The Legatum Center: Driving Innovation in Emerging Markets at a Time of Profound Change

The pandemic has caused widespread economic disruption, with emerging markets struck especially hard. While the obstacles to growth are formidable, Dina H. Sherif (Executive Director, Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship) sees reasons for optimism in the face of this once-in-a-generation challenge.

Sherif points out that the very nature of emerging market cultures may give them greater “emotional resilience” than other, more developed markets. Many emerging markets have unstable political situations, so the rule of law is not necessarily enforced. Entrepreneurs in these countries are forced to find creative ways to build sustainable and responsible businesses. Therefore, when the dust settles, they may be better equipped to navigate uncharted terrain than those countries that are less familiar with instability and crisis.

With the support of the Legatum Group, the Mastercard Foundation, HRH Princess Moudi bint Khalid, the Jacobs Foundation, and the Koch Foundation, the Legatum Center is continuously evolving to foster entrepreneurship in emerging markets. Under Sherif’s leadership, the center is launching new initiatives to accomplish its mission of improving lives through entrepreneurial leadership in emerging markets, even in uncertain times.

Focusing Outward with A New Fellowship

In addition to Legatum’s flagship fellowship program, the center plans to launch a new fellowship designed to bring entrepreneurs from emerging markets to MIT who can’t take time off to pursue a degree, but could benefit from being on campus over a period of three to four weeks. The learning will be a two-way street. Entrepreneurs— starting with individuals from Africa and expanding to other continents— will benefit from a highly focused, curated experience at MIT. As for the MIT community, it will be an opportunity to learn what these entrepreneurs are doing and how they’re innovating on the ground.

Engaging Investors

Seeing a need to encourage the flow of capital at the venture capital stage to emerging markets, Legatum has brought in a Scholar in Residence to tackle the challenge. “Investors have a really big role to play as activists right now,” says Sherif, “and where they invest their money matters.”