Africa and what business schools can do

Written on May 30, 2006 by Max Oliva in Corporate Responsibility

Santiago Iniguez, Dean of Instituto de Empresa Business School, has recently posted the following article on BizDeansTalk.
In her splendid novel “Les Belles Images”, Simone de Beauvoir the great café-philosopher and novelist of 20th Century Europe, describes a situation which could be transferable to present days. The protagonist, a conscientious mother, wonders why her daughter is worried about some inevitable evils that exist in the world but occur far from home –hunger, epidemics, natural disasters- and cause devastating effects among huge numbers of poor people of the third world, although these problems can not be solved solely by one person (if they can be solved at all). This impotence of the single individual to solve a given evil produces a natural, defensive reaction in many humans. People like “belle images” –beautiful images- and are not prepared to be constantly exposed to the image of horror or suffering. The natural reaction of the mother is, then, to change the TV channel or the subject in order to avoid the exposure of her beloved daughter to the cruellest aspects of life. The extreme version of the “belle image” syndrome is just to avoid talking or showing pictures of some particular disaster. I am sure you identify the syndrome I am talking about.
The El Pais newspaper mentioned yesterday that 435 illegal immigrants were able to reach the coasts of the Canary Islands. This episode is just part of a series published daily in the papers since the good weather conditions of late spring have prompted the marine crossing of “cayucos” –poor, small boats- crowded with immigrants who leave Africa’s Atlantic coast for the Canary Islands, the closest European territory. Indeed, one of those images hard to behold. The unprecedented scale of immigrant arrivals of the past weeks has driven Spain and other nine European countries of the European Union to increase the resources devoted to guard the sea frontiers between Europe and Africa, including patrol boats, satellites and controlling aircraft. Many people wonder, however, whether the actions taken will prevent the flow of boats in the coming weeks. Interestingly, the avalanche of illegal immigrants has driven the Spanish government to open diplomatic relations with many Northwestern African countries in an effort to stop illegal exodus at its origin. Illegal immigration is indeed a new facet of globalisation that is amplifying the meaning of neighbouring countries beyond the mere sharing of a joint border.
However, preserving the inviolability of frontiers is not enough nor is the best way to avoid illegal immigration. Incidentally, let me recommend an interesting article on the phenomenon of immigration in the US that I read some years ago in the New York Review of Books. It is a good summary of the findings of different research pieces on the topic of immigration, useful to avoid a superficial, unsound and demagogic view of this human drama.
How can business schools contribute to solve this serious, complex, humanitarian problem? Let me suggest three different ways that can be further developed in subsequent posts here:
1) Helping the process of creating more business schools in Africa, in order to increase the number of competent managers who can create wealth and value for their societies. Yesterday, the Financial Times published a piece of news on the African Association of Business Schools, a new network that we should welcome and support. Some months ago, Guy Pfeffermann of Businessweek also emphasized the need of more business schools in Africa, and referring to The Report of the Commission for Africa, presented by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and approved by the G8 last year, noted that it “rightly flags management weakness in nearly every sector: water, health, transportation, and education. Yet nowhere does the report mention the need to strengthen local management schools”.
2) Encouraging our students to learn more about Africa in management programmes. The best ally of evil is ignorance. Here, the promotion of social entrepreneurship at business schools can have very interesting results.
3) Increasing scholarship schemes for African students.
Education is probably the most effective way to cope with most problems of humanity. Let’s think creatively and implement effective plans.
Tags(clickable): Africa, Immigration, Pfeffermann, New York Review


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