The HBS “Immersive Field Course: Africa: Building Cities” is intended for students to inquire for themselves about Africa, about infrastructure, about urbanization, about economic development, and about public private partnerships. For the most part, students entering the course have little to no background in any of those areas. This means that there is an opportunity for substantial learning on their parts.

The research efforts are intended to provide two-way benefits. 40 HBS MBA students learn firsthand through their own meetings and interviews about finance, infrastructure, and urbanization issues in sub-Saharan Africa. HBS publications, in turn, help to share the promise and approaches to finance and operations in sub-Saharan Africa to a broader business community including foreign investors but also, critically, managers and leaders on the continent. Our goal is to influence practice on the continent.

The driving impetus of the work is to address three major trends in Africa (and in the world): Massive and rapid urbanization as hundreds of millions of people migrate to cities seeking opportunity; current and worsening scarcity of basic resources (not enough clean air, clean water, clean energy, food, land and too much traffic and too much garbage); and the apparent inability of national governments to invest ahead in infrastructure to mitigate the other two trends.

The approach has three components: 1) Cities, 2) Finance, and 3) Technology. The reasoning is:

Cities since
a) they are the political unit that can most directly act, compared to states and national politics;
b) since investors understand city scale projects like power plants, toll roads, or water treatment; and
c) since the combined impact of urban interventions like transit, power, water, and dense real estate in concept has a cumulative benefit far greater than making such investments in a disconnected way.

Finance since the ability to match up trillions of dollars of global capital seeking yield with the needs of millions of urban consumers – addressing the “infrastructure paradox” – can be highly beneficial to investors and citizens alike.

Technology since advances in tools including by not limited to cashless payments, internet of things, ubiquitous sensors, modern filtration and PV principles, and autonomous vehicles will all have profound impacts on infrastructure planning, usage, finance, delivery, and payments in the next decade. We seek to explore those possibilities in this work.

Assignment Prompts

February 06, 2017

Ethiopia and Tanzania 2017: Private Finance of Public Infrastructure

February 06, 2017

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Immersive Field Course: Africa: Building Cities

January, 2017 

Prompt to each team for final paper:  What are your top three to five ideas for the decade ahead regarding the potential for private finance and delivery of public infrastructure in your sector in these cities?  Why?  (If your ideas are different for Ethiopia than for Tanzania, please explain).

 What are the key things that private investors and operators in these cities need to do now to make these ideas into reality?

(Students:Full instructions are in Canvas).

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Urban Transportation in Addis Ababa and Dar Es Salam
Ashley M
Posted on February 6, 2017 at 12:04 am
What are our favorite three to five ideas for the decade ahead regarding the potential for private finance and delivery of public infrastructure in our sector in these cities?  Why?  (If your ideas are different for Ethiopia than for Tanzania, [...]
Commercial Real Estate
Betty Jiang
Posted on February 5, 2017 at 11:31 pm
Commercial real estate is interconnected with every infrastructure sector and therefore has the potential for high impact on urban development. Our favorite ideas for opportunities in the next decade include a Birr-denominated real estate fund, a pooled credit program, and [...]
Inter-City Transport
aoconnor
Posted on February 5, 2017 at 9:42 pm
World-class supply chains are fast and cheap for shippers, and a fundamental prerequisite for broader economic development. It will take the participation and involvement of both the public and private sectors to build them in East Africa.

February 10, 2016

Opportunities and Challenges 2016: Infrastructure in Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam

February 10, 2016

Read The Full Prompt

Immersive Field Course: Africa: Building Cities

January 2016

Consider the potential for private finance and delivery of your sector of infrastructure in each city over the next decade. What are the main opportunities? What are some of the key challenges?

These are some ideas for accelerating the speed and quality of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.   We are hopeful that they are well considered and that a few of them are useful. Future teams will have the opportunity not only to learn the landscape for themselves, but also to build on some portions of the work that has come before.

Our aspiration is that the tools of business and finance can be part of driving economic development, environmental sustainability, and individual opportunity in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and elsewhere in the Global South.

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Workforce Housing
Adrienne Debigare
Adrienne Debigare
Posted on January 4, 2017 at 1:28 pm
Urban development in Tanzania and Ethiopia reflect trends typical of populations moving to cities throughout history.  Unique observations were apparent, however, between the distinct centralized planning model used in Ethiopia versus the decentralized approach in Tanzania. Three insights – detectable [...]
Renewable Energy
Adrienne Debigare
Adrienne Debigare
Posted on January 4, 2017 at 1:27 pm
Africa is the world’s fastest growing continent with 7% annual GDP growth forecasted for years to come. Energy infrastructure development will require vast sums of capital over the next decade, with recent reports forecasting $70B annual investment requirement in the [...]
Traditional Power Generation
Adrienne Debigare
Adrienne Debigare
Posted on January 4, 2017 at 1:27 pm
Ethiopia and Tanzania offer the private sector many opportunities for energy investments in the medium-term.  Both governments have a stated priority to attract the private sector to the generation sector and are implementing frameworks for future engagement.  In addition, other [...]