Educating Execs: The American University in Cairo, Egypt

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While it has been offering entrepreneurship programs in both its MBA and Executive MBA programs for quite some time now, The American University in Cairo’s (AUC) School of Business recently also played a key role in the creation of the African Academic Association of Entrepreneurship (AAAE), a pan-African alliance that will promote and develop academic cooperation among top business schools in the continent with a focus on entrepreneurship.

American University in Cairo

The launch of the African Academic Association for Entrepreneurship (AAAE), the first African consortium developed by six African business schools from five countries: Egypt’s American University in Cairo School of Business, ESCA Ecole de Management situated in Casablanca, Morocco, Nigerian Lagos Business School, Strathmore Business School in Nairobi, Kenya, along with the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and South African Stellenbosch University. The AAAE aims to promote academic cooperation in the areas of entrepreneurship, SMB development, startups and innovation. Image credit: AAAE

According to Tarek Hatem, Director of the School’s Leadership and Entrepreneurship Unit, “AAAE will be generating high quality entrepreneurship-related case studies, studying, researching and documenting startup companies within different incubators in Egypt and the region and developing interdisciplinary research in partnership with different schools within AUC.”

The AUC campus. Image credit: AUC

But the association is just one of many efforts AUC has been spearheading to encourage entrepreneurship in the region. In 2013, AUC launched its own startup accelerator/incubator, The Venture Lab, whose mission is “to commercialize technologies and innovations developed by Egypt-based startups into commercially viable ventures.” Hatem adds that the School is also planning to develop expertise on family business as an area of focus.

Students at the AUC campus. Image credit: AUC

Family-owned businesses account for about 40% of the region’s non-oil GDP and 50% of private sector employment, and accounting for more than 80% of the total companies in the region,” he says. “Roughly 5,000 medium to large family firms exist in the Middle East, with net assets totaling US$600 billion. Within entrepreneurship– this entails development of high quality case studies, introduction of courses on entrepreneurship in family business within the school’s graduate, undergraduate and ExecEd offerings, as well as collaboration with regional institutes in joint research analyzing succession plans, the effect of regulations, culture and environment on family business.”

Pick And Choose: Four Things To Look For In A Business School

Professor Tarek Hatam. Image credit: AUC

Prof. Tarek Hatam's tips on what to look for when deciding on a school to pursue your entrepreneurial and educational aspirations:

  • A school that has entrepreneurship as an embedded culture and mindset for management, faculty and students.
  • Latest teaching pedagogies that encourage greater creativity, and a willingness to take calculated risks where schools extend learning beyond the borders of the classroom.
  • An environment that fosters learning by living the experience.
  • Having an incubator/accelerator at the heart of the business schools today adds a whole new perspective to entrepreneurial education. They not only incubate startups, but also give a chance for undergraduate and graduate students to work within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.