The Response in Sudan has been Great, Actually beyond Our Expectations

Alula – Marwa – Haffiya, Photo: Alsir Mukhtar

The launch of the Global MBA First Edition in Sudan on 29 Sept.2018 represented a new gate for Sudanese aspiring entrepreneurs to develop their business and marketing skills. Sudan Vision took this opportunity and interviewed Prof. Fabio Petroni, Director of Programme of the E4 Impact Foundation. The interview was attended by H.E. Fabrizio Lobasso, the Italian Ambassador in Sudan who made some valuable contribution.

Q: Maybe the Professor can first give us a brief ideal about the MBA programme?
A: Initially the launching of the MBA programme in Sudan came from the Italian Embassy and it was the Italian Ambassador who encouraged us to come and see if we can establish this MBA programme in Sudan. His Excellency had us connected networking with various universities and we found very fertile interest in several universities and we decided to start with UMST (University of Medical Science and Technology) and we started this collaboration basically the master mind behind this is his excellency. It took us about one year to raise the funds necessary to launch the MPA programme again thanks to the Italian Embassy this process went very smooth and we were able to establish a very strong network of sponsors mainly the; Italian Agency for Cooperation, Ascot Energy, Vue Tel , and others and also Capital Radio in Sudan who helped in raising the media awareness necessary for the programme. Now we already have 35 registered participants and the classes will actually start on 29 October.
This program started in 2010 at the Business School in the University of Milan (Italy) for establishing connections with universities across Africa with the goal of offering the MBA program to enable entrepreneurs to acquire business skills that contribute to sustainable development at the local level.
We started in Kenya in 2010 and we kept growing in the last ten years and now in seven African countries; Kenya, Uganda, Sire Lyon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Signal and now Sudan is the eighth we are going to start in. And we have already done 27 Editions of the program and trained about 700 entrepreneurs who have been able to create 3500 jobs across Africa.
We are still looking to develop new MBA programmes in new countries, next after Sudan will be Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Gabon.

Q: Is the MBA programme only for African countries or include other countries?
A: The MBA programs that we have in Africa is only for Africans entrepreneurs like in Sudan because the end idea is that you are contributing to sustainable development in your country. It is adapted to the African context but drawn from a programme we have for entrepreneurs in Italy but of course we adapted to fit different context, like Sudan ,Ghana. But the original idea comes from our program in Italy. But, these programmes are specifically tailored red for African entrepreneurs.

Q: To extent has this program assisted in attracting global investors to Africa?
A: First of this programme fill a gap. There are not so many academic programmes for entrepreneurs not only in Africa but also in Europe. So, for any university in Africa it is a great opportunity a new or a different sector of the market because they usually don’t do MPA Programmes to train entrepreneurs. This is the first reason why universities welcome this programme. Another reason is because of the Pan African Network, African universities are interested in connecting with each other. So, while a university choose its own MBA programme , they also join the network with other African universities. So, universities in Kenya, Uganda, Sire Lyon, Ghana , Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Signal it is a great opportunity for them to network with each other, exchange students, professors, develop research programmes . So, it is an opportunity for universities to become Pan African.
The third reason is the link with University in Italy because it makes it possible the exchange of students and professors, so it also another great opportunity to network outside of Africa.

Q: How did you find the response in Sudan compared to the other seven African countries?
A: The response in Sudan has been great, actually beyond our expectations. We received a lot of applications for our MBA Programme and we very excited because usually it take some while before you can have a class of thirty or forty people. In Sudan the response was very staggering. And another thing which you can tell is that the participants always have an innovation component which is very strong. Also, the UMST have a great faculty and an organizational engine which made the marketing and launching of the MBA Programme much easier.
There is also another thing which is more cultural and that there is a kind of friendship between our countries and people like to speak about Italy and there is a kind of connection between our two countries that made thing much easier than in other countries.

Q: What is the meaning of E4?
A: It is entrepreneurship for impact. And it comes from Italy history. In aftermath of World War Two Italy was totally destroyed and it was rebuilt by small and medium enterprises which generated a lot of jobs and wealth for a lot of people who almost lost everything. The whole idea is that only medium enterprises can really drive development in a country and this is why we think about entrepreneurship as an engine for sustainable growth. Small and medium entrepreneurs have an affection and sentiments towards their communities and will never do anything wrong that harm the local community. So, there is a kind of connection between society and business in this context. And that makes them sustainable and this is not the case when we are speaking about big enterprises because they are somehow disconnected from the local communities. But entrepreneur comes from the local communities and so care for the local communities and so we think they do not only contribute to the wealth of the company but also the local communities.

Q: Now development is strongly linked with the private sector, so how can the MBA programme assist in this context?
A: It basically gives entrepreneurs the tools, the networks and access to international relations and help in the growth of their business to the next stage. The MBA programme is very practical it gives the tool necessary to establish a business that is a successful one ,so it is not about a theory in management but about giving entrepreneurs the tools they need to get the enterprise in right direction and the tools they need to develop and the programme for the service they intend to offer to the market in a way that really fit the market. This is one side of the story. The other side is the networking if you join an MPA programme you will have access to local institutions and investors, suppliers and distributers which enable your business to grow, in case we provide a platform for networks for investors this will give you the opportunity to present your business to investors. Then there is the international networking components which have two sides, the first side of the story is networking with other entrepreneurs and so every year we have an MBA programme in the seven African countries and now plus Sudan and in every country we have entrepreneurs. That means if you have a business in Sudan and thinking of doing business in Ethiopia , Uganda or Kenya the MBA programme can put you in touch with peer entrepreneurs . So, you share this platform and if you want to export or import this will put you in contact with entrepreneurs in that target country in which the MBA programme work. The other side of the story is the international network which allows our entrepreneurs to come to Italy for one week every year and as many times as you like. They visit companies in Italy , and also institutions in an attempt to establish links and connections to work with the European market , importing or exporting and also understand how the business work in Italy and the European Union. There is also the component of how to organize business in Italy and to have a vision of how business work. These are the reasons that why we think the MPA can contribute to development.

Q: So, also indirectly you are also assisting in African economic integration?
A: Yes, this is a big word but we like to think that we are a little seed in this process. And we have signed an MoU with the African Union a couple of years ago, because the AU consider this programme as one of the tools that assist in African integration.

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