Unleashing Potential: Why Strategy and Entrepreneurship Education Matters in Emerging Markets

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Unleashing Potential: Why Strategy and Entrepreneurship Education Matters in Emerging Markets


Imagine bustling marketplaces overflowing with energy, family-owned businesses thriving for generations, and a new wave of tech startups taking root. This is the vibrant mosaic tiled across emerging markets like Egypt. Here, the spirit of entrepreneurship isn’t just alive; it’s engraved into the very fabric of the economy.
This drive to innovate isn’t despite the challenges – it’s because of them.

From the ingenuity of ancient civilizations to the strategic trade routes that have crisscrossed these lands for millennia, a rich history of adaptation and resourcefulness fuels the fire. Today, despite currency fluctuations and governance and institutional hindrances, a young population, vast unmet demand, and a deeply rooted value system create fertile ground for transformative change. However, unlocking this full potential hinges on a critical catalyst: strategy and entrepreneurship education and capacity building.
Rethinking Our Mindsets: Beyond Western Models
Traditional economic models often fall short of capturing the essence of progress in emerging markets. They tend to focus on resource allocation and equilibrium, neglecting the human element – the mindset, risk-taking ability and innovative spirit of entrepreneurs.
The solution lies in a multi-faceted approach. First, we need to place the entrepreneur’s mindset at the center, drawing wisdom and ingenuity from behavioral and cognitive theories. Second, equipping them with systems thinking philosophies that allow them to navigate the complex realities and uncertain futures that lie ahead. Finally, reviving the Schumpeterian spirit of innovation – the relentless pursuit of new opportunities and the willingness to challenge the status quo. This “creative destruction” isn’t just about technology; it’s about reimagining entire industries and disrupting established norms to create new organizations, markets and value propositions.
While Western management education frameworks offer valuable insights, relying solely on them can be a hindrance in emerging markets. These models, designed for different contexts and challenges, often lack the flexibility to account for local realities. Simply copying 19th-century management frameworks, transplanting Silicon Valley’s highly specific approaches, or stripping the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of their contextual relevance are all questionable strategies. Furthermore, rote learning and standardized testing, common features of these models, fail to equip future leaders with the critical thinking, problem-solving and sense-making skills crucial for navigating the dynamic realities of emerging markets.

Building a Relevant Curriculum for Local Protagonists
Business schools must evolve to embrace the dynamic realities of emerging economies. This requires equipping future entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to thrive in these unique environments. The curriculum should focus on developing the ability to identify and seize local opportunities, navigate complex challenges and leverage innovation to create sustainable value. This includes fostering an understanding of building differentiated products that leverage competitive advantages, developing global competitiveness and crafting market-specific export strategies. By adopting this approach, business schools can not only complement Western management education but also create opportunities for collaboration and the cumulative sharing of knowledge.
Universities like the American University in Cairo (AUC) lead the charge with their liberal arts approach and programs provided by the AUC School of Business and the AUC V-Lab. By providing entrepreneurs with the tools, knowledge, and networks they need, they empower them to be architects of positive change. These are but nascent steps on a long and bumpy road ahead.
Harnessing the Power of Innovation
Building the future of emerging markets like Egypt relies on recognizing their unique potential, fostering a culture of innovation and risk-taking, and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit through tailored strategy and entrepreneurship education. The spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation predates economic and management theories. Look no further than the Pharaonic civilization, pioneers not just in science and engineering, but also in strategizing and managing these large-scale endeavors. As Zooglah points out, elements of current management approaches were evident even in constructing the Great Pyramid of Giza in 2575 BCE.
It’s in the hands of today’s entrepreneurs, across all levels and sectors, to build on this legacy. Equipped with a relevant management education system, they hold the key to unlocking the true potential of emerging markets and shaping a brighter future.

Moataz Darwish,

Associate professor of practice, AUC School of Business

    Knowledge Partners

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