Jönköping International Business School began their African journey many years ago, and are now cooperating with four leading African universities.
It started with a postgraduate education, and that was nothing new in itself. Many Swedish universities have for a long time given education to students from low-middle income countries. But as graduate students built networks in the country where they received their education, few returned home, and the home country did not benefit from their new skills.
In an innovative partnership with Addis Abbaba University and with support from Swedish development cooperation (Sida), in 2011 JIBS started to develop a doctoral programme in economics and management in Ethiopia. In 2013 a similar project, and a master programme, was started at the University of Rwanda.
With the experience and knowledge from two projects, together with the experience of trying to build similar programmes in Tanzania and Uganda, JIBS discovered that there were many similarities between these countries in terms of conditions, challenges and opportunities. The countries are among the fastest growing economies in the world, but the lack of qualified university teachers and researchers have been an obstacle on the road to growth and poverty reduction.
A new form of cooperation
Therefore the initiative was taken to a whole new form of collaboration between JIBS and four African universities: College of Business and Economics at the University of Rwanda, College of Business and Economics at Addis Ababa University, College of Business and Management Sciences at Makerere University and University of Dar es Salaam Business School.
The collaboration is called EID, which stands for Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Development, and within the program, the five universities will not only be able to send students to each other, they will also collaborate in the dissemination of research and development of the private sector.
A large portion of the faculty at JIBS are involved in the Africa project in various ways. Lars Hartvigson, senior advisor at JIBS, has had the primary responsibility to make the cooperation more concrete. The doctoral programmes need to be as similar as possible, and within the EID it is also important to decide who does what. Everything is decided in dialogue with the African universities.
“It is important to strengthen the ownership of all parties”, says Lars. “That is more important than where the money comes from. JIBS takes a great responsibility in the beginning but will release it gradually.”
Mohammed Seid, who is responsible for the doctoral programme in management at Addis Ababa University, agrees.
“The financial aspect is only a means, it does not affect our sense of ownership. The doctoral programmes belong to us, not JIBS. We only need to agree on the plans, and we do this together.”
Recipe for success
“One of our most important tasks is to strengthen the research culture of the institutions that we work with”, says Lars. “They have, of necessity, become very focused on teaching and there is little time for research. This pattern must be broken, for a sustainable institution must conduct research.”
EID is not only a collaboration for PhD education, but also for research and for reaching out with research results. JIBS supports, among other things, with the knowledge of how to write and publish articles in scientific journals. Within EID there will also be international research conferences, business visits and much more.
“The perseverance of JIBS has certainly affected our relationship”, says Mohammed. “They are determined that this must happen. They also understand the cultural differences and see them not as a restriction but as an opportunity. They do not do anything on their own, but everything is done with mutual respect and understanding.”