Enase Okonedo, the Dean of the Lagos Business School, sat down with Boundless Magazine, to discuss the advent, growth and impact that the Lagos Business School has had in Nigeria and Africa.
When and why was the Lagos Business School (LBS) started?
Lagos Business School was birth in 1991 and it was to meet what was perceived as a need at that point in the professional development of managers. At the time LBS began there were several institutions that were targeted towards training public servants, as far as I am aware there was only one institution devoted to training private sector managers and what used to happen at that time was that a lot of organisations sent their managers abroad if they wanted something practical for the managers. Managers travelled out of the country to get the knowledge. But you must understand that the practice of management is contextual, therefore if you go to any of the more developed countries and you learn about management it may be a problem. LBS came up at that point in time to fill this gap and to be able to train managers that could function effectively in this environment.
Can you share the major milestones of LBS over the years, from conception till date and how do you believe it has impacted the Nigerian business environment?
We started in 1991, when we began we started as a Centre for Professional Studies with very short seminars. In 1992 we launched our Executive Programmes and the very first Executive Programme we had was the Chief Executive Programme (CEP). Sometimes, people wonder why we started at the top. This is because LBS is not only about developing managers to be able to be well functioning managers it is also about the development of a professional, that is the human person. Therefore, there are certain qualities that go with that as well. We are not only giving the knowledge but also trying to instill the values and the attributes that are there. In order to get people to change or imbibe certain values, if we trained a person that is a Junior Manager or a Middle Level Manager, they might get back and find out that they cannot function.
With the philosophy that good leadership engenders good followership, we decided to start from the very top. After the Chief Executive Programme (CEP) the public saw the impact we were making and their interest enabled us develop other programmes. For the first 11 years of our existence, we operated as a business school. We became a University in 2002. It was LBS that birthed Pan African University that is now named Pan Atlantic University, I believe that was a major milestone.
Our reason for embarking on the journey was because we needed to become a University in order to enable us run our own degree programmes. We had already tried to get a license as a private University in the mid 90’s but we were not successful. In 2002, our application was accepted, that was also a major milestone because many years before that, we had run a Masters programme in IESE, Barcelona. We have very strong ties with them as they were very instrumental to us in the early years. We started with the full time MBA, today we have the Executive MBA (EMBA) and the Modular Executive MBA (EMBA).
Another major milestone is the African Agenda. For the first 17 years of our existence we were very much focused on developing competent and socially responsible managers for Nigeria. However, for the past decade, we started rethinking the focus on Nigeria. Nigeria is a very large market with the largest population in Africa and an equally large proportion of managers. There was a turn in the global economy that started to make Africa a bit more attractive to foreign investors and multinational companies. We came to a conclusion that there will be a need for well-seasoned and trained managers as it suggested that there will be a huge talent mobility across Africa. Therefore we then thought that if you want to prepare people to meet the needs of Africa, there was a need for an African Agenda, which is focused on developing managers not only for Nigeria but for Africa and the world.
Lastly another major milestone for us at LBS is our ranking. For the past 11 years we have been ranked by Financial Times London as a top provider of open enrollment education, we were first ranked in 2007 and that was mind blowing. Last year we also got two major global accreditations, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and Association of MBAs (AMBA) which we are very proud of. To show you how significant this is, it is only 5% of the Schools in the world that are AACSB accredited and of all 5% the graduate schools globally are only 2%. For AMBA only 2% of the world’s top schools are accredited by this body. .
LBS has received international recognition over the years such as the Financial Times Ranking, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), Association of MBAs (AMBA) to name a few. Very few Business Schools in the world have these accreditations, for a School located in the heart of Africa, how has it been able to achieve this feat?
I will say our success can be attributed to the constant benchmarking of ourselves against top global schools in the world, our committed team and a focus as to not forgetting who we are and what we are trying to do.
Our focus is very much Africa, we expect to surpass the top business schools around the world in our knowledge of doing business in Africa. This can only be achieved through dedicated staff and focus on our missional imperative. It has not been an easy feat. Our founders played a key role, and I believe the success can also be attributed to our very dedicated members of staff. Having dedicated staff who key into the vision of what LBS is trying to achieve in the society has been phenomenal.
Why should a participant seeking business and management education come to LBS instead of going abroad?
As I mentioned earlier, we have been internationally recognised. We are globally ranked, by the Financial Times and accredited by the AACSB and AMBA. We know a lot of Nigerians like going to School abroad. This could be as a result of the perception that everything foreign is good. A way of demonstrating that what we offer is good and that there is no need to go abroad was to enter into the rankings. With the belief that if we are ranked amongst top Schools in the world that will bring the recognition of our quality.
Nigeria is an emerging market, LBS is now recognized and accredited internationally, and in some way has to compete with business schools in developed markets and countries. Do you feel this puts LBS at a disadvantage?
I don’t think being in Nigeria and Africa has put us at a disadvantage at all. The competitive advantage that LBS has is in our practical knowledge of doing business in Africa.
We have the largest amount of African case studies, which other schools are just starting to develop. The case study method is our main pethadogy and that’s the way we have always taught in the school.
Although despite this, there are several challenges we have encountered over the years as a result of us operating in Nigeria which other schools in developed countries do not have to face. We have to deal with issues such as infrastructure, an applicant pool that sometimes is not up to the quality we desire, challenge of getting top global faculty to come down to Nigeria because sometimes Nigeria is not considered the most attractive place to come to.
Interview by Ruona Phido
Ruona is a Business Analyst and a Communications, Media and Society graduate from the University of Leicester.