News & Highlights

  • SEPTEMBER 2021

Elevating Ethiopian Entrepreneurs

Startup Factory Ethiopia cofounder Thomas Ferede (MBA 2009) explains the mission of his organization—and how the HBS network has helped further its goals. In this video interivew, Mr. Ferede explains how he wanted to create inspirational companies for the next generation of young people in Ethiopia and give people a vision of what business is supposed to be.
  • JULY 2021

Turning Africa's Biggest Challenges into Global Business Opportunities: Summer Fellow Rashveena Rajaram (MBA 2022)

The HBS Summer Fellows Program enables students to apply their classroom training as they explore career opportunities in roles or regions where compensation is generally lower than the traditional MBA level. Read about Summer Fellow Rashveena Rajaram's experience in the Africa developing skills and knowledge while having significant responsibility and high impact.
  • JULY 2021

Entrepreneur Naa-Sakle Akuete (MBA 2014): Social impact through shea butter

Shea-nut butter entrepreneur Naa-Sakle Akuete (MBA 2014) is ensuring her suppliers—village women in sub-Saharan Africa—get their fair share of the profits from their labor. To the people of Ghana, shea butter is known as “women’s gold.” Used for everything from stretch marks to diaper rash, it’s a go-to product in high demand. And it offers employment opportunities for women willing to survey shea-nut trees across the wilds of sub-Saharan Africa, picking the nuts and selling them. Read about Akuete's experience building a for-profit company with social impact.
  • JUNE 2021

mPharma: Virtual Case Discussion with Professor Rembrand M. Koning

On June 24, 2021, the ARC hosted a virtual case discussion with Professor Rembrand M. Koning that focused on mPharma (A), a pharmaceutical company based in Accra, Ghana. mPharma pioneered electronic prescriptions with an aim to increase drug affordability and accessibility in Africa but struggled early on to turn a profit or lower drug prices. Following investor concerns about the business, mPharma’s founder and CEO Gregory Rockson is confronted with a difficult decision: Should he shut down the business? Pivot to a new business model? Or double-down and hope the current strategy improves as the business scales? Over 50 alumni and friends of the School attended and had the opportunity to actively engage in an HBS classroom-style case discussion focused on Mr. Rockson’s dilemmas. Participants also heard Mr. Rockson’s insights on the case and his company and had the chance to participate in a moderated Q&A session with him.

New Research on the Region

  • September 2021
  • Case

Worldreader: Helping Readers Build a Better World

By: Marco Bertini, Elie Ofek and Julia Kelley

Founded in 2010, Worldreader was an international nonprofit organization that promoted reading to children around the world. For many years, Worldreader distributed e-readers to under-resourced communities and funded its operations primarily through philanthropic donations. In 2019, Worldreader launched the BookSmart mobile reading application, and soon thereafter came the idea of a new, self-perpetuating funding structure: the “flywheel.” Worldreader aimed to charge schools and community-based organizations a $6 monthly subscription fee per child to use BookSmart, with the goal of using earned revenue to sustain operational costs and using philanthropy to cover other strategic priorities. However, Worldreader soon realized that ability to pay varied greatly among potential “customers,” leading to several exceptions to the initial price. The team also worried that the subscription hindered achieving scale and conflicted with Worldreader’s ultimate goal of impacting millions of children. As Co-Founder and CEO David Risher and his team prepared for an upcoming meeting with UNICEF, which typically sought fixed-price contracts, they considered whether a price per-child, per-month would be acceptable. More broadly, they considered whether they had landed on the optimal price point and funding strategy — and the potential implications of pursuing earned revenue on Worldreader’s ability to bid for international development grants.

  • Article
  • Business History

Business Investment in Education in Emerging Markets Since the 1960s

By: Valeria Giacomin, Geoffrey Jones and Erica Salvaj

This article examines non-profit investments by business in education in emerging markets between the 1960s and the present day. Using a sample of 110 interviews with business leaders from an oral history database, the study shows that more than three-quarters of such leaders invested in education as a non-profit activity. The article explores three different types of motivations behind such high levels of engagement with education: values driven, context focussed, and firm focussed. The article identifies significant regional variations in terms of investment execution, structure, and impact. In South and Southeast Asia, there was a preference for long-term investment in primary and secondary education. In Africa and Latin America, some initiatives sometimes had a shorter-term connotation, but with high-profile projects in partnerships with international organisations and foreign universities. In Turkey, there was heavy focus on training and the creation of universities. The article concludes by examining the impact of this investment, comparing Chile and India especially. It discusses issues such as the paucity of financial data and the challenges of comparing different types of educational spending, which make robust conclusions hard, but does suggest that although such spending did not resolve major educational roadblocks across the emerging world, it represented a positive overall social gain.

  • 2021
  • Case

NiPay's Pricing Conundrum

By: Marco Bertini and Oded Koenigsberg

NiPay is a software provider competing in the Nigerian business-to-business payments market. Founded by Idaku Ibrahim nearly 20 years ago, NiPay sells two products to retailers and other merchants, which enable individual shoppers to transact either online or via a mobile device.

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Johannesburg Staff

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

Lagos Staff

Wale Lawal
Senior Researcher