Africa Research: Role Model for Engaged Scholarship?

By Keshav Krishnamurty and Stephan Manning.

In professional academia, where you either publish or perish, finding examples of engaged scholarship is rare. By ‘engaged’ we mean experience-driven, problem-oriented, impactful. Last Friday, we had the privilege – as members of the OSC research group – to meet a community of scholars in Cambridge, MA, who care deeply about their work and impact – at the workshop “Africa in the 21st Century: Prospects for Secure Sustainable Development”. This event was organized by African PhD students of the UMB Global Governance and Human Security Program, and co-sponsored by Educational Divide Reform and the Academy of International Business US-Northeast Chapter.* This one-day workshop brought together PhD students and senior scholars of political science, business, sociology, health and environment to discuss pressing questions of peace and conflict, extraction of natural resources, and the future of business and development partnerships in Africa. Aside from showcasing the importance of research perspectives from Africa and the Global South, we were intrigued by the high level of involvement of presenters with their own research. Many experienced in their own lives the very conditions – poverty, discrimination, corruption – they are now studying and trying to change. What can we – scholars and students of organizations and business – learn from them and to what extent can their research be a role model for us? Let us give some individual thoughts and raise some questions going forward…

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Morals vs. Interests: Why the Mediterranean Tragedy Continues

By Stephan Manning.

Most of us have been horrified by recent news: in the last few days hundreds of people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea trying to migrate to Europe from Africa by boat in their desperate hopes for a better life. According to the International Organization for Migration, since the beginning of 2015, more than 10,000 people – from West Africa, Somalia and other regions struck by poverty and violent conflict – have made their way to the coasts of Italy and Malta via Libya in often overcrowded boats. Nearly a thousand have presumably died on this journey this year alone. And this is just the latest chapter of an ongoing tragedy. In 2014, nearly 3,500 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, which many call the deadliest migrant crossing in the world. In face of recent events, the European Commission has expressed a “moral and humanitarian obligation to act”. But is this call sufficient to mobilize action and prevent such tragedies? In fact, this announcement sounds like an echo of similar calls from the past. For example, following the death of 360 migrants off the coast of Lampedusa on October 3 2013, Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said: “Let’s make sure that what happened in Lampedusa will be a wakeup call to increase solidarity and mutual support and to prevent similar tragedies in the future.” Yet, things have apparently become worse, not better since then. So why is there no solution in sight despite our “moral duty to act”? And what does it really take to address the problem?

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Do We Need More (Ice Bucket) Challenges to Change the World?

By Stephan Manning.

If somebody had told me earlier this year that the best way to raise money for research on a rare disease is to have people pour buckets of ice water over their heads I would have probably suggested ordering another martini – on the rocks! Today it seems that hardly anybody has not been nominated for the ALS ice bucket challenge or at least heard about it. In a nutshell, the idea is to challenge people to either donate $100 for research on ALS* or dump a bucket of ice water on their head within 24 hours, which would qualify them to nominate other people. Critics have called the campaign a substitute for charitable work; a distraction from other campaigns; and a waste of water. But nobody can deny that this campaign has generated over 1 Million Facebook videos since June 1 and more than 2.2 Million tweets since July 29, all of which have helped mobilize $41.8 Million from 739,000 donors for ALS research within the past month. So what’s the secret behind this campaign and do we need more (ice bucket) challenges to solve the world’s many problems?

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Slumdog Millionaires: Can Impact Sourcing Alleviate Poverty?

By Chacko Kannothra and Stephan Manning.

Call centers, tech support, payroll processing – more and more service jobs are performed abroad. Global outsourcing is one of the most controversial trends of our time. To some, it is mainly a cost-cutting exercise which has led to job losses in Western economies and has started a ‘global race to the bottom’. The recent shift of clients and providers to second and third-tier outsourcing locations to keep labor costs low is an indicator of that. To others, outsourcing has also generated new income and entrepreneurial opportunities especially in developing countries. Clearly, in particular for the young and educated in urban areas, such as Bangalore in India, the outsourcing sector has been a career stepping stone. But how about the vast majority who still live in poverty? Will the global service industry widen the gap between the new urban elite and the rest? Maybe not if we believe in the new trend of ‘impact sourcing’ – the creation of outsourcing jobs and training opportunities for the poor and disadvantaged, in particular from slums and rural areas. Impact sourcing was celebrated a few weeks ago at the 17th World Outsourcing Summit as a promising way of combining business and social benefit. The Rockefeller Foundation even calls it a means towards reducing poverty. But are these claims realistic?

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Tech support en français s’il vous plaît!? The challenges of becoming a new global outsourcing hub

By Stephan Manning.

Outsourcing of IT, tech support and other business services has become a global trend. Watching India’s success in the outsourcing space, many developing countries now try to grow their own business service economy. Even African countries, including South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, and Mauritius, have built up outsourcing capabilities in recent years (see recent article by Abbott). In fact, 8 out of the Top 100 outsourcing destinations worldwide, according to the latest 2013 Tholons Ranking, are located in Africa. Not surprisingly, Kenya’s government for example also lists business process outsourcing (BPO) as a major economic building block in their Vision 2030. Boasting an improved IT infrastructure, political stability and English language capabilities, Kenya is hoping to become a major BPO hub. Other countries are following suit. But what does it really take to become a global outsourcing hub? Can any country with low-cost labor, a good IT infrastructure and favorable business climate join the club? Continue reading