had to carefully evaluate three growth opportunities: introducing a range of kitchen cleaners, vertically integrating operations in the detergents business, and opening a subsidiary in Kenya. Which of these, if any, would be the right way forward for the SAH Group at this juncture?

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Johannesburg Staff

Pippa Tubman Armerding
Executive Director
Tafadzwa Choruma
Administrative, Research and Program Assistant
Anna Ngarachu
Senior Researcher

Lagos Staff

Wale Lawal
Senior Researcher

Nairobi Staff

Kuria Kamau
Senior Researcher