It is 11: 00 am. Inside the JKUAT Boardroom, hushed tones can be heard through the door. A group of students drawn from Germany, Kenya, Cameroon and Namibia are undertaking experiential learning: they have to come up with viable business ideas modeled around real problems afflicting society.
This is the core of the 2016 Spring School activities. Huddled in small groups, they take up different corners to hammer their ideas into shape.
From one group, you could hear words like safety, grants, corruption, network infrastructure, government and check-ups. Their task? To come up with a business idea in health care service provision running on latest technology trends. For a moment, it gets sweaty but nothing will muffle their determination.
The task for the second group targets agriculture. Here they have to comb the entire value chain; pre-empting bottlenecks and designing ICT enabled solutions that will circumvent such drawbacks. From climate assessment to input; transport to marketing; type of government to disaster preparedness; concepts are rationalized, and refined. The excitement is palpable.
A third group has taken a plunge into what has been characterized as one of Africa’s greatest challenge: governance. Issues of security, public confidence, taxes and cloud computing are put side by side and distilled to applicable sense.
There are six groups in total, each composed of both sexes with members drawn from the four participating countries. At 1: 00 pm, the party breaks for lunch and walks away in mixed groups. From observation, bonding, which was one of the objectives of the Spring School, is fostered.
2: 00 pm. The Boardroom again comes alive with intellectual activity. For a moment, it sounds like group interviews. The groups are making their presentations to faculty and colleagues who keep poking holes in the arguments and concepts presented. Finally, members take back their seats to give way for the next presentation. Suggestions are incorporated into the original designs.
What is more encouraging is the attitude of participants. They were unanimous on the role of the programme in harnessing translation of theory into practice.
Malte Felshart, a third year energy and environmental management student from Germany’s Flensburg University believes that by working together on projects, you get new ideas hitherto unknown.
Malte’s thoughts are shared by Paulina Nambale from Namibia University of Science and Technology. For the final year business informatics student, the Spring School offered the elusive opportunity to share business ideas that blend African and European experiences.
Could this be the kind of training that Africa needs? How far can it go in generating home-grown solutions to transform the continent?
Prof. Thomas Schmidt, Director of the Centre for Business and Technology in Africa, Flensburg University believes the method has a chance in turning around the fortunes for the continent.
“Through multi-cultural interactions, the workshop approach encourages production of novel ideas that can be tapped to solve Africa’s problems,” says Prof. Schmidt, who is one of the facilitators of the Spring School.
Another facilitator, Mr. Phillip Oyier who heads the Information Technology Department at JKUAT says, the initiative allows students to benchmark and experience opportunities and challenges in different countries.
For Mr. Josphat Mukabi, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head of Department, Namibia University of Science and Technology, one major aim of the Spring School is to globally orient students to provide global solutions.
He mentions current problems like climate change and terrorism as universal challenges that can be tackled through multidisciplinary and multicultural orientation like the one offered by the Spring School.