Creating High Impact Businesses in Challenging Environments

  • Summer schools
  • Academic Partnerships Office
  • LSE code LCS-EC203
  • Starting 2019
  • Location: Cape Town

EC203 play cover

Video: Watch Associate Professor Mikael Samuelsson discuss his course.

Welcome to the mother city and the paradox! In this course we combine influences from Silicon Cape with challenges and opportunities in the townships of Philippi and beyond. It puts the business innovation at the bottom of the pyramid. It is a co-creation learning experience that take place in the township and with different stakeholders such as investors, innovators and other business developers.

The purpose is to learn what works (and what doesn’t) in innovative startups and inspiring leading-edge organizations that are remaking their market place. Business Model Innovation: explores successful approaches to delivering new products and services in challenging settings. An engaging mix of content, case studies, student investigations, and partner firms inspires our ideas and insights. Our understanding of bottlenecks, constraints, and opportunities sets the context for the course’s ongoing exploration of promising business model and enterprise innovations. 

The course takes a practical approach to understanding, teaching and building businesses. Whether it is breaking down business models into their fundamental components, analyzing the current models used in certain industries or synthesizing new models from models existing in various industries, this course aims to place business model innovation at the center of the value creation.

Alex de Cort EC201 2019

Photo: LSE-UCT Summer School students meet the founders of a mobile restaurants franchise in Gugulethu Township, taken by Alex de Cort.

This course combines the high tech and innovative approaches found in the Silicon Cape eco-system with the hustling and bustling of the townships. The course is delivered together with GSB Solution Space at Philippi Village. Participants will spend time in both locations but a majority of the time will be spent in the townships.

Click here to see the full course outline

Programme details


Associate Professor Mikael Samuelsson

Associate Professor Mikael Samuelsson has been involved in award winning research, consultancy work and training of entrepreneurs since 1998. His research is used in both education and in governmental programs for entrepreneurs. He is involved in international and national development programs in, the US, Europe, Sweden, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique Namibia and Botswana. Dr Samuelsson is the founder of three business incubators/accelerators and have extensive experience from technology transfer and tech start-ups, as a founder, CEO and investor. Between 1997 and 2014 he served as the CEO for SSE business labs, with prominent start-ups such as Klarna a so-called Unicorn, valued to over 1 Billion USD. His start-up experience ranges from life science companies such as Spatial Transcriptomics to fast moving consumer goods. In addition, Dr Samuelsson has been part of the development processes for the Swedish governmental programs in entrepreneurship since 2004. Dr Samuelsson have studied over 1000 new venture projects from birth and over a period of fifteen years. His current research interests include start-up funding, with an emphasis on long term effects of different types of funding.  Business incubation/acceleration in developed and developing countries. Effectuation and Systematic search and its long-term consequences on firm performance. Paradox theory and its application in entrepreneurship research. He is a two times winner of National Federation of Independent Business annual award for best general paper at Babson Entrepreneurship Research Conference. Dr Samuelsson is also a devoted fan of football and carries an UEFA A-Football training license.

Sarah-Anne Alman

Sarah-Anne Alman is the Founder and Manager of the Solution Space at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business. The Solution Space provides an ecosystem for early-stage startups and a research and development platform for corporates. Sarah-Anne has previously consulted and provided strategic advice to a variety of clients, from private investors on feasibility studies, to corporates on social innovation and entrepreneurship. Originally trained as a designer, Sarah-Anne’s experience was in the Media and Publishing industry within research and development, new product planning and project management for the Penguin Group London. Sarah-Anne holds an MBA from University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, a BA (Hons) from Central Saint Martins, University of London.

Student feedback

"Unlike the usual entrepreneurship lectures, Economic Challenges for African Development puts you in the shoes of all stakeholders involved in the process of creating businesses and upscaling them. Whether you are interested in founding your own business, supporting start-ups in incubators, investing, or acquiring a start-up as a corporation, the course gives you an overview on the strategies used in these different positions, and on the role of all of them in creating value to consumers. 

The most inspirational part for me was our afternoon trips to different townships in Cape Town. We visited successful businesses that had their beginnings in the Phillippi Village. Watching these young entrepreneurs use their personal passion to represent the beauty of their neighbourhoods and create a positive impact on the communities is simply amazing. It was a living proof of how one small group of individuals can make a change. It taught me the value of resilience, team work, and trust in creating successful businesses. 

One of the best things about the course is that it is problem based. Along the 2 weeks, we worked in teams on developing an idea of a high impact business in a challenging environment, with the purpose of pitching it at the end of the course. After receiving theoretical knowledge in the lecture, the entrepreneurs we meet get to challenge it through their experience. Then we go in teams to discuss what is the right strategy for our business idea, based on our understanding and our personal goals. With this method, the course depicts the true nature of entrepreneurship: There is no recipe each entrepreneur follows to reach success. It is up to you, your values and your goals as a founder to define your high impact business and the impact it shall have. 

As a biomedical engineer, the course pushed me to take more of a stand in supporting start-ups that promote cheaper and efficient technical solutions to make the healthcare experience of patients who need it better. It showed me the difference between founding businesses and creating products for low income countries and high income countries, and how culture and politics play a role in making these solutions accessible to consumers." Soura Ben Yahia, Aachen University of Applied Sciences, Germany

Click here to read our alumni testimonials.


There are no prerequisites for this course.


Assessment will be based on a mid-term group project report and presentation (worth 50% of the final mark) and a final exam with essay questions (worth 50% of the final mark).

Preparatory reading list

A full reading list and course pack will be provided to registered students approximately six weeks before the beginning of the programme.

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