Organization aims to assist emerging economies, particularly in Africa
The Mzuzah Convergence 2018 Conference on Sustainability was held May 29 through May 31, 2018, at the Carey Business School’s Harbor East Campus. The basis for this far-reaching conference, however, had its genesis a year before and half a world away.
Founded in 2010, Mzuzah is an international organization of public, private, and educational interests whose mission is to inspire, empower, and provide the tools critical to economic, educational, social, and environmental sustainability for emerging economies, particularly for African nations.
Among the sustainable development goals the organization focuses on are the eradication of poverty and hunger, good health, quality education, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, gender equality, and sustainable cities and communities. These goals align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to 2030 that also align with Carey’s Innovation for Humanity (I4H) program and mirror the school’s principle of teaching business with humanity in mind.
Through year-round initiatives framed by annual conferences, Mzuzah engages government, nonprofit, and private-sector leaders in these countries, along with international experts to create partnerships, networks, and collaborative pathways to address often daunting challenges. The goal is to establish, then implement, best practices for corporate social responsibility and collaboration, along with investments in people, infrastructure, and the environment that are transformational and sustainable.
Another key component of the organization’s efforts is to develop the next generation of international leaders, imbuing them with a keen sense of the implication of their actions on the well-being of their communities, environment, and the world at large.
It was this parallel philosophy reflecting Carey’s mission that led Carey Professor James Calvin, along with GMBA students Anthony Jahanbakhsh and David Vallejo, in-country as part of Carey’s I4H program, to participate in a Mzuzah conference held last year in Accra, Ghana. There, after meeting with Mzuzah co-founder Doyin Oluntona, the seeds of this year’s conference at Carey were sewn, marking the first time in the event’s history that it would be held in the United States.
“The conference presented a valuable opportunity to engage the next generation of leaders on the managing, harnessing, and delivering of leadership that is sustainability-minded,” said Calvin. “By being able to directly access thought leaders, ideas and questions can gain immediate feedback, assisting in the further development of goals and interests for individuals and organizations alike. Mzuzah is also a bridge to future collaboration as the Carey community extends ideas and knowledge creation toward global partnerships."
Working with Carey’s Net Impact club and other student groups, along with faculty and staff throughout the school as well as Mzuzah officials, a conference-planning committee assembled an ambitious agenda within a short amount of time. In addition, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mandela Fellows and Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Fellows committed early to participate in the conference. Topics included sustainable investing, establishing Mzuzah in emerging economies, infrastructure and environmental challenges, entrepreneurship, social business and social value, and leveraging youth networks for economic growth, among other initiatives. The overarching question that generated rich discussion, exploration, and comment was the role that business can play in promoting and achieving sustainability goals in an advanced digital age.
Among the conference participants were keynote panelists Patsy Doerr, global head, Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability & Inclusion, Thomson Reuters; Michael Goltzman, vice president, Global Public Policy, Environmental Sustainability & Social Impact, the Coca-Cola Company; Gregory Simpkins, senior advisor, Africa Bureau, Office for Sustainable Development, U.S. Agency for International Development; and Dr. Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah, ambassador of the Republic of Ghana to the United States. Carey faculty participating included Paul Ferraro, Lindsay Thompson, James Calvin, Richard Milter, and Paul Gurney, as well as Kevin Frick, professor and vice dean for education, who delivered the conference’s well-received welcoming remarks.
In all, more than 35 speakers and panelists rounded out the agenda, including officials from Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Uganda; U.S. government agencies; and entrepreneurs and social activists, in addition to Carey and other Johns Hopkins faculty, staff, and students. Conference attendees totaled more than 200, both in-person and participating remotely online.
“This was a great opportunity to foster collaborative initiatives and cross-cultural learning,” said Oluntona. “The Convergence drew speakers and participants from top institutions around the world and provided expert insights on key topics related to sustainability and economic empowerment for Africa and other emerging countries. I look forward to future partnerships with the Carey Business School positively inspiring next-generation leadership for sustainable growth of local economies around the world.”
"The Mzuzah conference was a powerful experience bringing together a wide range of people that had one passion – creating measurable impact in their communities,” said Joel Igu, a Carey Global MBA student and physician who co-founded the Trinity Health Initiative, which focuses on reducing infant mortality in Nigeria. “I personally learned a lot, not only as an organizer but also as an attendee. I enjoyed meeting many of the attendees and hearing their stories, hopes, and visions for building a better world, starting from their own communities."
He added, “It was the raw energy from a passionate audience that really made me excited for a future with leaders who understand that business and humanity are synergistic, and not mutually exclusive."
Anvit Goyal (GMBA 2018), president of Carey’s Net Impact chapter, said the conference “resonates well with Carey's and Net Impact's mission of doing business with humanity in mind. We plan to make this [the conference] an annual signature affair of the club.”