Professors at Harvard Business School (HBS) have written a case study on EbonyLife Media that will be taught in the required curriculum for all first-year MBA students this academic year. The classes took place yesterday, 18th November 2021 at the HBS campus in Boston, Massachusetts and involved more than 1,000 Harvard MBA students and multiple faculty.
This means that a case about an African company, led by a Nigerian woman, will be read by all first-year students currently at Harvard Business School. The EbonyLife case study will become one of approximately 500 case studies read by students over the course of the two-year MBA programme. Nearly half of these cases are based on global organisations.
EbonyLife CEO, Mo Abudu has been invited to observe the case being taught and to share her personal insights with the students during three class sessions throughout the day. Like most executives invited to participate, Ms. Abudu will listen to students discuss the case for the first hour, then the students will have a chance to ask her questions during the last 20-25 minutes of each class. The interaction will be streamed to other class sessions happening at the same time. Later that day, she will have other opportunities to interact with students and faculty, to offer further insight into her approach to EbonyLife’s strategic growth.
Mo Abudu joins a long list of CEOs, including Warren Buffet and Elon Musk, whose strategies and decisions have been analysed in HBS case studies. She said, “At first, I was surprised by Harvard’s interest in us, however, I can now see how a diverse faculty and student body could benefit from looking at how companies in Africa and other parts of the world deal with challenges unique to their environment. I’m looking forward to the discussions and the students’ perspectives.”
The HBS case study is to be presented in two parts – A and B. Case study A chronicles the journey of EbonyLife Media from inception to December 2020, while case study B provides a summary of what has occurred between January and October 2021. Having read case study A, the students will have to consider the choices chronicled in the HBS case study abstract below and give their analysis. Through interaction with Mo Abudu and the reading of case study B, they will be able to find out what has happened since the case was written and how appropriate their evaluation and recommendations have been.
By December 2020, after movement restrictions were lifted in Nigeria, Abudu planned to relaunch EbonyLife Place but at the same time had other concerns. Chief among them was whether to continue with the EbonyLife’s on-line platform Ebony Life On (EL ON) and if so, what changes would be required? She also considered alternatives: building a sustainable business with international partners as a means of becoming Africa’ foremost production company or continuing to operate EL ON while pursuing such international partnerships. After more than twenty years in the media industry, Abudu knew that making these kinds of changes could be challenging. Having built a group of assets including a resort and creative academy, the stakes were high. Livelihoods and the future of an entire industry could be at risk. Abudu wondered which option would be best.
Harvard Business School has been ranked as one of the world’s top business schools for over a century, pioneering the development of the case method of teaching, based on a similar approach at Harvard Law School. In 2017, Harvard Business School opened the Africa Research Centre (ARC) in Johannesburg, South Africa with a subsequent office in Lagos, Nigeria. The ARC is one of eight research centers that support Harvard Business School in developing international case studies such as this one on EbonyLife. HBS cases document real events in companies and when they are taught in the classroom, students assume the role of managers with business dilemmas, which they need to analyse and provide possible solutions to. This case study method has been adopted by dozens of business schools around the world, allowing students to learn from each other and to consider diverse perspectives before making decisions.