Course Description

Demographic and economic shifts occurring in Africa will increasingly affect the global business landscape in the years ahead. The region has the youngest and fastest growing population in the world. By 2050, Africa will make up a quarter of the world’s population and workforce. At the same time, consumer and business spending is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $6.7 trillion by 2030.

African markets are diverse and complex; they face uneven growth prospects and can be challenging business environments. Though home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies, Africa continues to rank below other regions in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. Additionally, lingering misconceptions cause many investors to overestimate the risk associated with doing business in African countries. Nonetheless, savvy foreign investors are making money—and those who are doing business on the continent are generally bullish about its prospects. Companies that take a “wait-and-see” approach may find themselves disadvantaged in the years ahead and kicking themselves for not entering African markets sooner.

Anyone who aspires to conduct international business, manage a global brand or find high-growth investment opportunities is wise to gain an understanding of African markets. This course provides an overview of some of the opportunities and challenges with respect to doing business in the region. As part of this course, students will take an in-depth look at two countries in particular: Kenya and Rwanda. Kenya serves as the main economic hub for East Africa and has made significant economic, political and structural reforms since the passage of a new constitution in 2010. While its economic prospects remain strong, the country continues to confront high levels of poverty and inequality as well as episodic periods of political tension. Meanwhile, Rwanda, a country that less than three decades ago was devastated by genocide, has experienced strong development gains and economic growth in recent years. While some laud Rwanda as the “Singapore of Africa,” others express concern about political rights and governance.

This course is taught through the lens of a practitioner, and the discussion will predominantly focus on the realities and practicalities of operating in African markets. Though some examples and discussion will touch on North Africa, this course is primarily focused on sub-Saharan Africa.

Course objectives

  • Understand the importance and economic potential of sub-Saharan African markets.
  • Understand how Africa’s historical context is impacting its current economic development.
  • Learn how to evaluate strategy options and business opportunities while navigating the challenges and relative volatility of doing business in African markets.
  • Understand how institutional capacity, culture, values and other issues affect one’s ability to successfully conduct international business.
  • Learn some practical ways to assess and mitigate political risk.
  • Gain exposure to and experience in the business climates in select countries, especially Kenya and Rwanda.


Last updated: 09/22/2019


Last updated: 1/17/2020

Faculty and Advisor Bios

Faculty Bio

Grant Harris is CEO of Harris Africa Partners LLC and advises companies, non-profits and universities on strategy, policy, and mitigating risk with respect to doing business in Africa. From 2011 to 2015, Harris served as the principal advisor to President Barack Obama on sub-Saharan Africa, serving as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the White House. In this role, Harris conceived of the historic U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which generated $37 billion in new commitments to support trade, investment, and development across Africa. Harris also initiated President Obama’s Doing Business in Africa Campaign; launched the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative; and was the primary architect of the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to this position, Harris was Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Previously, Harris was an associate at the law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. Prior to that, Harris served in the African Affairs Directorate at the White House under President Bill Clinton and, before that, in the U.S. Mission to the United Nations under Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Harris holds a law degree from Yale Law School, a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University, and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Advisor Bio

Debbie Kraus is the director of global study programs at the Kellogg School of Management. Her team is responsible for Kellogg global experiences across all degree programs (including the GIM program). Prior to her time in global programs, Debbie spent three years in Kellogg’s student affairs department, managing the exchange program and on-campus housing. She has also been involved with Kellogg’s ACE program for nine years, an experience which has allowed her to learn from and make connections with international Kellogg students from around the world. Through her roles at Kellogg, Debbie has been fortunate enough to travel to Brazil, Switzerland, Spain, France and the U.K. Debbie holds a B.S. in communications from Northwestern University and an M.A. in history from Indiana University.

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