The signs of a long-term economic boom coming to Africa are all around.

First, with a booming population whose average age hovers around 19, Africa has a potentially strong workforce that is both better-educated and healthier than previous generations. A recent McKinsey & Co. analysis indicates that Africa’s population may double to 2 billion by 2050, adding an additional 122 million people of working age.

Second, the rush to commodities in Africa, ranging from oil to precious metals, has brought much-needed infrastructure to both urban and rural areas. And there’s potential for even more: It’s estimated that Somalia has as much oil as Kuwait. Meanwhile, Africans have flocked to mobile technology. With a market penetration of up to 70%, there are more cell phone users in Africa than in the U.S. or Europe.

Finally, much of Africa has experienced greater geopolitical stability in recent years. While some serious problems remain, investors have signaled their increased confidence in the continent’s prospects by flocking to African sovereign debt. Countries like Zambia and Ivory Coast have seen robust demand by outside investors for government bonds, pushing yields lower than several major European economies.

But these are macro trends. As Dean of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, I have also seen personal stories that portend a brighter economic future for Africa.

Vanderbilt alumnus Kisseih Antonio (MBA ’05) is now working in Ghana as regional head of product development for Econbank Capital, the investment arm of the thriving pan-African financial institution. After studying finance at Vanderbilt, he went on to positions at Barclays and Zenith Capital. As Vanderbilt and other U.S. business schools continue to attract a steady number of African students to their campuses, I expect to hear more stories like Kisseih’s in the near future.

While Africa is poised to experience economic growth similar to India, China, and Brazil, there is a desperate need for talented business management. Disciplines like finance and accounting are just one piece of the puzzle. Multinational corporations that are beginning to invest more in African economies — as well as home grown enterprises — will require a vast influx of business management skills ranging from human resources and operations management, to marketing and business strategy.

As both Dean of the Owen School and this year’s Board Chairman of the Graduate Management Admissions Council, I heartily encourage students who want to help Africa achieve its full economic potential to explore a business school education.

Your future awaits.

Jim Bradford


Vanderbilt University

Owen Graduate School of Management


The logo for the Foundation for African Leadership in Business

Foundation for African Leadership in Business

A thought leadership series by the Foundation for African Leadership in Business

ALB partners with the world’s leading business schools and corporations to provide MBA scholarships and leadership development opportunities to African professionals. Through scholarship, ALB aids in the economic development of Africa by empowering socially responsible African business leaders to contribute to economic growth through job creation in their home country.

ALB is a registered 501C3 non-profit organization.

James W. Bradford is dean of the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, and also serves as the Ralph Owen Professor for the Practice of Management. He was appointed dean in March 2005 after serving as acting dean for nine months.

James W. Bradford in his office

James W. Bradford of the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management

During his tenure as dean, Bradford has spearheaded the development and launch of five innovative, market-driven and immersion-based programs at Owen, including the Health Care MBA, master’s degrees in finance (MSF), healthcare management (MMHC) and accountancy (MAcc), and Accelerator, a 30-day summer intensive for highly qualified undergraduates. In 2006, he established a Board of Visitors comprised of leading corporate executives to further strengthen Owen’s connection and relevance to the national and international business communities, and has formed additional advisory boards for the health care and accountancy degree programs. He also teaches courses in business strategy to Owen MBA and Executive MBA students, and his leadership has resulted in a more than 300 percent increase in annual giving to date.

An experienced corporate executive, Bradford previously served as president and CEO of United Glass Corporation and AFG Industries Inc., America’s largest vertically integrated glass manufacturing and fabrication company, operating over 60 plants across the Americas. Prior, he served as AFG’s general counsel and spent 11 years in private law practice. His private practice and service as general counsel were primarily in the areas of corporate and transaction law.

Bradford earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and his law degree from Vanderbilt. He completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School in 1997.