Category Archives: Africa

My trip to Angola

So I was waiting outside my hotel looking for our designated driver when I heard someone ask me 你需要帮忙吗?(Do you need any help in Mandarin). That shouldn’t be surprising except that I was in Luanda, capital of Angola, and it was a Portuguese woman who was speaking to me in Mandarin. It was a great example of globalisation.

I am in Luanda for three days as part of a joint promotion trip featuring Cambridge JBS, Oxford SBS and LSE. This trip was organised by Ernst and Young (now called EY) who has launched a scholarship for candidates resident in Angola to study a one year Masters programme at any one of the three institutions. For CJBS, the scholarship is applicable for either the MBA or the Masters in Finance. You can find more information here.

While in Luanda, we had a chance to meet some prospective Angolan candidates and we had to briefly introduce our various programmes before having one to one consultations. I thought it would be beneficial to share (as best as I can remember because I was talking off the cuff and didn’t record my speech) what I said and I would be interested to hear people’s comments.

“I would like to talk about three main issues.

Firstly, the Cambridge Masters in Finance and MBA programmes. The MFin programme is for people with a prior finance background and who want a deep dive into finance. My enduring memory of the rationale behind the MFin programme is an anecdote from Simon Taylor, the Director of the MFin, where he compared the state of present-day finance to 19th century medicine, when practitioners tried all sorts of remedies to see what works. To me that sounds harsh but the events of the global financial crisis did show the inadequacies of modern finance theories and the inability/lack of desire from practitioners to put into practice finance theories.

The MBA is a general management degree. The way I think of this is producing the T-shaped manager. Many of our students have had several years building up their deep functional expertise, in areas such as accounting, finance, marketing etc. But what they need to make the transition to the next level is not more functional expertise but a broader appreciation of other areas and an understanding of how each area fits together. The MBA provides this horizontal understanding and also develops students who can lead people from different functional areas. Hence, the T-shaped manager.

Secondly I want to talk about our strategy in Africa. We don’t have many students from Africa but we would like to have more because I see Africa as a continent that has an exciting economic future but more importantly, will develop its own path to prosperity. While students from Africa will benefit from our programmes, it is just as important for students and faculty from other countries to learn about Africa.

Thirdly why study in the UK instead of the US where Angolan students have traditionally gone to. One word. Globalisation. Many US programmes call themselves international if they have 30% non-Americans. In the UK, the norm is for 90% or more international students. I have heard from candidates that they want an African network, which is important. But what African leaders need more than that is a global network. Everywhere I go in Angola I have seen Chinese, Portuguese, even the people running the restaurant in this office building are Indonesians. As Angola and the rest of Africa develops, it will be even more important for African leaders to understand how to work with business leaders from key trading and investment partners, such as China, Japan, the US and Europe. And you won’t get that skill from a textbook or an online course or Google. You have to learn that through immersing yourself in an environment where you are forced to interact with people from all over the world.”