Understanding the impact of an ongoing LBS student intervention in Alexandra Township

Wheeler Institute research: Understanding the impact on 134 micro-entrepreneurs who have been clients of MBA students.

Since 2012, London Business School has offered a Global Business Experience (GBE) programme as part of its full-time MBA course in the township of Alexandra (colloquially known as Alex), a low-income suburb of Johannesburg. The focus of the GBE is to facilitate the survival and growth of existing small businesses (micro-entrepreneurs) that are owned and managed by historically disadvantaged South Africans.  Over the course of this period, 134 micro-entrepreneurs from Alex have engaged with 710 LBS MBAs. After eight years of this unique programme running, the Wheeler Institute is now working to understand if its objective has been realised.

This project will aim to generate insights about how and why some micro-entrepreneurs are positively impacted by this intervention and others are not; and seek to identify tools, frameworks and/or resources that could further enhance future micro-entrepreneurs growth potential. Further, the project will endeavour to gain insights of life in Alex during and after the COVID-19 crisis. This impact assessment will be undertaken in collaboration with Reciprocity, LBS’s key implementing partner of the Johannesburg GBE since the first Johannesburg GBE in 2012.

The Impact

This research will provide insights into common challenges for micro-entrepreneurs in Alex and potential solutions.  These insights will allow for:

  1. An understanding of factors that impact growth potential for micro-entrepreneurs
  2. Identification and development of potential tools, frameworks and resources to support future micro-entrepreneurs growth potential
  3. Generation of recommendations about ways to increase the impact of the student intervention for micro-entrepreneurs
  4. An understanding of implications for value and supply chains.

Given our ongoing collaboration with Reciprocity and our colleagues in Alex, we are in a unique position to not only gain a snapshot of whether our past micro-entrepreneurs have survived or thrived, but we can gain a better understanding of how and why some micro-entrepreneurs have done so.    This work can inform the selection of potential future clients and how we approach recommendations to their growth challenges, and we can use the many insights to identify ways increase the impact of consulting interventions in Alex and other under-resourced communities. While engaging with our micro-entrepreneurs we are also able to develop an observatory of life in Alex during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Amelia Whitelaw
Executive Director of the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development

Who is involved?

The Wheeler Institute:

  • Amelia Whitelaw, Executive Director, Wheeler Institute for Business and Development
  • Elias Papaioannou,  Professor of Economics, London Business School, Hal Varian Visiting Professor of Economics (MIT Department of Economics) and Academic Director, Wheeler Institute for Business and Development
  • Rajesh Chandy, Professor of Marketing, London Business School; Tony and Maureen Wheeler Chair in Entrepreneurship and Academic Director, Wheeler Institute for Business and Development.

LBS Project Officers:

  • Giuliana Colina Monteza, MBA 2020
  • Erika Hansen, MBA  2020
  • Linh Hoang, MBA 2020
  • Anjori Pasricha, MBA 2020


  • Nico Pascarel, Director
  • Pierre Coetzer, Director
  • Piki Phasa, Consultant
Pierre Coetzer and Nico Pascarel
Piki Phasa

The Alex Global IMPACT Project is part of the Wheeler Institute’s portfolio of internships and consulting opportunities – offering students a professional experience to support the development of applied research, often in collaboration with external organisations.

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