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HBA students transform business education in Africa through study trip

Aug 2, 2022

Kofi Richter with students in Ghana

Kofi Richter (top, third from left) with his teaching partner, Ahsif Khair (top, second from left), and African students

Kofi Richter, HBA ’22, thought he had a sense of life in Africa. His mother grew up in a small village in Ghana, which he has visited many times.

Likewise, Jash Kalyani, also HBA ’22, had some perspective on Africa having taught virtually at the University of Rwanda in the spring of 2021.

In contrast, Peter Fornasiero, an HBA/Engineering ’24 candidate, knew little about Africa, but wanted an experience that took him outside of the classroom and his comfort zone.

Despite these differences, all three experienced personal growth and learning while participating in Ivey’s Africa Service Learning (ASL) study trip. Launched in 2012 through the Ubuntu Management Education Initiative, the elective course sends HBA students to schools throughout Africa to demonstrate case teaching and develop new business cases.

Here’s a look at what the experience meant to some of the students who participated in the 2022 trip.

Peter Fornasiero, HBA/Engineering ’24 candidate

Peter FornaserioTaught at St. Augustine University in Tanzania, May 9-20, 2022

For Peter Fornasiero, participating in ASL was a leap of faith. He was interested in doing an extracurricular activity to round out his university experience and someone convinced him to try ASL despite his initial reservations.

“It was something that was so out there that I thought it might help me to break out of my shell a little bit and it seemed like an experience that I wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere,” he said. “It felt weird for me to go to Africa doing tourism things, but this was an opportunity to provide real value by teaching management.”

Fornasiero said he saw a remarkable transformation in his students, who predominantly spoke Swahili and weren’t used to participating in class, especially in English. By the end of the session, he was excited to see them applying what they had learned to their own side businesses. And in the process, he had not only become comfortable, but felt right at home in Tanzania.

It opened his eyes to the potential for business growth in Africa and other areas of the world, particularly in the tourism industry.  He is currently writing a case on tourism opportunities in Mwanza, Tanzania.

I now see the opportunity to do business all over the world. There is a whole world out there – a mesh of nations and cultures all forming together in the business world.”
– Peter Fornasiero

Peter Fornasiero teaching in Tanzania
Peter Fornasiero teaching in Tanzania

Jash Kalyani, HBA ’22

Jash KalyaniTaught at Moi University in Kenya, May 9-27, 2022

Jash Kalyani participated in ASL last year, when it ran virtually, but wanted to visit Africa in person so enrolled in just the non-credit field trip portion this year. He was particularly excited to visit Kenya because his great grandparents were from there.

Hoping to do a master’s degree in public policy and later work as a public sector consultant, Kalyani wanted to see first-hand how Kenya’s economy and education system differed from Canada's as well as gain experience building cross-cultural relationships. He came out of it inspired by his students’ entrepreneurial-mindedness and robust goals to grow their communities. Kalyani is even writing a case with his teaching partners, Uday Jalan and Jack Burton, both HBA '22, on some students' business idea for a bakery on campus. The student group won a business pitch competition that the lecturers organized to end the session.

“The students were interested in the real-life application of ideas to their businesses. They were doing the program because they have positive goals and want to take their status upward and make people’s lives better. And this small intervention [education session] was enough to set things in motion. They crossed the line from ambition and aspiration to building and implementation,” he said.

Seeing a more community-oriented society driving growth together gave me an overwhelming sense of joy. The students' ambition, drive, and aspiration was remarkable.”
– Jash Kalyani

Jash Kalyani (5th from left) with his teaching partners and African students

Jash Kalyani (5th from left), Uday Jalan (far left), and Jack Burton (far right) with the students who won the pitch competition

Kofi Richter, HBA ’22

Kofi RichterTaught at All Nations University in Ghana, May 27-June 4, 2022

Having a personal connection to Ghana, Kofi Richter wanted to give back by teaching African students foundational business skills. He in turn got back much more than anticipated, experiencing Ghana’s diversity and building strong relationships with his students. One memorable moment was when he casually mentioned plans to hike up a mountain and some students asked to join him on the Sunday morning outing.

Richter said the chance to teach materials that he had only recently learned himself in the HBA gave him a level of responsibility not previously experienced in other leadership roles, such as student governance. Since Africa’s education system is largely theory-based, one challenge was helping students feel comfortable participating in class. By the end of the session, they even engaged in a pitch competition.

Hoping to launch an initiative focused on facilitating trade between West Africa and North America, Richter has stayed on in Ghana for the summer to set the foundation for that work. While there, he will also work on a case on a microfinance company.

His advice to students: Help bridge the gap between Canada and Africa by learning about this unique part of the world.

It’s a completely different world and so underrated. People act, talk, and live differently and it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. But you can’t know this until you see it for yourself. There’s no amount of reading you can do to understand it.”
– Kofi Richter

Kofi Richter (5th from left) with students
Kofi Richter (5th from left), with his teaching partner, Ahsif Khair, an HBA '23 candidate, (third from left) and their students

Africa Service Learning success story

One of the most rewarding aspects of ASL is seeing the African students transform and seize opportunities. Kyleigh Stubbs, an HBA/Health Sciences ’23 candidate who taught at the University of Rwanda virtually last year, has had a chance to see one of her students bring his entrepreneurial idea to life. When her student, Kalisa Godfrey, shared his idea to create a business education program for youth in Rwanda, she continued to advise him through monthly virtual meetings this past year. Now Godfrey is about to launch Business in Colors, a four-week program to help youth and adults develop new business models and marketing strategies and learn the leadership and soft skills needed to engage with key partners and customers. To make the learning fun, Business in Colors teaches participants entrepreneurial skills using a board game and also provides a handy resource book.

“Kyleigh [Stubbs] stood by me right from the ideation stage and helped me with projects that are meant to impact the Rwandan society and Africa in general,” said Godfrey. “I learned a lot, especially about decision-making, self-awareness, problem-solving, innovation, and team work.”

Stubbs said she wanted to help because Godfrey was passionate about making a difference and because giving African students the tools to succeed in business is what ASL is all about. She hopes to enrol in the field trip next spring to see Business in Colors in action.

The ultimate goal of ASL is to see our partner schools master case-based education so that we can look for new and different goals in partnering with them. We hope to educate students about case-based learning so they develop their own skills and can educate their own communities."

– Kyleigh Stubbs