“Business Investment in Education in Emerging Markets since the 1960s”

Érica Salvaj, Doctor (PhD) of Philosophy, IESE Business School.


This article examines why business leaders in emerging markets made large-scale investments in educational projects since the 1960s. Using a new oral history database, the study identifies two types of motivations behind such investments: ethical imperatives and strategic goals. It connects stated intentions with strategic patterns, including the level of education targeted; the creation of alliances with other actors; and the use of foundations to structure investment. It shows that educational investments were a valuable tool to diffuse the value systems of entrepreneurs and companies. Educational spending also enhanced corporate reputation among stakeholders, including employees, government, business associates, and international agencies. Considerable regional variations were identified. In Asia, investment in education was largely driven by ethical codes and primarily targeted pre-university education. In Turkey and the Gulf, education initiatives had a strategic orientation, involved alliances, and signaled status. In Latin America, business leaders targeted education to correct a legacy of bad reputation across multiple stakeholders, seeking alliances. Finally, ethical motivations were emphasized in Africa, and the focus was on high-profile initiatives.