Majority of African MBA students in the West plan to return to the continent

Seventy per cent of Africans currently studying towards an MBA at leading Western business schools will return to the continent to work after graduation, according to a new survey by the UK-based, pan-African private equity firm, Jacana Partners, that invests in small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Of this 70%, half say they are returning to Africa to become entrepreneurs and start their own companies rather than work for someone else.

“These survey findings provide a welcome indication that the majority of talented young Africans from among the MBA diaspora will be returning to Africa post-graduation – and more importantly, they will be starting their own businesses,” said Simon Merchant, CEO of Jacana Partners. “Small businesses are the key engines of economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation in Africa and management talent is a critical component for SME success.”

All the respondents were MBA students from top business schools in the US, Europe and UK and originated from 19 different African countries, with over a third from Nigeria. Of the respondents that indicated that they would be starting their own business, 50% were female.

“By combining strong management teams with increasing access to value-add private equity capital, we can harness the potential of the returning MBA diaspora to build successful businesses, create jobs and support long-term economic growth,” added Merchant.

The majority of the respondents identified the continent’s growing consumer story as the greatest opportunity, with over 50% selecting either consumer goods or financial services as sectors that offer the most attractive opportunities for starting a business. Twenty per cent said they found the technology sector to be the most appealing while the opportunities in infrastructure (13%) and retail (13%) were also identified.

“I am not at all surprised by the results,” said Sara Leedom, co-chair of the Africa Oxford Business Network at Oxford Saïd Business School. “The majority of our members view Africa as offering a compelling career opportunity for business graduates, particularly at a time when the environment for growing businesses is slow in the West.”