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Data & Trends

Africa and the Middle East, Emerging Markets for Management Education

The number of prospective business students from Africa and the Middle East remains relatively small, but many countries in the two world regions are growing rapidly and show promise for continued expansion.

“Economic growth in the Middle East and Africa is expected to grow twice as fast as advanced economies for the next five years. This should create job opportunities and increase the ability of families to afford graduate education,” said Alex Chisholm, GMAC director, statistical analysis. “When combined with significant growth in the number of 20- to 29-year-olds in Africa and growing participation in higher education across both regions, it’s clear that several student demand factors are aligning in a positive way.”

Speaking at a recent GMAC webinar titled Emerging Markets: Africa and the Middle East, Chisholm gave details on the number of unique test takers from these regions. Although small compared with other global regions – 6,640 unique test takers living in the Middle East and 3,207 in Africa in Testing Year 2011 – those figures represent growth of 29 percent and 47 percent from five years earlier, respectively.

In addition, it is common for citizens of these regions to take the test in North America or Western Europe, Chisholm noted. Some 43 percent of African test takers and 29 percent of Middle Eastern citizens sat for the GMAT exam outside their regions in TY2011, suggesting that schools might not have to travel to the Middle East and Africa to recruit citizens from these regions.

Unique GMAT Examinees in African & the Middle East

Other key takeaways:

  • Differences in motivation. Increased job opportunities are the top reason why Middle Eastern citizens want to pursue graduate management education, whereas improving skills is the top motivator for African citizens, according to GMAC’s mba.com Prospective Students Survey.
  • MBA demand high. 73 percent of GMAT score reports sent by both African and Middle Eastern citizens in TY2011 were directed toward MBA programs, compared with 67 percent globally.
  • Dramatic differences among countries. For example, women represent 60 percent of the Kenyan pipeline, but only 23 percent of Saudi Arabian residents. MBA programs received 95 percent of GMAT score reports sent by Israeli citizens compared with only 48 percent for Moroccan residents.

Several webinar attendees sent in questions regarding GMAT score ranges in Middle Eastern and African countries. The average GMAT scores for many individuals from these regions is low compared with others, often because they do not invest adequate time preparing for the GMAT exam, Ron Sibert, GMAC Africa business development director, said after the webinar.

He also notes that others who are admitted to a program may be academically ill-prepared when they enroll. “That’s why on our new student-facing online microsite [http://mba.com/Africa], for example, we emphasize preparation for the GMAT exam and for graduate study as well,” he said. “Prospective students are encouraged to plan their preparation, use GMATPrep® software and official guides to improve GMAT exam performance, and to prepare for management education classes by using Essential PrepTM." 

An archived recording and slides of the webinar are available to school professionals working at schools that accept the GMAT exam.

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