Consulting Education Writ Real

The Global Consulting Practicum tackles agricultural imbalances in Western Africa.

Western Africa suffers from a massive shortage of food, so its nations expend inordinate amounts of their resources to import it. For instance, both Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire each import roughly 800,000 tons of rice per year as a staple. Wharton MBA students set out to help solve the problem.

The company Intervalle created public-private partnerships with the goal of offsetting the importing of rice in those two nations, while also growing commercial, exportable foodstuffs like cocoa and coffee. Governments, the African Development Bank, institutional investors and large commercial agriculture interests are potential stakeholders, along with small landholders in both those Western African nations who will own a significant piece of the partnerships.

To make it all happen, Intervalle called in the Wharton Global Consulting Practicum (GCP). Partnering with HEC Paris, GCP sent in a team of 10 MBA students (five from each school) to evaluate the situations on the ground and create an economics feasibility model, followed up with advice on how to move the program from pilot to next steps. Not to mention also present their findings to Intervalle’s stakeholders.

“These are not academic exercises,” says Steven Smolinsky WG79, GCP regional manager and Intervalle project academic director.

Clients pay for and receive deliverables: the team’s final report, all of its research, materials and interviews. In some cases, clients ask team members to continue to be available to work after the official end of GCP. They even ask them to present their final report to another stakeholder

“They become amazing experts on what they’ve done,” says Smolinsky of the students.

It takes a special kind of student to take this on in the first place. In the case of the Intervalle, the students started on this journey in October, after having applied for GCP soon after fall semester began. The final presentation didn’t occur until May 13 and 14. The GCP is time-intensive and intense. It is a “guided independent project,” so although they have a faculty guide, they are left to “get their hands dirty” and learn client management on their own. But students who take it on tend to be looking for international and real-world experience.

Wharton launched the GCP as it functions now in 1997. Professor Len Lodish created its predecessor, the Wharton Multinational Marketing and Management Program, in 1978.

—Matthew Brodsky