Navigating the future of management education in the MENA region and Africa podcast

Join us for this insightful podcast as Prof. Mohamed Amine Issami, an Emerald Brand Ambassador and expert in management education, explores the evolving landscape of management education in Africa and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Discover the challenges, opportunities, and trends shaping the future of business education in these dynamic regions and how the Emerald Brand Ambassador program can contribute to overcoming some of these challenges.

Speaker profile

Prof. Mohamed Amine Issami, Director of Development, International Relations, and Communication at Groupe ISCAE since April 2019. Prof. Mohamed Amine Issami is also an Emerald Brand Ambassador for the Middle East Africa region and is a highly accomplished academic with expertise in Management Sciences and a Ph.D. in Economic Sciences. His background includes:

  • Extensive academic experience, including roles at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and IMD Lausanne.
  • Recognition with the Best Paper Award at the ICTO Conference in Paris Nanterre in 2018.
  • Accredited syllabus for his course Portfolio Management by Bloomberg for Education.
  • Active involvement in international reviews, editorial boards, and scientific committees.


In this episode:

  • What is Emerald's role and how does Prof. Mohamed Amine Issami contribute?
  • Why is increased knowledge access important in MENA and Africa?
  • What shapes management education in Africa and MENA?
  • Why focus on ethical leadership in management education for sustainable development?
  • How is FinTech impacting Africa, and what are the challenges for students?
  • What opportunities await business students?
  • What are the current trends in management education?
  • What's ahead for management education, especially in regional contexts?

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The Emerald podcast series: research that makes a difference. 

Navigating the future of management education in the MENA region and Africa

Thomas Felix Creighton (TFC): Hello, welcome to the Emerald Podcast Series. My name is Thomas. My guest today is Professor Dr. Muhammad Amina Isami, director in charge of Development International Relations and communication at group is C. H. E a leading business school in Casablanca, founded in 1971, by King Hassan the second to improve business education in Morocco. Professor Dr. Muhammad Amina Asami is also an emerald brand ambassador. Okay, so perhaps you tell me a little bit about Emerald?

Mohamed Amine Issami (MI): Being an Emerald Ambassador was certainly guarantee full string collaboration support students more specifically PhD student and others ready to publish and get research to the right people. Personally, I do believe that academic research can impact lives, livelihoods, and communities. The research dissemination holds immense potential to positively impact the business world and academia and by fostering knowledge sharing problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, policy, influence, and social development as technology continues to advance innovative dissemination methods and platforms will play a crucial role in connecting researchers, stakeholders and community ultimately contributing to positive change and progress as well.

TFC: That's really interesting and Emerald’s really keen on real world impact. What kind of impact do you like to see?

MI: Actually, in terms of impact, this program has the potential to bring significant benefit to the MENA region and Africa as a whole. So through increased access to knowledge, local problem solving, collaboration and networking, policy influence, Academic Advancement, technology and innovation, cultural and regional diversity and through also, capacity building and trainings.

TFC: Absolutely in the Middle East and North Africa has seen a lot of change in recent years, recent decades, what have been the most notable changes from your point of view?

MI: Actually, the development of management education in Africa and the MENA region as well has been an evolving process with several key trends and facts. So I will discuss roughly 10 main facts. First of all, early foundations where management education in Africa has its roots in colonial times when European powers established universities and schools to train local administrator and civil service these institutions lead the groundwork for later development in business and management education. So the second step is expansion of business schools. So in the latter half of the 20 century and into the 21st century, there has been a significant growth in business schools across Africa. So many universities have established dedicated schools of business or management to meet the rising demand for business education. So the same case here for Groupe ISCAE, which is a public business school that was created in 1971. In Morocco, and then collaboration with foreign institutions, African business schools have often collaborated with renowned international universities and institutions. These partnerships have brought in expertise, faculty exchanges and access to global business networks in relation to educational experience for students, then challenges in terms of infrastructure, despite, you know, the progress many regions in Africa, and in the MENA region as well still face challenges in infrastructure, which can affect the quality and accessibility of management, education, limited resources, lack of modern facilities, and limited access to technology can be obstacles to delivering world class education, emphasis, as well on entrepreneurship given the significance of intrapreneurship for economic growth and development. Many African business schools today have started focusing on entrepreneurship education and fostering a spirit of innovation and business creation amongst student customisation to local contexts. Some African business schools have taken an approach that tailors management education to the specific needs, and challenges of the African continent. This includes addressing issues related to sustainable development, inclusive growth and social entrepreneurship. Association memberships today because many African business schools have joined international management education as associations served by EFMD and AACSB. Such as well as the association of African business schools to collaborate and enhance the quality of education through networking, I'm sure in best practices, government, and private sector support as well. Because government and private sector organisations have recognised the importance of management education for economic growth and development. As a result, so they have supported initiatives, scholarships and sponsorships to improve access to quality business, education, then Hoenlein blended learning, the rise of online and blended learning models has also impacted management education in Africa and the MENA region. These flexible approaches have made education more accessible to a broader audience, including working professionals to build lifelong learning and learnings from remote areas. And finally, focus on ethical leadership. Some African business schools have emphasised the importance of ethical leadership in management. Education does seek to instill values and principles that can contribute to responsible and sustainable business practices across the continent.

