Derick de Jongh, Director of the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, was the Chair of the EFMD Africa Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, last October. He believes that South Africa and the continent generally is on the verge of a huge explosion of growth, fuelled by abundant natural resources. But, he tells George Bickerstaffe, he is worried that sustainability may get lost in the process.
What is the current state of management education in Africa?
I think I can talk better about the state of management education in South Africa, a country, rather than Africa as a whole, a continent.
South Africa is a sophisticated country in terms of academic institutions. This is widely acknowledged and we succeed in maintaining a cutting-edge approach to management education. The quality and content compare well with the best available in the world. Obviously we don’t have the Harvards, Stanfords and LBSs of the world so we can’t always attract the top scholars to teach at our business schools but I think it’s going very well. I think the market in South Africa appreciates the quality and calibre of the graduates we provide.
And management education is not just something that exists within business schools; it’s also in our major universities. Most universities can argue that they are heavily involved in management education, particularly the commerce, economics and management science faculties, though it’s not so applied as it is within a business school.
My views are, of course, to an extent coloured by my own areas of expertise, which is the whole field of sustainability, corporate responsibility and responsible leadership. If we look at this area, I would not be so optimistic, supportive and positive about the state of management education as I am when I talk about it in more general terms.
When it comes to the point of the extent to which management education, the curriculum, the faculty and most business schools see their role in society then I’m not as optimistic and positive because I don’t yet see strong engagement by the management education fraternity in South Africa with the issue of sustainability. I’m not convinced that management educators and institutions in South Africa are aware of the value and importance of social consciousness.
Why do you think that is the case?
I think sustainability is not yet mainstream. It’s treated as an externality by most management schools, though there are schools in South Africa and on the whole African continent that really do get it. But it’s not easy for them to adjust to the issue of sustainability at a much deeper philosophical level – as I think they should be doing.
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