Conference to explore Africa’s economic potential
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2012 08:10
The Institute for Business in the Global Context at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy will be hosting a conference that begins today, titled “Africa’s Turn? The Promise and Reality of the Global Economy’s ‘Final Frontier.’”
The conference, which is designed as an interdisciplinary approach towards understanding Africa’s potential for economic growth and development, will run through tomorrow with a series of panel discussions featuring faculty and keynote speakers.
Although the conference was originally scheduled for this past spring, it was moved to this semester to accommodate speakers’ schedules, according to Bhaskar Chakravorti, senior associate dean of international business and finance and executive director of Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context and the Center for Emerging Markets Enterprises (CEME).
Africa’s economic capabilities have become of greater interest in recent years, according to Chakravorti. In the last decade, five out of the 10 fastest−growing countries were in sub−Saharan Africa, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that over the next five years, seven out of the 10 fastest growing countries will be in Africa as well, he said.
Chakravorti explained that investors, innovators and entrepreneurs are looking for new business opportunities in light of the current global economic state.
“Pretty much every major well−respected analyst anywhere is turning to Africa, which is somewhat ironic because it’s the part of the world that has largely been ignored, misunderstood or just basically exploited for opportunistic reasons,” he said. “So, we’re casting a revival or interest in Africa, not just as a place to capture resources from, but a place that could pose an opportunity for the global economy or the African economy.”
The conference focuses on the economic climate in Africa, which is naturally linked to other aspects of society, Academic Dean at the Fletcher School Peter Uvin explained.
“It’s primarily focused on the economic changes ... but you can’t really talk about economic changes in Africa without talking about political changes that are going on,” Uvin said. “And you can’t talk about it either without seeing how it may or may not always relate to improvements in public health, education and so on.”
The conference has been set up in a way that fosters discussion, according to Chakravorti.
“The moderators and the chairs will encourage a dialogue among the panelists and encourage the audience to participate vigorously,” he said. “The way that the conversation is structured, we’re looking at the issues almost from multiple distances.”
The goal is to exchange and explore ideas rather than promote a single approach, Director of the Feinstein International Center and Rosenberg Professor of Nutrition and Human Security at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Peter Walker told the Daily in an email.
Chakravorti explained that speakers come from a wide range of backgrounds and include policy makers in government, companies and multilateral institutions.
“We have assembled what I believe to be the finest gathering of scholars, decision makers, innovators and investors on the continent of Africa and associated with the continent of Africa together on campus,” he said.
One panel will examine African countries that have undergone rapid economic growth and business investment and will try to understand what led these countries to adapt these policies, according to Uvin.
Panelists include Stephen Radelet, chief economist of the U.S. Agency for International Development; Anne−Marie Gulde−Wolf, deputy director of the African Department of the IMF; and Joseph Kitamirike, chief executive officer of the Ugandan Securities Exchange.
The conference will provide attendees with an understanding of both the economic opportunities available in Africa as well as the challenges that arise from such prospects, according to Chakravorti.
“There’s also a lot of misconceptions about what’s going on, so it’s really quite an unusual opportunity to try to get an encapsulated view for the issues,” Chakravorti said.