In Africa, only 3 out of every 1 million people pursue an MBA. Globally, that number, more than 40 for every 1 million individuals pursue an MBA.*

Suzanne O’Brien Founder and Executive Director

Suzanne O’Brien
Founder and Executive Director
ALB Foundation

Consider the above statistic, and combine it with research done by BusinessWeek showing that within 10 years of graduation, nearly 1,500 MBA graduates had collectively created almost 100,000 jobs.
Armed with that information, my MBA classmates and I started the Foundation for African Leadership in Business (ALB) three years ago with one intention: to create jobs in Africa by empowering Africa’s next generation of business leaders.

I’m pleased to say that we’ve done our part. We’ve awarded two full MBA scholarships to the International MBA program at IE Business School in Madrid, and we are currently accepting applications for scholarships at Thunderbird and Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Business. By creating scholarship opportunities for African professionals with a social conscience, we

  1. bring the African perspective into the classrooms of MBA programs,
  2. change the way that the world’s future business leaders see Africa, and
  3. empower a new generation of African leaders who, while building their careers post-MBA in Africa, are also contributing to job creation and having amazing impact in their home communities.

Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with B-school insiders and have learned a lot about how MBA candidates can improve their chances of getting in, and getting scholarships. Below are a few key points that I hope will get you thinking differently, as you begin preparing your MBA application.

Many African MBA applicants aren’t playing an A-game.

Working with Deans, admissions officers and financial aid professionals, all from the world’s top-ranked MBA programs, we’ve learned that most applications coming from Africa are weak. And the data backs it up. On average, Africans prepare less for the GMAT, have lower average performance and, according to admissions professionals, submit less than polished essays. The sad truth is that most African applicants aren’t playing an A game when it comes to applying to B-School.

Successful African applicants have figured out the keys to playing an A-game.

Through ALB’s research with African students at the top-ranked MBA programs, (many of whom have received scholarships), we’ve learned that successful candidates approach the application process very differently. They’ve figured out that they are not competing for spots with other African candidates. They know that if they want to be a world class leader, they need to compete globally. So they stop paying attention to how their peers are preparing in Africa. They register early for the GMAT exam, they study, they seek advice from people who have gone to the top schools, and they highlight their uniqueness in their applications. They get strong recommendations from people who know their long-term goals, and they have clear long-term goals.

Many hire consultants to help them, but you don’t have to.

This is the first of ALB’s Guide for Potential MBA Applicants, designed specifically for aspiring MBA applicants living in Africa. To make sure that we give you the tools to create the best MBA application possible, I’ve asked the insiders to write for this series. Over the coming weeks, you’ll hear from:

  • MBA Deans, about why they want more Africans in their classrooms, and what they are doing to make it a reality
  • Representatives of GMAC (the company that writes the GMAT), on the secret to raising your score and resources for your success
  • Admissions representatives, to tell you how you can create a world class application
  • Financial aid representatives, on scholarships, and what really matters

I’m excited to bring you the insider’s perspective, but more than that, I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with it. It is my dream that in the coming three months, ALB will be flooded with quality scholarship applications demonstrating the truly extraordinary potential of Africa’s future leaders. I know it’s there, and I hope you will join me in showing the world that African professionals know better than anyone how to play the A-game.

*Based on statistics from the Graduate Management Admissions Council and estimates from the United Nations Population Division