Working with MIT, Colorado State University Launches New Entrepreneurship Program in Africa

Billions of people across the globe lack access to affordable products to improve their health, incomes and standard of living. Colorado State University’s College of Business will begin educating entrepreneurs to develop market-based solutions for these challenges.

CSU’s Sustainable Enterprise MBAs for Africa (SEMBAA) program in Nairobi, Kenya, is the first of its kind to offer this type of hybrid-distance delivery and highly applied social entrepreneurship education.

The new program is an expansion of an already unique entrepreneurship MBA. CSU’s Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA teaches students to use entrepreneurial, sustainable approaches to address great global challenges. The program has been recognized for its outstanding leadership in integrating social, environmental and ethical issues into the curriculum. The Aspen Institute’s 2011-12 edition of “Beyond Grey Pinstripes,” an independent, biennial survey and global ranking of business schools, ranked CSU’s GSSE program No. 27 on its list of the Top 100 MBA Programs in the world. The program also was ranked among the top 10 globally for small programs.

Last week, the United States Agency for International Development announced a five-year, $25 million grant to the newly formed International Development Innovation Network, a consortium of schools led by MIT. Students and faculty in CSU’s sustainable enterprise programs in Fort Collins and Nairobi will bring their business expertise to the project, building ventures designed to bring other project partners’ technology solutions to consumers in developing countries using market-based solutions.

“This grant provides crucial seed-funding for SEMBAA, and will enable hundreds of African students to receive social entrepreneurship education and direct venture creation experience in conjunction with the cohort of GSSE MBA students taking classes at Colorado State University,” said Carl Hammerdorfer, whose Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Enterprise manages both the SEMBAA program and the GSSE MBA at CSU.

In an effort to expand the reach and impact of GSSE, CSU’s College of Business is partnering with the United States International University to launch the SEMBAA program in Kenya.

“We went to East Africa because the demand for entrepreneurship programs is almost wholly unmet while the opportunity to meaningfully address the most stubborn development issues is enormous,” said Hammerdorfer.

The GSSE’s first cohort of SEMBAA students is currently taking CSU courses delivered through a hybrid-distance delivery model. GSSE courses are filmed, captured, and produced on CSU’s campus, then delivered by faculty at the USIU campus in Nairobi, who facilitate discussions and help student teams build impactful businesses.

In true entrepreneurial spirit, SEMBAA is being bootstrapped by CSU and USIU.

“Our goal is to build this program with USIU so that at scale it will operate based on tuition revenues from students across East Africa,” said Hammerdorfer.

The College of Business believes the Kenya program is the first step in the further growth and internationalization of the GSSE MBA.

GSSE is unique among MBA programs, requiring students to build triple-bottom-line ventures, which deliver not only profits but social and environmental impacts as well, as a core component throughout the entire 18-month program. Sustainability and base of pyramid themes are woven throughout the customized curriculum. All students in Kenya’s SEMBAA program take five capstone courses that include venture creation, sustainable supply chains, business planning, venture financing and a practicum.

CSU’s programs in Fort Collins and Nairobi will both support and benefit from the new partnership with MIT and other technology universities by building and supporting hundreds of ventures designed to solve long-term global development challenges.