Ask MBA talent scouts what new countries in the world are they now targeting for their business schools and nearly everyone has Africa on the list. MBA program recruiters now routinely visit Johannesburg, Nairobi, Lagos and Accra for prospective students and like what they are finding.
Their interest reflects both the present and the future, the belief that an MBA can transform a life in Africa in ways that would be unimaginable in other parts of the world. But it’s also a bet on the region’s future economic prosperity and growing importance in the world.
One thing you don’t go to Africa for are high GMAT scores, though like in any country there is a wide range. This year, for example, one Nigerian with a 750 GMAT scored a big scholarship to go to Yale University’s School of Management. But in only one African country–Mauritania–where just eight tests were taken in 2017 was the average GMAT score higher than the mean of the 250,884 tests taken in testing year 2017 ended on June 30th.
‘AFRICA LACKS A TEST-TAKING CULTURE AND MANY WALK COLD INTO THE EXAM’
Last year, the average GMAT score for Africans taking the grueling test was 469, with a low of 288 in Liberia (see chart below).
Sangeet Chowfla, CEO of the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT exam, believes a couple of reasons play into the lower scores, from the lack of a test taking culture to flaws in Africa’s educational system. “Many are just walking cold into a GMAT exam with no practice,” says Chowfla. “We tell them you have to practice to do well.”
Even so, business school talent scouts, who routinely roam the world recruiting MBA students for their schools’ programs, have taken a big liking to the candidates they are finding in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, the region’s most populous nation where the most GMAT tests are taken. In 2017, 1,267 GMAT tests were sat for in Nigeria, nearly double the 677 in South Africa, the second most GMAT exam taking country in Africa. All told, African’s prospective business school students took 4,727 GMAT tests in 2017, down from 5,268 a year earlier.