VCU to host major conference focused on business and entrepreneurship in Africa

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Virginia Commonwealth University will host the eighth annual Conference on Business and Entrepreneurship in Africa, which will bring together academic researchers, business professionals and government officials from around the world.

The conference, “The Big Emerging Continent: The Rise of Africa – Challenges and Opportunities,” is sponsored by the Africa Business and Entrepreneurship Research Society and the Center for International Business Advancement in the VCU School of Business. It will be held Oct. 4-7.

Through paper presentations, panel discussions and keynote addresses, the conference will seek to understand the pivotal role of entrepreneurship in Africa’s economic and social development. Participants from an array of disciplines and backgrounds will present their insights and offer diverse perspectives on Africa’s place in the world and promise in the market.

“We anticipate over 200 conference goers representing over 25 African universities and many institutions in Canada, Europe, and the U.S.,” said conference co-chair Patricia W. Cummins, Ph.D., a professor of French in the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, and vice president of the Africa Business and Entrepreneurship Research Society. “About a third of the presentations will be in French, and VCU French students, especially double majors with interests in special sessions, will have a large role.”

Conference co-chair Van Wood, Ph.D., the Philip Morris Chair in International Business in the VCU School of Business and director of the Center for International Business Advancement, said the conference will give attendees insight into Africa’s business and entrepreneurship challenges and opportunities.

“In 2010 the McKinsey Global Institute described the potential and progress of African economies as ‘lions on the move,’” Wood said. “Today, despite the collapse of global commodity prices and political shocks that have slowed growth in North Africa, Africa’s economic lions are still in the hunt for growth and prosperity.”

“In 2017, the African Development Bank reported Africa to be the world’s second-fastest growing economy, and estimates that average growth will rebound to 3.4 percent in 2017, while growth is expected to increase by 4.3 percent in 2018,” Wood added. “This conference will give depth and breadth to this African story that is going to change the world. I highly recommend to all who can attend that they do not miss this story.”

Among the conference’s highlights will be a Davos-style roundtable discussion on Oct. 4 focused on Central Virginia businesses interested in trading with Africa. It will include representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Greater Richmond Partnership and the City of Richmond. VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney will also give remarks at a reception.

On Oct. 5, Florizelle Liser, president and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, will speak about how large U.S. corporations doing business in Africa are available to assist others in doing the same. And Albert Zeufack, chief economist for the Africa region at the World Bank, will give a keynote address in the morning and participate in the International Business Forum of the VCU School of Business where the theme will be China’s presence in Africa.

Anne Goddard, president of ChildFund International, will speak on Oct. 6 about the work of her organization in promoting social entrepreneurship in Africa.

Also on Oct. 6, B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D., the Floyd D. Gottwald Chair and professor in the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering and founder of the Medicines for All Institute in the VCU School of Engineering, will appear on a panel with pharmaceutical industry leader Manfred Psiorz and a representative of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research in Côte d’Ivoire. They will discuss how funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for VCU to find new processes to manufacture low-cost drugs will impact the pharmaceutical industry in Africa.

The evening of Oct. 6 will also include a cultural event featuring a buffet-style African dinner and the music of West Africa, with an introduction to musical instruments followed by dancing.

For a full list of conference events and to register, visit Roughly one-third of the sessions have food and require registration, though sessions without food are free of charge to VCU students, alumni and the community.