The EFMD business magazine

The EFMD business magazine

EFMD GN Deans Across Frontiers (EDAF) was launched in 2011 to assist promising business schools to develop further through a mentoring programme. Jaona Ranaivoson and Jean-François Fiorina describe the experience of one such school in Madagascar.

Madagascar is one of the poorest and most challenging countries in the world, with high population growth and low per capita income – more than 92% of the population live on under $2 a day, according to the World  Bank in 2013.

Not perhaps the most promising location for an international business school. Institut  Supérieur de la Communication, des Affaires et du Management (ISCAM), the first school of management in Madagascar, is determined to succeed.

To achieve this, ISCAM, along with partner and mentor school Grenoble Ecole de  Management (GEM) in France, has been taking part in the EFMD GN Deans Across Frontiers  (EDAF) programme for four years.

ISCAM was founded in 1990 with a mission to train outstanding leaders with an emphasis on integrity and honesty and the ability to bring prosperity to Madagascar and Africa generally. Its core values are built around Excellence, Respect and Integrity.

The school has 1,000 students (made up of six different nationalities) studying bachelors and masters degrees and executive education programmes. The school has 150 teachers and an additional 60 staff members.

ISCAM chose to enter the EDAF process for  two main reasons:

  • since 2008 ISCAM has been considered one  of the best business schools in Madagascar  and is ambitious to expand and enter the  international stage
  • it wanted to receive a very objective view of  its system as there is currently no evaluation  process for higher education in Madagascar

The Malagasy school joined EFMD in 2010 as  an affiliated member and soon became aware of  EDAF, which seemed an ideal way for ISCAM  to gain better self-assessment and an outside/  international point of view.

EDAF is a long process with several steps:  data sheet preparation, self-assessment report  and peer advisory visit.

ISCAM received an EDAF peer advisory visit  for four days in November 2013. The EDAF team  of senior advisors was made up of two EFMD  officials and two international faculty members. During the visit, meetings were organised with all stakeholders: students, companies, faculty, administrative staff and alumni.

The recommendations of the peer advisory team were contained in a number of documents: an EDAF report, an EDAF Institutional Development Profile (IDP), Criteria Evaluation Form (CEF), and personal feedback. In all there were more than 50 recommendations. For example, ISCAM’s vision was criticised for lacking clarity.

Following the Peer Advisory Visit, the Deputy Director of GEM was designated as ISCAM’s mentor. There were a number of reasons GEM, which was founded in 1984 and has 6,800 students, agreed to be involved.

A desire to help the development of business schools in developing and emerging countries

GEM believes that the economic development of these countries can only take place if there are “strong” and “competent” higher-education institutions. They have a real social role. Helping them to ask the right questions, define their strategy, mission, and organisation will allow them to offer quality training to accompany the development of local companies. The Grenoble school has created a specific programme of aid and assistance for these countries. Mentoring of  ISCAM falls within this framework.

Provide skills to French companies  located in Madagascar and the Indian  Ocean region

Fewer and fewer French companies set up businesses abroad. But this does not mean that they reduce their activity. On the contrary,  they still need local expertise to manage their structures. Allowing ISCAM to develop and reach a high level of quality will allow French companies access to highly qualified local talent that can be immediately operational.

The motivation of the ISCAM  management team

GEM has collaborated with the ISCAM team for several years and, given their motivation and willingness to develop ISCAM, it would be reluctant to refuse to assist them further.

Geopolitical aspects

GEM has made geopolitics one of its major focuses and Madagascar is a very interesting case study of a country in a complex situation.


Because everything is new and must be built, it is a significant entrepreneurial project.

However, while there are many advantages to this mentoring there are also some obstacles to overcome:

  • It all takes time, a lot of time. Many new concepts must be clearly explained to the ISCAM teams. Moreover, the actions to be put in place are quite medium-term and do not offer immediate results. It is necessary to manage and explain this.
  • The particular political and economic situation of Madagascar complicates management of the school. Two examples: constant changes in fiscal laws. While it is relatively easy for Western institutions to talk about “corruption” and business ethics, it is a little less so in Madagascar, where corruption is omnipresent. It is also not easy to talk about economic development in a country where 90% of the population lives in poverty. It is therefore necessary to constantly adapt to this reality.
  • Even if Information Technology (Skype) enables better and easier communication, nothing can replace “face-to-face” meetings and this is even more the case in view of the points cited above.

The EDAF process has produced a number of positive results at ISCAM such as the establishment of an International Advisory Board of 12 members in March 2014 (chaired by the GEM mentor); a new board of the alumni association; and market positioning of ISCAM conducted by a consulting firm.

But challenges still remain:

Development Strategy

In this perspective, the main challenges are to clarify the vision, the mission of ISCAM, and align strategies and organisation accordingly.

Change Management

It is not simply the question of how to adjust the mindset; it is also a problem of environment.

Faculty and Programmes

One recommendation is to appoint some well-qualified core full-time faculty to act as subject leaders and to be responsible for programme design and delivery, the management of adjuncts and for developing a reputation for subject expertise for ISCAM.

EDAF is to be recommended to any entity that wants to move forward. It is not an accreditation process such as EQUIS or AACSB. It is a transformational experience. The mentoring has had a significant impact on ISCAM’s organisation.

As a road map, it makes ISCAM’s Senior Management Team take strategic decisions. The mentoring helps them meet the needs of Malagasy companies and to understand how the latter can grow efficiently at the international level.

It is more beneficial than resorting to an international consultant. It is a fruitful investment that gives a great and quick feedback. It also helps to understand how business schools are moving forward worldwide.

EDAF is a useful and powerful tool to progress as a business school in an international environment. It gives the keys to understanding how to become a world-class business school.

Crossing new frontiers

See more articles from Vol.10 Issue 01 – ’16.

He is Directeur General of Institut Supérieur de la Communication, des Affaires et du Management, Madagascar.

He is Deputy Director of Grenoble Ecole de Management, France, and mentor to ISCAM.

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