CKGSB and UNESCO Partner on Cultivating Economic Disruption in Africa
December 3, 2021

Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) signed a memorandum of understanding on 3 December 2021. The MoU sets out a partnership framework between one of China’s leading business schools, CKGSB, and UNESCO on a collaboration that includes a program and forum aimed at empowering African government officials, young entrepreneurs and women leaders to foster economic disruption, improve social mobility and inclusiveness, and gender equality, and generate more unicorn companies with a focus on social innovation in Africa.

CKGSB Founding Dean and Professor of China Business and Globalization, Xiang Bing and the Assistant Director-General of the UNESCO Africa Bureau, Firmin Edouard Matoko, met at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters to honour this special commitment. 

Assistant Director-General of the UNESCO Africa Bureau Firmin Edouard Matoko (left) and CKGSB Founding Dean and Professor of China Business and Globalization Xiang Bing (right) signing the cooperation agreement

This partnership comes at the 65th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations between China and major African nations, with which trade reached $185.2 billion in 2021. As the second largest continent with a similar population size to China and rich ecological and mineral resources, Africa offers immense market potential. 

Meanwhile, China is noted for its substantive and continued economic disruption, as defined by newly emerged large-scale companies and newly minted billionaires in the past four decades. According to CB Insights, between 2017 and 2021, the world generated 672 unicorn companies, among which 217 are in China, accounting for 32% of the global unicorn companies. Among them, 39 are founded or run by CKGSB alumni, accounting for 18% of Chinese unicorn companies. “The idea of economic disruption is central to economic development and social harmony,” said Dean Xiang Bing, “as it is indispensable in generating upward social mobility, particularly among young people.”

CKGSB’s experiments in fostering a new generation of economic disruptions may be significant and of relevance for Africa. To foster these types of disruptions in China, since 2015, CKGSB has been working with key players such as Tencent, Baidu, JD.com, Microsoft, Softbank, Bytedance, Alibaba and others, to set up an ecosystem in China that focuses on developing unicorn and soon-to-be-unicorn companies. With an emphasis on social innovation, CKGSB aims to develop a new generation of business leaders who are not only economically successful, but also drive social, long-term and global good.

“Building on our success in China, we have extended this initiative to European and Middle Eastern markets (in partnership with Churchill College, Cambridge University),” said Dean Xiang, “and we are keen to expand it to markets in Africa through this unique collaboration with UNESCO.”

With a deep knowledge and innovative approach of management education, CKGSB will work with UNESCO in developing a program that will further the development of more African unicorn companies with an emphasis on social innovation. The MoU seeks to create a program specific to the needs of African businesses and “Foster Upward Market Disruptions through STEM for African Entrepreneurs.”

In light of today’s technological and geopolitical disruptions, as well as the unbalanced development of the global economy, it is no longer sufficient to rely solely on the “invisible hand” of the market and the government’s redistribution to address systematic socioeconomic and environmental problems facing humanity. Hence, CKGSB calls for social innovation—the collaboration among businesses, governments, multilateral institutions, non-profit organizations and civil society to develop and deploy effective and innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging issues. Through this collaboration, CKGSB and UNESCO will seek to cultivate business leaders who promote social innovation, advance upward social mobility, and bring sustainable long-term benefits to Africa. The two parties will do so by jointly exploring and sharing resources across sectors to help generate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) talents, provide career development for the youth, and bring more opportunities across the region.

In addition to entrepreneurs and government officials in Africa, the program also places a special emphasis on empowering women leaders in the region. The program will launch the Women in Leadership Forum (African Edition) as a platform for establishing connections, empowerment and capacity building among African women leaders.

Since 2013, CKGSB has co-organized four editions of the Women in Leadership Forum with UN Women in China to empower female leaders, promote gender equality in the workplace, celebrate success stories and offer opportunities to create positive change. The Forum has thus far offered insights from 90 speakers across 14 countries, including Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook’s COO), Barbara Woodward (then British Ambassador to China), Sarah Serem (Kenyan Ambassador to China), Maria Gustava (Mozambique Ambassador to China) and Jean Liu (President of Didi Chuxing Technology Co) among others, to more than 2 million participants online and offline. 

Also present at the signing ceremony were UNESCO’S Director of Division for Cooperation, Intersectoral Follow-Up and Partnership of Africa Department Du Yue (left) and CKGSB Europe’s Chief Representative and Assistant Dean Ji Bo (right)

At the end of the signing ceremony, UNESCO and CKGSB representatives expressed their hope that through this collaboration business and government leaders can leverage the global learning platform provided by the two parties to address socioeconomic challenges in Africa by leveraging the experience of CKGSB in driving economic disruption in China and the RCEP region, so as to bring long-term good to the African and, in turn, global economy.

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