TFC: And that's really interesting, there's been some new developments in ethical finance over the last few years, haven't they're,

MI: Indeed, more specifically, the developments of the FinTech industry in Africa, which is by far developed if we do compare it with different regions in the globe, more specifically, in Europe. And in Asia, just for instance, if decide one example, which is about the mobile payment is in the western part of Africa, which is widely used and developed.

TFC: Oh, that's interesting. I previously lived in China, where we have the Wishon pay, it says all payments that I did from last two years that I think we’re just on the app. So I came back to the Western world, and people started using cash, and then debit card at taps. What's the kind of situation for making payments where you are based?

MI: Actually, as in in my country, so we do have the same development that we do witness in the African region, because you notice is a trend, and more specifically about the payment vector, but we in Morocco, so we do start actually as emerging market to produce technology for payment. And we have a few companies that are specialised, do export their services, more specifically in African markets.

TFC: That is interesting. So these Moroccan based companies that service other North African countries?

MI: For North African countries, actually, I don't have statistics, but more specifically for African countries in Sub-Saharan region, and western and eastern part of Africa as well.

TFC: And you mentioned earlier on about the there's some unique infrastructure, say challenges for students in North Africa. Would you like to explain that a little bit more, because you also talked about blended learning?

MI: Yeah, for the infrastructure, actually, because you know, that the access to internet for the student is not guaranteed in Africa. And to have it say the same chances in terms of to have an access to have a laptop first, to have access to internet and then to examine the content that normally is available online. And also try to mix between face-to-face hours with the blended learning with the online, let's say courses that are delivered, which is not that easy for some category, or for students. And sometimes unfortunately, this is the majority of students that they are facing such kind of adversity is to have an access to the content that is used in a blended mode.

TFC: Understand, I spent a lot of my teenage years in the countryside in Turkey. So we didn't always have electricity, but we developed coping strategies. So for example, if there's an online document, you download everything you need whilst you can, because you might lose the access later, are students able to make good use of that?

MI: They think now students, they are accustomed to choose different, let's say methods in order to catch up their lag, or in the work in a community. So they are working in groups, and they do collaborate together in order to, let's say, to have the same chances to access to the content that is available for them.

TFC: Oh, yes, that reminds me because I used to have one type of phone access and a friend had another provider and they would go down at different times. So if we met up we could always look at the right document on his phone or my phone. So again, you develop creative coping strategies.

MI: Indeed, indeed.

TFC: Do you find that can also create some opportunities for business students?

MI: Actually, you know that being a business student in a business school does offer a huge range of opportunities. Good student today they are in Not, let's say they have their full immersion to professional field. So they do interact with recruiters, they do interact with companies. And they do try, let's say, to compare their ability with other students that they are enrolled with them in an exchange program or in a double degree program. So they are in full interaction with their peer come in from other, let's say environments, or with, let's say, professional experts that more simply they are inspiring them and offering to demo opportunities for internship to have access to scholarships, and so on.

TFC: Absolutely. So that's the joy of business schools, I think is that you can actually interact with businesses around you and see that knowledge put to work can ask what are the most exciting projects that you've been involved with?

MI: My research projects is more specifically about financial stability. So I'm interested in chasing, let's say financial bubbles, trying to understand the dynamics of monetary policy of more specifically, government’s, let's say behavior and Central Bank's behavior during the crises and during also the instability periods, and also the behavior of investors from different paradigms, more specifically from market, or efficient market hypothesis and adaptive market hypothesis as well.

TFC: It sounds to me like you study the see the environment on which the ship of business must sail and we all hope for calm waters when we sail, and curious that Every era has a different generation of scholars. Do you think that we're about to witness a new generation of scholars from Africa and the MENA region with new ideas about the management field,

