Western economic engagement and cultural rapprochement is strong in East and South East Asia, the Americas, Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East. However, our financial and business worlds are often blind to the promise of Africa. We need to fix that. And there is hope.
Hope for an increased understanding of Africa arrived in a recent announcement from the University of Pennsylvania, when the school reported that its “Lauder Institute, the graduate-level joint-degree program between international studies in the College and either Penn Law or the Wharton School, will offer a new Africa program for next year’s entering class in May 2016.”
Innovative educational programs challenge the status quo, and this is why visionary investors like Rene Kern, who sits on the Board of Directors, support the Lauder Institute. It’s an investment in educational opportunity and provides understanding, profiting both the intellectual and the economic.
“Africa is booming. It’s the new frontier in the global economy,” said Mauro Guillen, Director of the Lauder Institute. “Out of the 20 fastest-growing economies in the world, ten of them are in sub-Sharan Africa. The continent is coming of age after many years of war and civil unrest. There is so much more stability.”
The Africa program will provide students with an increased understanding of this diverse economy. There are 56 countries in Africa, and it is home to 1 billion people, but it’s a continent that few westerners and people in the business community know about. However, recent research has indicated that over the next decade there will be a need for nearly one million business managers in Africa.
A program offering in-depth exposure to the culture and context of Africa is required if we’re ever to unlearn our cultural biases about the continent. Many people who travel to the continent to do business bring a sense of superiority and paternalism with them. They don’t understand or appreciate the history of the continent or the abilities of the African professionals.
Establishing partnerships with African universities is a key part of the program. Its administrators and leaders have already begun traveling there and conducting preliminary research into establishing academic partnerships. This program is a great step toward understanding a powerful economic force and a great opportunity for the students who will become leaders in the western financial community.