The Harvard Business School “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 these 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.

Most Recent Assignment

2018 IFC Africa: Private Finance of Public Infrastructure towards Resilient Cities and Industrial Policy

February 05, 2018

Read The Full Prompt

Immersive Field Course: Africa: Building Cities

January, 2018 

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).

Submitted (9)

At the Start of the Project: Objectives, Plans, Additions – Prof. Macomber
Prof. John Macomber
Last modified on January 1, 2018 at 6:44 pm
January 1: Africa: Building Cities. 40 Harvard MBA students and I start on-the-ground research in a week looking at power, transport, water and more. We work with dozens of content experts on the ground.
Water, Sanitation and Agriculture in Ethiopia and Tanzania
Last modified on February 5, 2018 at 12:58 pm
Investing in food and water in two East African countries.
Moving Ethiopia and Tanzania Forward: Public and Private Sector Collaboration in Intercity Transportation
Posted on February 4, 2018 at 10:30 pm
By promoting private investment in hard infrastructure that fuel regional and intra-country transportation linkages, Ethiopia and Tanzania can lead 21st century growth and resiliency in East Africa, on the continent, and around the world.
IT and Telecom in Ethiopia and Tanzania
Last modified on February 2, 2018 at 6:36 pm
I. Addis Ababa and the Industrial Parks Strategy The Industrial Parks Strategy has generated significant value for a number of stakeholders and provides a solid regulatory and infrastructure base for new investments. To fully harness these strengths, we believe that [...]
Traditional Energy Opportunities in Ethiopia and Tanzania
Posted on February 4, 2018 at 9:28 pm
Industrial Parks Strategy – Addis Ababa One of the main goals of the Ethiopian government is to industrialize the country and make it a middle-income economy by 2025. Much of the industrial development will depend on the ability of Ethiopia [...]
From the Industrial Parks Strategy in Addis Ababa and urban sprawl in Dar es Salaam to attracting private capital to finance and deliver public infrastructure for Municipal Solid Waste in both cities – we have some ideas
Posted on February 4, 2018 at 5:37 pm
We think that to improve solid waste management more transparent pricing of recyclable materials is needed in Addis Ababa and a three pronged approach of centralizing trash collection, educating the community and refurbishing the Pugu dumpsite is necessary Dar es [...]
Opportunities for Commercial Real Estate
Last modified on January 26, 2018 at 7:04 am
Key learnings about the current real estate industry dynamics in Ethiopia and Tanzania and opportunities for attracting private investment.
Opportunities for Renewable Energy in Ethiopia and Tanzania
Last modified on February 4, 2018 at 5:59 pm
Energy is the foundation necessary for a country to build its economy and lifts its people out of poverty and yet its production can have detrimental effects on a country's environment. Driving private capital investment in renewable energy in Ethiopia [...]
Urban Transit: Opportunities for Addis Ababa and Dar Es Salaam
Katherine Cheng
Last modified on February 4, 2018 at 7:50 pm
Thinking of a multi-sector approach to attracting private capital to public infrastructure, what do we recommend for:   Addis Ababa and Ethiopia. How to create additional value in the Industrial Parks strategy?   We believe Ethiopia’s aims towards industrialization should [...]