MI: Actually, several trends have been shaping the landscape of management education in both Africa and the MENA region. So these trends reflect the evolving needs of the business forward advancement in technology and the region's economic and social development as well. So through entrepreneurship, and in innovation, there has been a growing emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation in management education across both regions. Business Schools are fostering a spirit of entrepreneurship, offering courses and resources to support aspiring entrepreneurs, and equips students with the skills to drive innovation in various sectors through the creation of incubators, and digital transformation and technology integration. Because management education has been adapting to the digital age, incorporating technology into teaching methodologies and coursework online learning platforms, virtual classrooms and technology driven simulation are being used to enhance the learning experience and prepare students for the digital workplace. Then social impact and sustainability in business schools in both regions are increasingly addressing social and environmental challenges by promoting sustainability focused education. There is a growing emphasis on teaching ethical decision making corporate social responsibility, and sustainable business practices, industry partnerships and experiential learning to bridge the gap between academia and the industry to management education in Africa and the MENA region has been fostering partnerships with businesses. experiential learning opportunities, such as internships, consulting projects and industry visit allow students to gain practical insight and hands on experience, which is not any more exclusive for executive profile, but for non-executive students as well. Then you customise and contextualise curricula. Business Schools in both regions are tailoring the curriculum to suit the specific needs and challenges of the local business environment. This includes addressing cultural nuances regional economic trends, regulatory framework to ensure relevance and applicability. Focus on soft skills and leadership development. So soft skills such as communication, must learn languages, foreign languages, emotional intelligence and adaptability are gaining importance in management education. So business schools are emphasising leadership development, aiming to produce future managers who can lead diverse teams have actively we do notice also the involvement of different governments in offering scholarship for leadership programs such as the US government scholarship or leadership program dedicated for African students, woman empowerment and diversity. Both regions are witnessing a shift towards promoting gender diversity and inclusion in management education. However, we do notice from statistics today that female it's a student prevailing Business schools today have fought on the need to increase the representation of women in leadership roles and empower them to succeed in various industries, lifelong learning and the executive education that I have mentioned earlier as the business landscape continues to evolve rapidly, so professionals are seeking continuous learning opportunities. Business Schools are responding by offering executive education programs and upskilling courses to cut to the needs of working professionals. And the two last point actually the global collaboration and mobility. So African and MENA business schools are engaging today in international partnerships, and student exchange programs to foster cross cultural experiences and expand global networks to their students. Just highlight the case of coffee scale business school. So we do have more than 120 agreement with your business school that we do offer huge opportunity for exchange programs and double degree programs. And while discussing with my colleagues in African business schools, they are actually confirming the same fact about global collaboration and mobility, which is increasing in an exponential way. And finally, hybrid learning models. The COVID 19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of hybrid learning models which combine online and in person teaching methods, this trend is likely to continue as its offers flexibility and accessibility to wider range of student so as management education continually adapts to the changing demands of the business schools, it's important to note that these trends may evolve in a different way in the upcoming period. 

TFC: Yes, absolutely, and anticipating those trends can be really difficult. What would you anticipate to be the biggest trends that are coming in your field.

MI: The business world in Africa in the MENA region has undergone significant development and transformation. Both regions have experienced economic growth, technological advancement, changes in business practices, which in turn have influenced management practices. Here is an overview of the key aspects of business software development, and its impact on management practices in Africa and the MENA region. In order to let's say, we will use the rational expectations paradigm through first of all, economic growth and diversification. So over the years, both Africa and the MENA region have witnessed notable economic growth and diversification. So this growth have been driven by various factors including natural resources, infrastructure development, trying to catch up foreign investments through FDI and the growing middle class. So the changing economic landscape has created opportunities and challenges for businesses requiring management practices that are adaptable, and strategic. So rise of intrapreneurship and startups entrepreneurship has been flourishing in both regions with a surge in startups and small businesses. This entrepreneurial ecosystem has led to innovative solutions increased competition and the need for agile management practices, business schools and management programs and now placing a stronger emphasis on nurturing entrepreneurship and providing support to start up ventures and technology and digital transformation. Like many parts of the world, the business world in Africa and the MENA region has been significantly impacted my technology and digital transformation. So the widespread adoption of mobile technology as we have mentioned, for the mobile payment in the FinTech development in Africa, Internet of Things ecommerce, AI, and digital platforms has changed consumer behavior and business operations. So management practices now need to consider digital marketing in African context that are analytics, cybersecurity, and other tech related aspects of focus also on sustainable development, both regions have been increasingly cautious of sustainable development and environmental impact. Consumers and stakeholders are demanding more responsible business practices leading to a shift in management approaches, companies are incorporating sustainability into their strategies, supply chains and corporate social responsibility initiatives, cross cultural management as well, because we do talk about the MENA region and Africa. We do know that we have different regions in Africa different mentalities, mindset and so on. So the MENA region and Africa are known for the cultural diversity, the business words development in these regions has this stated cross cultural management skills, understanding cultural nuances communication styles and business customers has become crucial for this successful management and collaboration then globalisation and international trade. Globalisation has opened up new markets and opportunities for businesses in Africa in the MENA regions as companies expand their operations internationally. Management practices must address the challenges of working across borders complying with international regulations and managing diverse teams in different locations corporate governance and compliance. So to the development of the business world in both regions has put a spotlight on corporate governance and compliance standards to attract foreign investment and maintain trust with stakeholders. Companies are increasingly focusing on transparent and equitable management practices, then talent development and retention as the business landscape evolves, so the demand for skilled and talented professionals has increased so management practices now place greater importance on talent development, employee engagement and strategies for attracting and retaining top performance then government regulations and policy changes through changes in government regulations and policies, we can have a significant impact on business operations. So effective management practices required today staying abreast of regulatory update and adapting business strategies accordingly. Finally, the last point is about emphasis on resilience and risk management. So both regions have faced various economic and political challenges, such as fluctuations in oil prices, geopolitical tensions and global health crisis. Like the COVID-19 pandemics management practices have increasingly focused on building resilience, scenario planning and effective risk management or enterprise risk management framework. So the development of the business world in Africa and the MENA region continues to evolve and its impact on management. practices will continue to shape how organisations operate and adapt to the changing environment as these regions face new opportunities and challenges, management education and practices will play a crucial role in fostering capable and visionary leaders.

