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There’s more to life than money, they say, and today’s MBA students want to invest their skills in social innovation and networking with peers from other countries.

Six teams in the FT 2015 MBA Challenge have been working hard over the summer to develop a business plan to help caregivers in Uganda gain access to vaccines for their children, working with FT seasonal appeal partner the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

One example of the problem cited by the IRC, which supports humanitarian aid, relief and development in more than 30 countries, is the case of Florence. She walked with her baby for four hours to a local health centre, only to find that the clinic would not open a vial of the measles vaccine for her son because there were not enough children present to receive all the doses.

Justine Landegger, immunisation team lead at the IRC, is looking forward to finding a solution. “It is clear that global childhood immunisation coverage has stagnated at around 80 per cent,” she says. “The IRC is committed to closing this gap in hard-to-reach areas where the job remains unfinished. That is why we are working in Uganda, a country with one of the highest burdens of under-immunised children; where over 250,000 children remain at risk of entirely preventable diseases.”

The Financial Times launched the MBA Challenge in 2012, encouraging students to form teams with their peers from at least three regions: Europe, the Americas and Africa or Asia.

This year a total of 37 students, representing 19 education institutions, have been shortlisted for the final. We asked the teams’ leaders to share snapshots of their progress so far:

Peter Biro/International Rescue Committee

“My expectation was that MBA people would have the same skill sets but that’s not true – we complement each other,” says Anna Stella, an executive MBA student at Henley Business School in the UK. One of her team mates is in Ghana, another two are in the US and Belgium.

“At this stage, we are still trying to find the right angle to take,” she explains. “We are spending a lot of time on market research; reading lots of reports and looking at the supply chain. We believe the market research is the most important thing. Everyone can have a good idea but you have to be able to back it up – that’s what we learn on the MBA.”

Read the full team profile

iVaccinate My Child

“As someone who has done the challenge before, I’ve learnt a lot about the problems charities face and why my skills can help solve these complex problems,” says Alfa Bumhira, an MBA student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business working with students based in London and South Africa.

The team has become close, speaking almost every day, and is keen to use its work on Uganda to showcase what the whole continent is capable of. “We aren’t afraid of taking risks and going big with our ideas. It’s high time Africa [moves] to the next level and we believe Uganda is ready to do this,” says Mr Bumhira.

Read the full team profile

Onwards and Upwards

“So far, we are trying to add value without adding cost. We aim to involve government services, such as educators,” says Hilda Kabushenga, an MBA student at Iese Business School in Spain, who is originally from Uganda and returned to her local village to collect first-hand information.

Another two team members are doing the same in Nigeria, where they are currently based while on a break from their studies at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in the US. “Our MBA skills have helped us structure the project and decide who to speak to and what to get from them as well as establishing an overall view,” says Ms Kabushenga.

Read the full team profile

Pragati Rescue

“We have just finished the data analysis and are seeing if it matches our business plan,” says Lorenzo Valacca, an MBA student at Iese, who met his team members at the MBA World Summit when it took place in Barcelona. One is at Ceibs, another is at Berkeley Haas and two are from Insead.

“I’m surprised by how well the team work is going,” Mr Valacca says. “Everyone is really involved and passionate.” In particular, he has made the most of his operations management course. “One class was specifically on inventory management, which helped a lot,” he says.

Read the full team profile


“We are able to bring the latest ways in thinking and new technology we’ve been exposed to on our courses,” says Joel Ayee, an MBA student at Chicago Booth who is working with individuals from Hitotsubashi University, Cranfield and Katz Pittsburgh business schools.

Mr Ayee used the FT matching service to find his team. “It was an exciting experience getting to interact with everyone given that we are all from different countries, and meeting for the first time over the phone,” he says. “Each person has a different way of looking at things due to their backgrounds. Abhisek [from Cranfield] has worked in the pharmaceutical industry so he provided insights on drug delivery that none of the rest of us could have thought of, and Peter [from Katz] runs his own company so he has a unique perspective as someone who has been out of the MBA programme for a while.”

Read the full team profile


“Uganda is a tough place but that means more opportunity for us to show what we can do,” says Gabriel Wong, an MBA student at the University of Alberta School of Business in Canada. His team includes students from London Business School, HEC Paris and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore.

The team diversity is something Mr Wong values. “We have a lot of international students coming to Alberta but we tend to work the Canadian way,” he says, “so the challenge has provided me with a different way of working, which I have found to be very beneficial.”

Read the full team profile

For more updates follow FT Business Eduation on Twitter @ftbized #FTMBAchallenge. The winners will be announced on November 11.

This article was corrected, on Monday 27 July, to indicate that Alfa Bumhira is working with students based in South Africa, not Senegal.

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