A continent of research and business opportunities

24 October 2019

Africa holds 20 of the 40 fastest growing economics in the world. It also has the biggest growing consumer population. In 2050 25% of the world’s working age population will be African. 20 million jobs need to be created in Africa every year.

Last week BI hosted this year’s International Conference of Business in Emerging Markets (ICBMEM). An annual international forum gathering researchers, practitioners and students to address and discuss business and management ideas, research opportunities and research outcomes.

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According to keynote speaker Eivind Fjeldstad, CEO of the Norwegian-African Business Association the knowledge and interest in the African continent in regards to business development have so far been limited, not only in Norway, but in developed economies in general. That is why research on emerging markets are more important than ever. Business entering these markets need a fact-based approach in order to base their investments on understanding, knowledge and insight.

Fjeldstad had one main challenge to researchers in emerging markets:
- You need to contribute to finding the solutions, not just point out the problems. Businesses need help from research in getting the knowledge they need in order to enter emerging markets in a sustainable and profitable way.

Exchanging ideas on business operations with emerging markets is definitely a win-win situation, according to Professor Caroline Ditlev-Simonsen, co-organizer of the ICBMEM.

- In a sustainability perspective; one can argue that the development and management of business in the developed world has failed. BI’s honorary doctorate, Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University professor and previous Nobel Prize in Economics winner, raised this argument claiming “the American economy is a failure”. We have over-exploited the planet and our consumption is not sustainable. Emerging economies have to avoid the same failures as the developed world – and develop more sustainable, says Caroline.

Dr Emmanuel Chao, overall coordinator of the ICBMEM from Mzumbe University highlighted the fact that the emerging markets have already found several ways of doing things in a sustainable way fitting their context. For example M-Pesa, a service allowing users to deposit money into an account stored on mobile phones. This made it possible for people to have digital accounts without being customer in a bank. The mobile service provider has given millions of people in Africa access to the formal financial system, which also have led to crime reduction. Another example is blended models of online and offline crowdfunding initiatives combining both the cultural aspects and technology in establishing funding for upcoming companies. Jimma University in Ethiopia (SUSTAIN partner) has developed a unique community engagement education model combining education with solving societal problems.

Through a whole week, BI had guests from Mzumbe University in Tanzania and Jimma University in Ethiopia. Both being partners in the Sustain project as well as participating in the conference.

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