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BI students went to Africa to write their master's thesis

8 July 2024

Master's students David, Thea, Pernille, and Christina spent 15 days in Tanzania interviewing local farmers, business owners, investors, and ambassadors.

Photo: Private

Four BI students received scholarships for their trip to Tanzania through BI's participation in the international collaboration project SUSTAIN. In this project, BI collaborates with Mzumbe University in Tanzania and Jimma University in Ethiopia (see the fact box at the end of the article).

The experiences and insights they gained on the trip were used as a basis for writing their master's theses back home in Norway.

The students' trip included visits to the capital city Dar-Es-Salaam and the town of Morogoro, a stay with cocoa farmers in the Kilombero Valley, and finally, a spectacular end on the paradise island of Zanzibar.

Cocoa Production and Startups

Christine and Pernille spent their days in Tanzania conducting a case study of the cocoa producer Kokoa Kamili. They interviewed cocoa farmers, cocoa producers, and other relevant stakeholders in the area. Back in Norway, they interviewed the chocolate producer Fjåk.

– We wanted to find out how sustainability perspectives and stories are communicated throughout the entire value chain, from the farmer in Tanzania to the chocolate factory in Eidsfjord.

Photo: private

 

David and Thea based their project on the challenges businesses in Tanzania face when seeking equity-based financing, and how these can be overcome to achieve more sustainable development.

– We conducted interviews with several relevant stakeholders, including investors, entrepreneurs, ambassadors, and government employees, say David and Thea.

During their stay, they made several interesting discoveries.

– It is difficult for investors to establish themselves in Tanzania, largely due to the legal framework. We also found out that there is a lack of knowledge about the benefits of equity financing, as many people stick to more traditional methods like bank loans and grant schemes.

Photo: private

The Best Part of the Trip

The four students have many good memories.

Even though they spent a lot of time gathering data, there was also time for some vacation, nature experiences, and meeting people. The students went on a safari, hiked with a local guide, and enjoyed relaxing days on the beaches of Zanzibar.

– One of the best parts of the trip was all the people we met, whether they were professors, farmers, ambassadors, or random people on the street. The people in Tanzania are so hospitable, warm, and inclusive, say the students.

Photo: private

Ethiopian Exchange Students

In addition to sending Norwegian students to Africa, BI has also welcomed Ethiopian students as part of the SUSTAIN collaboration. In the spring of 2024, Ethiopians Kibru, Lelise, and Tekalign studied at BI in Nydalen.

Photo: private

 

– What I like most about Norway is the beautiful nature and the way Norwegians take sustainability seriously. Norway not only has a fantastic landscape but also very friendly and welcoming people, says Lelise.

They emphasize that there are significant differences between business school education in their home country and Norway, including the technological resources available to students.

– In Norway, students have greater access to advanced technological tools and aids. This gives students a more efficient and productive daily life, both at school and in general, say Lelise and Tekalign.

Differences Between Africa and Norway

One of the main goals of the SUSTAIN project is to promote international collaboration between BI and African universities. Both the BI students from Norway and the students from Ethiopia say it has been a valuable learning experience.

– The business education here is characterized by closer collaboration with companies from various industries. Such collaborations give us valuable opportunities to learn directly from the companies. They generously share their models, systems, and challenges, which gives us a better understanding of what we learn in the classroom, says Tekalign.

David and Thea point out that the biggest difference in sustainability between Norway and Tanzania is the capacity to take the climate crisis seriously. A quote from the trip that stuck with them was, "If you expect people in Tanzania to opt for green solutions, you must ensure that it is the cheapest option. If not, no one is going to buy it."

– In Norway, we have very high CO2 emissions per capita, but in return, we have a huge capacity to do something about it, they say.

Christine and Pernille noticed that Tanzanians focus more on social sustainability than Norwegians do.

– In Norway, we tend to place great emphasis on the environmental perspective. Therefore, it was interesting to see that social sustainability throughout the value chain remained the most important perspective. 

Facts about the SUSTAIN Project

  • A collaboration project between BI Norwegian Business School, Mzumbe University, and Jimma University.
  • The goal is to improve education and research in supply chain management and sustainable business development.
  • SUSTAIN aims to contribute to achieving the UN's sustainable development goals.
  • The project promotes international understanding and intercultural competence through student and faculty exchanges.
  • The project is funded by DiKu NORPART.
  • By the end of 2023, SUSTAIN had given over 100 students the opportunity for long- or short-term exchanges.

Read more about the SUSTAIN project here.

 

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