Africa Live! Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

Online Certificate Course

Identify new entrepreneurial opportunities that generate African solutions to African problems.

Institution: HarvardX
Length: 6 Weeks
Effort: 10-12 Hours Per Week
Language: English
Price: $999*
All sales are final; no refunds once course is purchased.

How will this course be assessed?

This course will be graded on completion. For participants to pass the course, full engagement with the reading material and online videos is required as well as attendance of the live webinar components and breakout sessions.

How is the course going to facilitate a conducive online experience?

The course will offer multiple formats designed to be inclusive of all preferred learning styles. These include a big lecture-style webinar every week, and HBS live-style breakout case discussions with small groups of other learners from different parts of Africa.

How can I get a feel for what the course will be like?

Africa Live! is a comprehensive course with the opportunity to learn from and connect live with leaders in the African business community.  

Are there scholarships available?

Scholarships are available for this course on a need basis. Click here to apply. To preview what the course material is like, you may check out these courses that have captivated more than 500,000 learners from across the globe: Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies and Africa Rising: Short Intensive Program.

Are alternative payment methods available?

Local payment processing options and payment plans are available.

What is the Business Plan component and is it required to complete the course?

This component is entirely optional. Given that this is a course focused on building an entrepreneurial mindset, we strongly encourage participation in this capstone project to get the most out of the course. These business plans will be peer-reviewed and discussed in smaller groups. In addition, faculty and staff will curate them and select the best plans for a qualified African business jury to evaluate.

What support mechanisms will be available to ensure my success?

Aside from the weekly discussions where course staff will facilitate engagement, participants will be able to receive staff guidance as appropriate.

Online Class

2 hours each Saturday starting January 16, 2021 – February 20, 2021 at 8 am – 10 am Eastern Time.

Online Discussion Groups

Thursdays at different times to accommodate multiple time zones.


Africa has complex and unique business opportunities waiting to be explored. This entrepreneurship course takes an interdisciplinary approach to building scalable businesses designed to solve core problems or fill institutional voids. Unlike other business courses, this one focuses on identifying points of opportunity for smart entrepreneurial efforts through “live” online lectures, peer-to-peer learning, and real-life lessons incorporated into your own business plan.

Taught by Harvard Business School (HBS) Professors Tarun Khanna, Caroline Elkins, and Karim Lakhani, you will learn how Africa-specific trends impact the opportunities and challenges in undertaking entrepreneurship ventures on the continent. This course will examine the nuances that render Africa unique in today’s emerging market landscape, and the similarities that can be drawn from the world’s other fast-moving emerging economies. Developing your own business plan with peer-to-peer feedback is the capstone learning experience of this course.

This course will expose learners to an unparalleled network of business academics at Harvard Business School (HBS), as well as Africa’s top business leaders. Each week participants will engage with course content and readings, and the week will end with a live webinar section that includes HBS faculty and leaders from the African business community. In addition, each student has the option to participate in the course’s week-by-week business plan development process. Students will have the opportunity to submit a final business plan for review and critique at the end of the course. The best plans will be judged by a highly qualified jury comprised of African business professionals. 

Course content draws upon HBS case studies and student-tested and reviewed courses, including the world-renowned Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets course that has reached over half a million learners in 200 countries, and HBS’s four-day intensive MBA course, Africa Rising: Understanding Business, Entrepreneurship, and the Complexities of a Continent. Africa Live! will serve thousands of learners from Africa and across the globe.

By the end of this six-week course, you will be able to:

Identify new entrepreneurial opportunities that generate African solutions to African problems.

Use your personal toolkit to understand how to scale a venture in a capital- or infrastructure-limited context.

Think about business ventures in the HBS case method style.

Develop a conceptual framework for evaluating important factors such as branding, social media, the role of government, and that of other critical stakeholders.

Develop resilience in the business model—vital to sustainable success in Africa.

Week 1: Identifying an opportunity—Institutional Voids

Institutional voids are a defining characteristic of emerging markets and can create unique challenges to running a successful business in emerging markets. Voids, or the absence of intermediaries such as market research firms or credit card payment systems, must be identified and made into opportunities in order to be an effective entrepreneur. This week’s sessions will define what is meant by institutional voids, how these voids are prevalent throughout emerging markets, and the ways in which two companies in different African regions and industries effectively turned these voids into opportunities. Ultimately, winning in an emerging market often comes when an entrepreneur builds upon a simple idea, but one that is needed to fill or circumvent a challenging institutional void.

