Finance is the very pillar of business. Or, as Professor Kalu Ojah of Wits Business School (WBS) puts it, it is the “blood in the veins” of all corporate and state-owned entities. Knowing how to manage finance remains an indispensable skill in business, which is why a postgraduate degree in Finance is as sought-after as it always has been.
When Wits Business School launched its Master’s programme in finance and investment in 2010, it put Africa at the heart of the curriculum. “Our context in Africa is the most relevant aspect of what we teach,” says Ojah, director of the programme, “especially given our unemployment statistics. We interrogate how finance works in the development process, the role of the World Bank and other institutions concerned with the global financial architecture, how to facilitate the initiation and/or growth of firms, and how to ensure that funding is available for small to mid-size businesses.”
With three learning tracks (corporate finance and governance, banking and financial institutions, and investments and financial engineering), students are given the opportunity to specialise in development and entrepreneurial finance, emerging markets and financial markets development, financial products creation and risk management, as well as international finance and globalisation.
“When we designed the curriculum, the aim was to provide our students with a holistic finance qualification on a par with the best business schools in the world, but with relevance to Africa’s context. Our students gain a solid grounding in principles of finance and associated foundation courses before building expertise in corporate finance, the essence and evolution of financial markets from micro- and macro-environment points of view, and particularly aligned with a deep understanding of Africa’s specific funding and support institutions’ needs,” says Ojah.
Far from being a static construct, the area of finance is constantly changing in the era of digitisation. “Financial services are taking on new forms, evolving along with the other disruptive models in business,” says Ojah. “Financial managers are increasingly asking the question: how can’ fintech’ serve the needs of business in a digital world, especially in light of vistas opened up by the blockchain technology; all which can enable the developing world build up their financial development?”
A follow-on question that students are also challenged with is: why, in emerging markets and universally, does more than 60% of external financing of firms (especially SMMEs) come through the private debt market, which is dominated by banks? “Yet banks operate on a rather conservative model; so we look at the various theories surrounding greater savings mobilization and inclusive lending – i.e., financial inclusion for household welfare enhancement and greater business success.”
Africa has some of the fastest growing economies in the world, and the continent’s average GDP growth has consistently outpaced the global average. Direct foreign investment is on the rise in sectors such as energy, agriculture, water and mineral processing. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is likely to further boost the continent’s growth prospects.
“In an environment of such exciting growth and opportunity, I believe this continent urgently needs specialists in financial policy/regulation and financial institution management in the emerging market context, in order that we effectively manage Africa’s growth and transition productively from the point of view of financial adequacy and financial stability,” says Ojah. To find out more about the Master of Management in Finance and Investment , visit www.wbs.ac.za.