Choice for China-Africa relations
Choice for close China-Africa relations
James Osterloh is a student of the Chinese European International Business School (CEIBS). He has spent 11 months at China’s top business school located in Shanghai.
He was fascinated by the dynamic progress of China when he first visited the country in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, and he decided to come back.
Before he came to China, he worked at Standard Bank, the largest bank on the African continent. The employer has a strategic partnership with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), so he applied to the MBA program of CEIBS, partly supported by the employer. He now hopes to position himself in the China-Africa division of Standard Bank after graduation.
When you first visited China in 2008, what made you decide to settle down there?
The size, scale and speed of China’s development were most striking to me. I didn’t expect that I would see such a huge number of new buildings, bridges and highways. It was at the end of the Olympic Games, and the atmosphere was extremely exciting and stately. I got a quick sense that life and business in China were dynamic and moving forward at a mouth-watering pace.
How did you find the link between South Africa and China? Why did you choose MBA program in China instead of ones in the U.S. or Europe as many others prefer?
After serving in the military in the UK, I returned to South Africa and joined Standard Bank. The bank had a strategic relationship with ICBC of China and that was a key part of our bank’s positioning. I saw an obvious sign of an increasingly close relationship between China and Africa.
I went through various courses during the time there that exposed me to the growing inter-relationship between emerging African markets and China. Much of the infrastructure in Africa, for instance, was sponsored by China.
I first got the idea of doing an MBA at CEIBS unlike many others, after taking a bank career course on emerging markets which was delivered by an impressive CEIBS professor.
Although I didn’t know much about the school, the more I researched about it, the more I became hooked on the idea of studying there. Not only is it one of the top business schools in the world ― the school was ranked 16th at the time ― but it also gives you unmatched insights into China and exposure to and chance to learn Chinese.
As we all know, top international MBA programs are notoriously expensive, so I thought I had to do an MBA plus an extra “something,” such as learning Chinese and their culture. And I knew this would be a massive factor that differentiates my CV from others. It made complete sense for me from a career-development-and-future-aspiration point of view.
Do you think you can apply what you’ve learned from China to South Africa?
As emerging economies, China and South Africa share many things in common, both positive and negative. They grapple with similar social challenges ― energy, housing, education, healthcare, unemployment and corruption.
What is your long-tem goal? What are you going to do after graduation?
After I graduate, I am hoping to position myself within the China-Africa division of our bank, and ultimately try to carve out a niche for myself as someone who understands and can operate in both of these key regions. I would ideally like to move into our main head office in Beijing to consolidate my Chinese learning so far, or at the very least, move into a role where I can continue to build on my knowledge about China.
What advice would you give to potential MBA students?
Firstly, decide very clearly why you want to do an MBA and what you want to achieve from it. It costs a massive amount of time and money, so it’s important that you have lucid motivations.
Secondly, try to apply to a top-ranked international business school. There are simply thousands of MBA programs out there, and if you want to stand out, studying at a top-recognized school is very important to get full value for your efforts.
Thirdly, decide where you want to be and where you want your career to take you to. In my case, I have very clear reasons for wanting to get a better understanding of emerging markets and China in particular because this relates directly to my job and career goals.
And then if you believe your future business aspirations might just benefit from having a Chinese flavor, you will find it extremely difficult to find a better choice than CEIBS.
In terms of diversity of the student body, rankings, and value for money, it is among the very top handful. An MBA from CEIBS is really for those who are not content to do ‘just another’ top MBA and who are looking for a life changing immersion experience. But first decide what you want, and then try to find the optimal match.
Interviewed by Bahk Eun-ji