Begin Building your Business Plan: At the end of each week, you will apply the lessons learned as a guide to building a solid business plan. The first week, for example, will focus on getting an entrepreneur to think about opportunities available in their region—and get the participant to think about practical and insightful ways to size their market, think about the stakeholders that would be involved in launching their ventures, and thinking about what strategic advantages they have that would lead to success. 

Week 2: Standardizing and Scaling

How does an entrepreneur take a viable business model, and decide which aspects of it lend themselves to standardization so that it can help scale it across (parts of) the continent? Is scale best sought in a particular instance within a country, a region, or continent wide? Related to this, how do you make the pitch to providers of growth capital? How, if at all, does that pitch differ from one made to attract start-up capital in the first instance? Capital can be obtained from a range of sources, each with its pros and cons. 

Week 3: Defining Your Brand

In week three, you will focus on building a brand that garners broad-based support and loyalty. Brands communicate intangible promises—trust, integrity, reliability, respect, among others. On a practical note, how can brands be conceived and nurtured in environments where the specialist intermediaries often helpful in building brands are not always available (market research firms, advertising platforms, agencies that value brands)? How should you think of the cost of branding one’s venture? To what extent is the paucity of African brands an opportunity rather than a limitation for the astute entrepreneur? 

Week 4: Defending your business model from its inception

At the heart of this week’s learning is the key question: How does an entrepreneur defend their idea? Put another way, how can you protect the results of your creativity? Patenting as a formal protective mechanism is sometimes useful, though for the most part has less utility in emerging markets such as those in Africa as compared to other,  mature economies. So how can you think more holistically, by incorporating other barriers to imitation? And, what are the tradeoffs in doing so? 

Week 5: Developing Partnerships and Platforms

Learners  this week will consider multiple platforms—ranging from government-sponsored initiatives to technology and media platforms—that an entrepreneur can tap into as vehicles for success. Indeed, all entrepreneurs should consider actively leveraging such entities. Codevelopment, partnerships, and platforms all lower the cost of customer access, allowing you  to contribute to and benefit from knowledge sharing, and permit the continued reinvention of the business. 

Week 6: Launching your business venture

In the final week, you will focus on the execution of your business plan. All participants in the business plan module will submit their final business plan in week six, and the course professors will choose a select number of plans for the final, live pitch session in front of a jury of African business leaders and experts. You will be able to learn from, and comment on, the African jury’s selection process and the factors that African business leaders and experts consider when evaluating a business plan and pitch. The live session will then culminate in a course wrap up where the professors will offer participants a review of the course’s key learnings and takeaways.

Tarun Khanna

Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School

Tarun Khanna is the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School, where he has studied and worked with a wide range of companies and investors in emerging markets worldwide. He joined the HBS faculty in 1993, after obtaining an engineering degree from Princeton University, a PhD from Harvard, and spending an interim stint on Wall Street.

Caroline Elkins

Professor of History and Visiting Professor of Business Management, Harvard Business School

Caroline Elkins is a Pulitzer-Prize winning Professor and founding director of Harvard’s Center for African Studies. At HBS, she created and teaches the short-intensive program, “Africa Rising: Understanding Business, Entrepreneurship, and the Complexities of a Continent,” and is the course head for the MBA FIELD Global Immersion program. She has also led HBS students and faculty in global immersions to Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania, and serves on multiple foundation and corporate boards in Africa.

Karim Lakhani

Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

Karim R. Lakhani specializes in the management of technological innovation in firms and communities. His research is on distributed innovation systems and the movement of innovative activity to the edges of organizations and into communities. He has extensively studied the emergence of open source software communities and their unique innovation and product development strategies. Currently, Professor Lakhani is investigating incentives and behavior in contests and the mechanisms behind scientific team formation through field experiments on the Topcoder platform and the Harvard Medical School.

Pursue a Verified Certificate to highlight the knowledge and skills you gain.

This course is part of the online learning initiative of Harvard University’s HarvardX.  The verified certificate is signed by the instructors and includes the institution’s logo to verify your achievement. The instructors include Harvard Business School Professors Tarun Khanna, Caroline Elkins, and Karim Lakhani. 

Add the certificate to your CV or resume, or post it directly on LinkedIn.

Africa Live! is taught by experts at Harvard Business School (HBS). The knowledge and skills you will gain from this course can help launch you into a successful future.  

The online course offers multiple formats including a large lecture-style webinar every week and live HBS-style breakout case discussions with small groups of students from different parts of Africa.  

In addition to the weekly discussions, students will be able to engage with course staff and receive guidance as appropriate.  

Students also have the opportunity to participate in a real-life Business Plan project where select business plans will be reviewed and evaluated by successful African business leaders.

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