Many Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) hardly find time to sit and read again after university. Not because they’re not interested at all, but because they’re so busy with company work and always on the move on business trips. As a result, they stagnate with obsolete or uncompetitive business management practices.
But if a Rwandan CEO is not getting abreast with modern business practices, it doesn’t hold that CEOs elsewhere are also not doing so. The bigger challenge now is that Rwanda is part of bigger trading blocs; COMESA and EAC, meaning Rwandan CEOs not only have to be competitive at home but also in the region and internationally.
On realizing this challenge, Private Sector Federation (PSF), the only umbrella body for Rwanda’s private sector decided to find ways of equipping business leaders with best business skills to position them for the competitive environment before them.
In this era of globalization, business leaders need to understand international best business practices and issues of survival in a rapidly changing business environment. Meanwhile, Professors in international business management schools like Harvard, Oxford and Maastricht keep churning out better and better business management principles and practices.
PSF has developed a four-year (2007-2010) capacity building project which aims at addressing the private sector capacity needs. The project has six major components including; skills upgrading and knowledge building of business leaders, building competitiveness of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), national Business Development Centres (BDCs), network strengthening, special programmes for selected youth and women entrepreneurs and PSF institutional and human resources strengthening.
Specific to business leaders, especially of the formal sector, PSF this year introduced the Business Leaders Executive Learning and Development Programme (BULEDEP).
It is coordinated by the PSF department of employment and capacity building. The programme has two components; short courses moderated by seasoned CEOs and Business schools, and the executive long term courses for business leaders and managers.
The BULEDEP short courses run for between two weeks and eight weeks. In an interview with the PSF director of employment and capacity building, Mrs. Molly Rugamba, she said her department has a database of reputable business institutions that offer interesting short business courses.
She, for instance, said a number of short courses have been identified for senior business executives at Harvard Business School. Such short courses offered at Harvard include, but not limited to; General Management Programme (for eight weeks), President/ Owner Management Programme (for between 2 and 3 weeks).
Last year, when Professor Michael Porter visited PSF and met with business leaders, he promised that the Harvard School of Business would work closely with PSF to train Rwandan CEOs on best business management practices at subsidized fees.
PSF has since been following up on this offer and also mobilizing resources from development partners to sponsor business leaders.
In tandem, PSF is also lining for industry specific short courses, intending to partner with a number of other universities to deliver short courses such as Wits Business School ( in South Africa), Strathmore (in Kenya).
And for the executive long term courses for business leaders and managers, PSF has negotiated with Maastricht School of Management (MSM) of Holland for the Executive Masters in Business Administration (EMBA) programme.
Negotiations saw the tuition fee brought down from 26,120Euros to 22,500 Euros per student; a 14% discount. Maastricht is also flexible on payment. It allows the student to pay installments and ready to conduct lecturers from wherever students’ feel more convenient.
The programme takes into account the fact that CEOs are quite busy, thus it has a very flexible schedule. A student CEO can decide to either go regular or intensive schedule. As regards specialization, a CEO can either do EMBA in International business, corporate strategy or economic policy. Admission is limited to a minimum 15 and maximum 30 students.
The first lot of Rwandan CEOs enrolled in May this year with an intensive schedule that will go on until September 2009. The second intake, which is the relaxed schedule starts in September this year and ends in September 2010.
That aside, it is not an automatic entry on EMBA. CEOs undergo some screening.
A CEO must have a recognized bachelor’s degree, with five successful years of professional experience with a minimum of 2 years in a management position and proficiency in English. Students who have not studied in English system are required to do Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) or its equivalent.
These are preliminary requirements before admission at MSM. MSM partners with the School of Finance and Banking (SFB) of Rwanda to do the screening and administering TOEFL.
In April this year, the PSF department of employment and capacity building facilitated the first EMBA class to undergo the initial screening.
CEOs, who were mostly of French background, were first taught some English grammar for few days by the SFB lecturers before they finally sat for TOEFL.
PSF also mobilized resources to subsidize the programme for the first lot of CEOs. For instance, PSF provided return air tickets to all CEOs to Holland, and also covered cost of course material and text books.
At 22, 500Euros, PSF won the best deal for Rwandan CEOs that unobtainable at similar other universities of the same standards.
Impressively, Rwandan CEOs, with determination, grabbed this opportunity and left for Maastricht in May. They like the course because it is quite convenient for them to study at pre-agreed schedule.