Departing Nairobi on the Emirates flight EK 720, Team Oligarchs from KU highly excited to visit Dubai for their first trip abroad! We left Nairobi on Sunday 15th April, arriving at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Deira Dubai. The Kenyan team was already awestruck by the planned streets of Dubai and cleanliness, and this was before the city tour the next day. The city tour consisted of seeing the Burj Al Arab from the public beach, the hotel in the sea shaped like a yacht. We also got taken around to see Jumeirah, Hotel Atlantis (from the outside), the Palm Islands, the Wall of Old Dubai, the Al Fahaidi Fort, learning plenty about the history of Dubai and its culture. Dubai is one of the 7 Emirates in the UAE and 2018 is the 100-year anniversary of the great visionary Sheikh Zayed Bin Al Maktoum, the previous Ruler of Dubai. We saw many mentions around Dubai about 2018 being the Year Of Zayed. Sheikh Zayed had brought the 7 Emirates together many years ago to prosper together, so it was an auspicious time to visit Dubai. Before concluding the city tour, we were all taken aboard little boats to cross the Dubai Creek. The creek separates Bur Dubai from Deira Dubai, and is a scenic area. Thankfully, we didn’t have any seasick casualties and all the teams made it back to the hotel fine to get ready for the Evening Welcome!

The Welcome evening was hosted by Beaufort Consulting (GMC Dubai Partner) & Muneer Mian (MD Beaufort Consulting) welcomed everyone to Dubai alongside their corporate partner Al Futtaim Automotive. The CEO of Institute of Chartered Accountants England & Wales (ICAEW), Michael Izza, was visiting from the UK as the ICAEW is a partner of the GMC in Dubai (as well as supporters of GMC Kenya) and he spoke about the future of work. He highlighted that the professionals of the future will have a tech-oriented focus on 4 key pillars, ABCD. A is for Artificial Intelligence, B is for Blockchain, C is for Cyber, relating to Cyber Security & Crime, and lastly D for Data. The working life for many is changing fast and automation is happening fast, disrupting the normal worklife.

The Kenya team from KU was drawn in the yellow group with Hong Kong, Kuwait, Portugal & Spain. Other groups were drawn as follows:

Blue – Brazil, Czech Republic, Greece, India, Macau SAR

Red – Estonia, Mexico, Poland, Slovakia, UAE

Green – Angola, Cape Verde, People’s Republic of China, Nigeria, Panama, Russia

(Angola team didn’t make it to the finals) – Panama & Nigeria were making their first appearance at the finals.

 

The group that Kenya was drawn in to was a tricky one, with some teams with International Finals experience. After the 1st Decision Kuwait were in 1st place, followed closely by Hong Kong, Portugal, Kenya and Spain. After the 2nd Decision, Hong Kong had taken 1st position and Kuwait, Kenya, Spain & Portugal followed in hot pursuit. On the 3rd decision, Kuwait retook 1st place from Hong Kong (2nd) and Spain leapt ahead of Kenya, with Portugal in 5th. At this point, it felt like it might be tough for Kenya to reach the final, but lo & behold, after 4th Decision they had rocketed to 1st place and Spain were in 2nd position. Hong Kong had gone from 1st to 5th place which left many of us gobsmacked! Kuwait were in 3rd and Portugal 4th, but the group was very tight and the teams would only find out who would progress to the main final after the Friendship Dinner. Some of the teams in Kenya’s group felt that the Hong Kong team had reduced the price of their products a lot, thus suffering a high loss and also, problems with their employees as they had reduced their salaries. There’s only so much employees can be squeezed in the pursuit of profits!

The friendship dinner was a nice meal held outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel at a golf park and it was nice to be away from the air conditioning! Kenya sat alongside some Nigerians and learnt aplenty about University of Lagos, Coca-Cola’s West Africa operations and Nigerian culture. After the dinner, the finalists were announced and Kenya had made it to the World Final!

 

Kenya would face off against People’s Republic of China, Czech Republic, Estonia, Macau SAR, Russia, Slovakia and Spain in the Main Final and it was a tough day. Estonia were a surprise given that they were bottom in their group for nearly all of the decisions prior to the last one! Macau were the defending champions, and several of the teams had come from bigger competitions, facing off more teams than what Kenya would have experienced. In China and Russia, the total number of teams annually is in the range of 2000 to 3000 teams!

After the 1st Decision, Russia, China & Estonia had bolted to the head of the pack with Spain & Kenya bringing up the rear. Estonia built a lead after the 2nd set of Decisions and held the lead after the 3rd & 4th decisions too. China, Czech Republic, Macao & Russia were in hot pursuit, with all of them changing positions several times. Slovakia, Kenya and Spain were trying their level best, but couldn’t catch them. It was one of the most competitive finals for a long time, as it should be. These are the world’s best teams competing in the world’s largest management & strategy competition. The majority of the teams were student teams and corporate firms like IBM, Banco Sabadell and Ernst & Young (EY) sponsored some of them. The teams wouldn’t find out who are the winners until after the Gala Dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel Festival City Dubai. And so, off the teams went to relax, change and enter the Gala Dinner as rockstars!

The Intercontinental Hotel Festival City Dubai is in an area owned by the sponsors Al Futtaim Automative. For those of you that aren’t aware, Al Futtaim Auto took over the Kenyan business CMC Motors several years back, and they are part of the wider Al Futtaim Group, also owners of Carrefour Supermarkets. All GMC teams, partners and associates were taken to the water fountains area for what I would call a light show, but it also involved water and fire which was entertaining! After some light snacks & welcome drinks, all the teams, partners & associates sat down on their designated tables and were welcomed by Muneer Mian from Beaufort Consulting and Len Hunt (CEO) from Al Futtaim Automotive. After a few speeches, Al Futtaim Automotive was awarded the Sponsor of the year UAE and then the teams that appeared in the Main Final were called out from 8th position to receive their awards. Kenya placed 7th overall, an excellent achievement. They were ahead of Spain, but behind Slovakia (6th), Russia (5th), Estonia (4th) and Macau SAR (3rd). Prior to announcing the Winners & Runners up, the next venue of the International Finals were announced; Yekaterinburg in Russia, to be held in May 2019. The Governor of the region gave a speech, welcoming all to visit next year. Yekaterinburg is about 4 hours by flight to Dubai, and is in the central regions of Russia. It is the 4th largest city in Russia and located on the Iset River east of the Ural Mountains, in the middle of the Eurasian continent, on the border of Europe and Asia.

Finally, the teams from Czech Republic and People’s Republic of China were called on to the stage. The team from Czech Republic was a student team sponsored by consulting firm Ernst & Young, and the team representing China was also a student team. Both had competed hard and now they would find who would be crowned champions of the Global Management Challenge Dubai 2019. The team from Czech Republic was announced as the World Champion, with China as the Runner-Up. It was a close final as the results graphic shows above. All the teams were called up to the stage for a final photo and the Dubai edition of the International Finals was brought to a close.

We captured the thoughts & experience of some of the Kenyan team. Dorothy Pendo said, “GMC created a whole different confident individual in me. I enjoyed the group experience that exposed me to dynamic professional skills. It was indeed a worthwhile experience and I loved the exposure to Dubai, just fabulous!”

John Kabue, a poet in his free time, said “After participating in GMC, I am now able to take novel approaches to problem solving and make critical interpretation of data and texts; skills that no one could have taught me, skills that are always in demand whenever there is need for logical reasoning. I am now keen to discover the information behind corporate marketing strategies”.