Why Does Business Invest in Education in Emerging Markets? Why Does it Matter?

Valeria Giacomin, Geoffrey Jones, Erica H. Salvaj

Research output: Working paperResearch


This working paper examines why a significant number of businesses have made non-profit investments in education in emerging markets between the 1960s and the present day. Using a sample of 110 interviews with business leaders from an oral history database at the Harvard Business School, the study shows that more than three-quarters of such leaders invested in education as a non-profit activity. Three different types of motivations behind such high levels of engagement with education are identified: values driven, context focused, and firm focused. It also identifies significant regional variations in terms of investment execution, structure, and impact. In South and Southeast Asia, there was a preference for long-term investment in primary and secondary education. In Africa and Latin America, some initiatives sometimes had a shorter-term connotation, but with high-profile projects in partnerships with international organizations and foreign universities. In Turkey, there was heavy focus on training and the creation of universities. The working paper concludes by examining the impact of this investment, comparing Chile and India especially. It discusses issues such as the paucity of financial data and the challenges of comparing different types of educational spending, which make robust conclusions hard, but does suggest that although such spending did not resolve major educational roadblocks across Africa, Asia and Latin America, it represented a positive overall social gain.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBoston, MA
PublisherHarvard Business School
Number of pages58
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
SeriesHarvard Business School Working Paper


  • Emerging markets
  • Education
  • Reputation
  • Philanthropy
  • CSR
  • Business history
  • Oral history

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