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Core Forum examines African entrepreneurship

Professor Heidi Frontani at the first Elon Core Forum of the spring

Several hundred students and faculty participated this week in the first Elon Core Forum of the spring. 

Heidi Frontani, a professor of geography and interim coordinator for African & African-American Studies, led sessions on “African Entrepreneurship” exploring successful entrepreneurs from a variety of fields including education, publishing, journalism, agriculture, environmental conservation and fashion.

Starting with William Kamkwamba, the Malawian author of Elon’s 2014-15 common reading "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind," Frontani examined stories of innovators from around Africa. Examples included the following:

  • Patrick Awuah, who created Ashesi University in Ghana
  • Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan who started a tree-planting “Green-Belt Movement” to empower women and protect the environment
  • Fred Swaniker, founder of the African Leadership Academy in South Africa
  • Kenneth Nnebue, who started Nollywood in Nigeria, one of the world’s most successful film studios
  • Asenath Bole Odaga, a Kenyan publisher and founder of the Gender and Development Center
  • Andrew Rugasira, a businessman from Uganda
  • Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, executive director of soleRebels, Africa’s fastest growing footwear company

Students were also challenged to critique common "single story," negative stereotypes about Africa related to poverty and disease, to think more critically about the effectiveness of international development assistance, to draw inspiration from the successful Africans featured, and to make the most of their own time at Elon and beyond.

Four months ago, Frontani started a blog, “African Development Successes,” to offer an alternative to the typical mass media coverage of the continent. A new success story is posted to the site each week. Additional information on several of the entrepreneurs featured at today's Forum can also be found on the site, at https://africandevelopmentsuccesses.wordpress.com/.   

A video recording of Frontani's Core Forum on African Entrepreneurs is available at: http://blogs.elon.edu/ondemand.  More information on the Elon Core Curriculum can be found at http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/core_curriculum/.  The Forum was also part of Black History Month events.

Elon’s next Core Forum will be “The Nature of Knowledge in the Digital Age” with Mills Kelly of George Mason University.  The session will be repeated four times in KOBC 101 on April 13 (9:25 and 12:15) and April 14 (8:00 and 2:20).

Jeffrey Coker,
Faculty
2/26/2015 12:40 PM