Nobody likes sitting in the front row. Well, few people really like sitting in the front row. When you’re in the front row your professor is more likely to call on you; your chances for making awkward eye contact with him/her have skyrocketed and most of the people sitting behind you are probably starring at the back of you head to avoid the same awkward eye contact.
But, last Tuesday night I was in the front row. In the Lied Center, of all places, to hear Richard Behar ( http://www.richardbehar.com/ )speak about China’s increasing investments into the African continent. A handful of SIFE members were occupying seats 9-13. Smack-dab in the front.
In Behar’s lecture, “China in Africa: The New Scramble?”, (http://enthompson.unl.edu/#behar) he outlined the need many Sub-Saharan African countries have for foreign investment. In case you’re tuning in late, these countries also have many of the resources needed to run ipods, cell phones and well, just about everything manufactured in China. In essence, the resources needed to manufacture so many goods (we all use) are being pumped from Africa’s resources. The problem, or one major problem, Behar cited was China’s less than morale business practices. He also cited the corrupt business practices in China filtering to the business practices in some African countries. Workers being offered $125 for a months work and walking out with $25 in their pockets. Over foresting and shady shipment practices made his list of complaints too. You can read his full article, China Storms Africa here (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/126/special-report-china-in-africa.html )
So what? We live in the Untied States. Most of us don’t have the means to make big investments in other countries. Plus, our government has just spent billions it really doesn’t have to save private companies. Why not let China bring in the money to African countries that really need it?
Let’s go back to the front row. Seat 9 was Doug Fernaays, SIFE’s External VP, seat 10 Jared Li SIFE’s President (I’m in seat 11). Seat 12 is Max Weber the Director of Alumni Relations and finally in seat 13 is J Ellicott, the Chief Performance Officer. Each one of these men is studying to go into business or a connected study of international relations.
So, each one of them has a choice: When money runs the world, what options are business leaders left to do?
Do they, in Jared’s case, go back home to China and try to implement want they learned here? Do they pour their time into creating better business investments for African nations and other international communities or do they stick to domestic issues?
I don’t know. I’m not sure any of us really know.
But sitting in the front row I was reminded of the stake business leaders have in guiding our global community. Going into business isn’t just entering a world of suits, ties, business meetings and lunches. It’s a world where your choices may have ramifications into people’s lives you may never meet. It’s a world we’re all glued together in whether we live in China, Zambia or even, Lincoln Nebraska.