2016 IAJBS World Forum

Posted by Joseph Phillips on Sunday, July 24, 2016 at 9:00 AM PDT

I attended the 22nd Annual International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS) World Forum  in Nairobi, Kenya July 17-20.  IAJBS represents Jesuit business schools from around the world, including Europe, Latin America, Asia, India, and the US.  Some 120 were in attendance from 34 Jesuit business schools from around the world.

Why the Kenya location?  Although there are currently no Jesuit business schools in Africa, the Jesuits hope to change that. In fact, one project has been approved by the order for Kinshasa and their are groups hoping to get similar approvals for Nairobi, Lagos, and Abidjan.  The Kenya location was meant to demonstrate support for these efforts and that schools from around the world would be willing to assist.

The meeting was supposed to start for me on the morning of the 17th with the board meeting of the IAJBS.  As president-elect, of course I needed to be at the meeting!  (One serves a two year as president-elect before serving as president, so my term as president begins in July, 2017.). It seems that some board members had scheduled themselves for a tour of the nearby Giraffe Center and the Elephant Orphanage, so the board meeting was postponed until the afternoon, and of course I went along for the morning tour.

The Giraffe Center was interesting for its up close view of the giraffes.  The Elephant Orphanage was even more interesting.  It's mission is to nurse orphaned young elephants back to health and integrate them into the wild.  They find elephants less than two years of age and take about five years to complete the integration.  There are currently 24 elephants at various stages of the process.  Visitors see the elephants at their 11 am feeding and it is an interesting process to watch!

At the board meeting that afternoon we mostly discussed the details of the 2016, 2017, and 2018 conferences.  The 2017 conference will be in Namur, Belgium and it was decided the 2018 conference will be in Seattle!  That means a lot of work for SU and Albers but I am sure we are up for it!  The 2018 conference will also be a joint meeting with Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education (CJBE), which is a group that supports faculty at Jesuit business schools.  This will be the 20th anniversary of CJBE and, ironically, the first CJBE meeting took place at SU in 1998, so it is fitting to return to Seattle in 2018!

The conference kicked off later that afternoon with a celebratory mass, Kenyan style.  The choir gave an amazing a capella performance and there was energetic dancing by a group of children.  The Provincial of the East African Provence, Fr. Joseph Arfulo, celebrated the mass, and 12 other Jesuits concelebrated.  It struck me how the ethnic composition of the priests illustrated the future of the Jesuits -- seven were African, four were Indian, and two were White (and older)!

After mass was the opening dinner.  The featured speaker was the CEO of Equity Bank, James Mwabgu, who has received many awards for his leadership as the bank has become the largest domestic bank in Kenya.  He discussed how the Kenyan economy has progressed since independence and how Jesuit business schools could assist Kenya.  He indicated that beyond skill development, there was a need for ethics and leadership training.  We also heard from a Georgetown educated member of Parliament, who stressed the need to counter the bad rumors abroad about the safely of traveling to Kenya!  I am happy to report that Kenya appeared very safe to us!

July 18th was the start of the conference.  The original plan was to have the President of Kenya greet us, but that was cancelled at the last minute.  Instead, we heard from Senator Beatrice Elachi, a powerful legislator in the Parliament and a member of the ruling party.  She also stressed the need for business education and discussed the difficulties of corruption in the country and the broad impact of that.

The first plenary session featured an update on the four projects mentioned above.   We have heard off and on about Jesuit business education in Africa since 2012 when we met in Barcelona, and this is the first time since when things appear to be solidified and priorities are in place.  Later that afternoon there was a meeting of business school deans and project representatives and we formalized plans on how to connect the projects with business schools that are willing to help them get up and running.

Jim Joseph, dean at LeMoyne College, gave an update on the Jesuit Case Series and the plans to extend that to an electronic platform linking Jesuit schools worldwide in a variety of ways, not just the case series.  Jim has been the primary driver of this project and deserves most of the credit for its progress to date.  Our faculty do not use cases in class or write cases as much as faculty at other schools do, so the case series is not as impactful on us as it might be for others, but it is still something we should support and of course the global platform will benefit us as it will other schools.

At lunch, we heard from Richard Leaky, the son of Louis Leaky the famous paleontologist and a paleontologist himself and Kenyan wildlife advocate.  He gave an overview of some of the challenges facing the preservation of wildlife in Kenya, including the new rail line being constructed by the Chinese from the port city of Mombasa to inland destinations.  It is not accommodating wildlife migration patterns and that will become very problematic.  He also talked about increasing wildlife migration outside of the parks and how putting in the fencing to control that would be very expensive.  His most interesting remarks were about the burning of ivory inventories to reduce price and decrease the incentive for poaching.  It seems the empirical evidence supports his claim that burning, despite the decrease in supply, reduced price by decreasing demand by increasing the stigma of purchasing ivory.  As an economist, I find it a fascinating example of the supply and demand model!

After lunch I moderated a panel discussion on the theme of "How can Africa Help IAJBS? -- How can IAJBS Help Africa?"  The panel featured five panelists with only 60 minutes of airtime, so we had to be sure everyone was very disciplined with their remarks in order to leave time for Q&A!  Needless to say, I did not organize this panel, because it violates one of my Iron Rules of three panelists only!

Tuesday featured more speakers and paper presentations by faculty members.  That evening the group attended a dinner featuring Kenyan dancing and acrobatics.  Did you know that Meena Rishi is an acrobat?  It is true and someone must have a photo of it!  After the dinner, our group started its version of Kenyan dance, which must have been an interesting sight for the Kenyans.  It turns out that Meena is also a good Kenyan dancer, so her Indian dance training translates very well to the Kenyan scene!  Meena and Chips Chipalkatti were at the conference to present their paper on Laudato Si, Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the environment.  Unfortunately, I could not attend their presentation because I had a board related meeting at that time.

Wednesday was mostly a day for local tours organized by the conference.  We decided to take the Lake Naivasha tour, which is a couple of hours northwest of Nairobi.  To get there, you have to drop down into the Great Rift Valley.  It is part of a 9000 kilometer fault line running from Israel to Mozambique and fascinating to see from the top of the rift down toward the immense valley.

The lake was very interesting for its mix of wildlife near the shore and less than a mile fro m the highway.  Within a small area of a few hectares we saw giraffe, zebras, gazelle, hippos and others.  There were also a tremendous variety of birds on the lake.  Our guide said that 1100 of Africa's 1300 bird species can be found at the lake.  Ironically, even though Kenya is facing increasing drought due to global warming, the lake is increasing in size, and scientists are struggling to determine why.  Rivers are drying up well lakes are expanding.

Like many emerging economies, Kenya suffers from a critical lack of infrastructure.  The ride back to Nairobi illustrated that, as we climbed out of the valley on a narrow two lane road built by Italian POWs during WWII and filled with slow moving trucks.  The going was very, very slow, but part of the experience!  The hope is that the new railroad will relieve some of this congestion, but not everyone thinks people will give up on the flexibility of truck delivery.

That was the end of the official conference events.  For the next two days, we took a safari to Maasai Mara facilitated by the conference.  For the news on that you will need to go to my next blog!