HBS 6087: Immersive Field Course: Africa; Building Cities

This course will be of interest to students who would like to investigate business solutions to three of the major problems of our time: rapid and massive urbanization; increasing scarcity of clean water, clean air, clean power, and effective transport; and the apparent inability of federal governments to fully address these problems with their own capabilities and financial resources.

Cities are often the right political unit to tackle the impact of these trends, and private investment in public infrastructure is a major tool to address the issues. Students in this course will test these solutions with companies, investors, and city leaders. Students will emerge with significant understanding of urban development, the competitive advantage of regions, and the private finance of public infrastructure.

Educational Objectives

Rapidly growing cities in Africa and around the world are constrained by the funding and delivery of basic infrastructure including water, transit, power, and communications. New technologies, new business models, public-private partnerships, and increasing interest from financial investors should be able to mitigate some of these constraints, help individuals to improve their lives, and provide attractive business and investing opportunities. In theory, well-matched finance, appropriate design, and capable execution in addressing these components of cities can help urban areas to be more competitive with other cities, more environmentally friendly, and more able to provide opportunity for residents.

Students will gain extensive understanding of two major East African cities (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania); rich awareness of the basics of infrastructure design, finance, and delivery; and an advanced sense of what private investors and businesses need in terms of revenue opportunities, regulatory and contractual environments, and technical skill to succeed in these areas.

The work is informed by and closely aligned with current faculty research in building sustainable cities and infrastructure. The investigation builds on past Building Cities immersive courses, and the output is put into use at once.

Course Content and Organization

Overview and Introduction: The course will meet for three class sessions in the fall to discuss the basics of infrastructure development and finance across each asset class, and to learn fundamental background on the history, legal systems, and prior development efforts in each urban area.

Schedule: In January, the course will visit both Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam, spending five to seven days in each. Teams of students will focus their inquiries in three major categories: 1) infrastructure (power, transit, water, ICT); 2) real estate (both investing and developing); and 3) the entrepreneurial ecosystem (both funding and operating). Each week includes full group plenary sessions with companies, the investment community, and city government as well as extensive independent work at the team level.

Projects: Participants will work on a research project in one of eight teams comprising 4-6 students. Following plenary kick-off sessions, each team will start its own work by meeting with pre-identified "content experts" who will help them to connect with other resources about their research questions. In this manner, each group is exposed to many different organizations. Teams will conclude their work with individual reports to their content experts, and in a group presentation to economic development officials in each city.

Deliverable: Students will present their initial findings and recommendations at capstone events in each city. Feedback collected from these sessions will then be incorporated into a final report to be published after the immersion. In addition, there is potential to disseminate findings as journal articles, HBS Working Papers, technical notes, or case studies.

The Immersive Field Course Model

In contrast to FIELD 2 Global Immersions, Immersive Field Courses are customized according to individual faculty research and are designed to enable students to take an active role in the construction of their learning. In many instances, these courses are built with a specific focus in mind and teams of students are called upon to collaborate directly with local company partners to scope projects, collect data and organize work plans before and during the immersion. Longer in duration than FIELD 2, these courses also tailor learning via field-based exercises, panel presentations, guest lectures, alumni events and plenary visits to relevant companies and organizations.

Course Credit and Fees

Students who successfully complete this course (including participation in all on-campus sessions during the Fall and Spring terms) will earn 3.0 course credits.

HBS will provide in-country logistics for IFCs (including accommodations, select meals, and local travel) but students will need to contribute a fee of $2,400 towards defraying a part of these costs. In addition, students are responsible for their round-trip air travel and any costs associated with required visa documentation and immunizations. Students who have applied for financial aid may apply for additional financial support to participate in this course. Please see the Financial Aid website (login required) for more information on financial support for Immersive Field Courses.

For detailed information about what the course program fee includes and excludes, as well as information about student accommodations, please visit the GEO website.




Course ID: 

  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2017-2018 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

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