Family Business Management in Africa

Most businesses in developed and developing countries are structured as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and are usually owned and managed by family members. Such family-owned businesses contribute significantly to the economic development, wealth creation, and employment of most emerging economies. Though family businesses are key components of economies of most countries, only a few family businesses survive between the founding generation to the next.

The failure rate is so high such that less than 30% of family businesses survive to the 2nd generation, while under 10% of such businesses survive to the 3rd generation. While several factors could account for the high failure rates of family businesses, failure in leadership succession critically affects the survival of family firms.

Family-owned businesses face unique challenges, and they also have unique strengths.

Where other companies might measure success in monetary terms, family businesses measure them in generations. Where others might focus uniquely on value, family businesses also focus on values—including preserving the company for the next generation. The most successful family firms, however, are those in which there is a good balance between professional management, responsible business ownership and a healthy family dynamic.

It is important to note that most family businesses in Africa face the above-highlighted challenges just as their counterparts in other parts of the world. However, African family businesses also face peculiar challenges that impact their operations and sustainability including the largely unstable socio-political/governance issues, critical infrastructure deficiencies, and the dynamics of the usually large family membership as a result of polygamy and the culture of extended family system.

The Family Business Management in Africa course, therefore, prepares students in understanding the unique dynamics of a family business, offers some insights into the peculiar issues that affect family businesses in Africa, and provide them with the tools to help them optimise the positive forces in running family enterprises, anticipate and minimise conflicts, and build lasting value.

The course is a collaborative offering across schools of the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM). It draws together cases, readings and perspectives of practitioners from business, academia, government and civil society on the topic of a family business.

The course is directed towards graduate-level students and management institutions from the GNAM network who will either their own family’s or someone else’s and students who will do business with family firms, consult to them, work with them in private wealth management, mergers and acquisitions, banking, consulting,  and outsourcing.

The course will be capped at 30 students, and we anticipate that we will have up to 4 teams of students, with each team having students from diverse locations.

The following objectives will guide learning in this course and help students to align their thoughts on the general theme. At the end of the program, students will be able to:

    • Enhance their understanding of the importance and key contributions of family businesses to national and global economies.
    • Identify the characteristics that differentiate a family business from other businesses
    • Appreciate the life cycles of family businesses from the perspective of business, family and ownership
    • Learn methods to enhance communication ability and conflict resolution with family business owners, managers, and family members
    • Learn to evaluate situations and problems in family businesses
    • Examine best practices and explore emerging trends in family business management.   
    • Articulate strategies that could enhance the effectiveness of intergenerational succession 

See interview with Dr. Nwuke.

Course Date & Time

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:30 - 9:50 a.m. (New Haven time)