Team AMI is in Johannesburg, South Africa working with the African Management Initiative (AMI), helping them craft a marketing strategy to reach 1 Million African Managers through Africa’s first massive, open, online course (MOOC).
Threading together visionary ideas with tactical abilities was our team’s goal for the project, and our client’s focus for Africa. The African Management Initiative (AMI) was founded on the belief that one of the largest problems facing Africa is its lack of well-trained middle managers. The lack of managers has halted the engines of commercial progress and hindered the economic and social improvement for countries across the continent. While the lack of managers is devastating to the current development; worse, the missing managers creates a dearth of role models and perpetuates a psychoses of subservience that is equally as damaging. AMI’s first major step in addressing this issue, and Team AMI’s focus, is the creation of Africa’s first massively, open, online course – intended to provide managerial education that can be scalable despite resource-constraints. As Haas students it was easy to connect with AMI’s vision because it aligned so closely with our guiding principles, Student Always and Question the Status Quo.
It’s not easy to look like we are working this hard!
Since the wheels of our plan touched down, our team has been exploring and learning about South Africa, African culture and business, and online education. We had barely settled into our small study room at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (interesting note: it is as hard to reserve a room here as it is in Berkeley, must be an MBA thing), when our client asked us to start reviewing course slides, preparing the lecturers, and editing the video content. When we weren’t working with the AMI’s new intern or helping the professors present their material, we tried to help develop a strategic marketing plan for the MOOC that balanced near and long-term goals. An afternoon spent with an MBA class as they worked to create a guerrilla marketing strategy for a local restaurant provided an introduction to the traditional MBA culture in Africa and proved a wonderful opportunity to connect and ask questions with our transatlantic peers.
Team AMI cuddling with lion cubs
Our time outside of work was as rewarding, giving us a glimpse into the lives and attitudes of South Africans. Eating a home cooked dinner at our client sponsor’s house, traveling to Pilanesburg Game Reserve for a safari, visiting a local market to try the food and mingle with the locals – all provided a different insight into this amazing continent, country, and people. While the ‘big’ experiences will be memories we have forever, the best insights we gleaned often came from short conversations:
- The suggestion that there is more to life than punctuality and meetings, conveyed by one of the professors in his off handed remark, “In the US, you have clocks; here, we have life.”
- “T.I.A.; … this is Africa” conveyed the pent up frustration experienced during a long drive across Johannesburg when we were stopped at the fourth broken ‘red robot’ (a.k.a., as traffic lights)
- Optimism and pride pervade peoples’ mentalities, “[Johannesburg] is like a canvas, it has so much energy and creativity that anything is possible here!”
While the project has its challenges and AMI needs another 999,546 members to reach its goal, the incredible progress we achieved in the past week has conveyed a sense of optimism and energy for this project. As we like to say in our presentations, the future is bright.
John “JoPro” Provine wants you to join the MOOC-ment!
It is easy to mark our team’s progress and major milestones during the course, because they corresponded with press releases from national and international media outlets (and facebook).
- January 21, our team was established and we were introduced to our project. Three days prior, BusinessWeek released an article about AMI’s goal to educate 1 Million African Managers by 2023.
- May 15, team members boarded their flights for South Africa, eager to start working on the MOOC. Again, just days prior, AMI’s MOOC was featured in an article in the Financial Times, reiterating our project’s goals and aspirations.
- June 17, AMI’s MOOC officially launches and users can start taking the two-week course. While our featured article was simply, a Facebook post on AMI’s website – no doubt a major media outlet will catch on!