TFC: As very interested. You've mentioned a few times that students that you deal with have very close ties to real businesses, and wonder if there any particular examples, you'd like to give that to demonstrate this.

MI: More specifically through their extracurricular activities, because students do form groups, or clubs or associations. So could be international in an international network like Rotaract Club or national clubs in order to, let's say, organise and interact closely with companies and organise events in their business school, through, for example, different events by inviting as well delegations from other business schools and universities, by participating in Job Fair forums, and also organising different events such as conferences and bring in, let's say different panelists challenging the panelists to trying to understand the dynamics of the industry and the business world, and also through their curriculum because they have their different projects, more specifically consultancy projects. And then we have also immersion, professional immersion projects and social impact projects. So you do interact closely with different partners of our business school and did you have the opportunity to lead let's say, consultancy mission and to work in a group of students of let's say, five students maximum and try to address different difficulties and adversities that they do observe in the field.

TFC: Interactions in businesses and business schools can be really interesting. You also mentioned that there are some aspects of business culture locally, that can be quite different from say, Europe and North America as wondering if you have particular examples of this.

MI: The challenges and opportunities in the business world in Africa and the MENA region as well are unique and require management approaches to talk contact context to allies to the local environment, so new scholars today are likely to focus the research on addressing specific regional issues focused on the development of management theories and practices that cover to local meet, for example, today, if you do introduce a case study method in your courses, so instead of talking about case studies that are talking about multinational companies with a for local needs, and for local students to understand the management practices through detailed case studies that are interested in local businesses and trying to understand the dynamics of management practices, through the local case study that is presented. That's why today, majority of business schools, they are encouraging their faculty to write case studies that are interested in local context, more specifically in their region or maybe in their country.

TFC: That's really interesting, and something for me to look out for in my reading. Thank you. I'm interested you mentioned, obviously, there's the stability of the region, stability tends to be good for finance. And you mentioned you know, the oil prices COVID-19 disaster planning. I'm curious what positive factors there are and what positive factors we can hope for, to help stability.

MI: Actually true increase in interest in management indication gives the rise in interest in management education in Africa and the MENA region has led to more students pursuing advanced degrees in management related fields, as more scholars engage in rigorous research and critical thinking. So the likelihood of new and innovative ideas, emerging increases in order to anchor athletes say and encourage stability as well. So promoting local research and collaboration addressing social and environmental challenges, because when you have at least a responsible research, management scholars in Africa in the MENA region are increasingly the aware of the significance of addressing social and environmental challenges. So this awareness may lead to new management paradigms that emphasise sustainability, ethical leadership and corporate social responsibility with couples of course with diverse perspective, so both African MENA region both boast diverse cultures, languages and tradition and traditions, this diversity in righteous, the perspectives of scholars and can lead to fresh insight and approaches in management research.

TFC: I just like to ask, is there anything else that you'd like to add? Are there any questions I haven't asked.

MI: Actually, the growth of management education in research in Africa in the MENA region, coupled with the local context, challenges and opportunities provides a fertile ground for a new generations of scholars to generate innovative ideas and contribute to the advancement of the management field from a regional perspective. So the contributions have the potential to reshape management practices in ways that are more relevant, sustainable and impactful for businesses in societies in these regions, I have one thing to add is that recently, we were celebrating the semi Centenary of CO Pisco business school in Morocco. And my professor Robert, my colleague and I have published a book edited in French language titled 50 years of management, this book actually depicts perfectly what we were referring to during this podcast discussion.

TFC: Okay, sounds good for me to check out trans stretch my French drawl the tests my French than my Arabic To be honest. Thank you very, very much. It's been really interesting.

MI: Thank you. Thank you.

TFC: Thank you for listening to today's episode. For more information about our guests. And for a transcript of today's episode, please see our show notes on our website. I'd like to thank Nadine Loulah and Daniel Ridge for their help with today's episode. And Alex Jungius. From this is distorted. You've been listening to the Emerald podcast series.