Dr. Omar J. Khan
Professor of Marketing and International Business
Graves School of Business and Management
Morgan State University
Following the success of the Inaugural “Out of (and Into) Africa” conference - International Symposium on African Consumer Marketing and Firm Strategies - which was held at the Graves School of Business and Management, Morgan State University, Baltimore in 2018, we are now excited to launch the next edition of the conference. Major changes for this edition include the following:
1) Online conference format: This change is warranted to manage COVID-19 pandemic consequences, and will also lower costs for attendees. Hybrid plenary sessions across venues may be warranted, if conditions allow.
2) Multi-HBCU involvement: Following the initiative led by the Graves School of Business & Management at Morgan State University, we wish to expand engagement across the HBCU community in enhancing leadership of business and marketing scholarship regarding Africa.
3) Three “divisions” or programs to the conference: In addition to the Firm Strategy (firm-level research) and Consumer Marketing (consumer-level research), a third division/program of Society & Institutions was added to capture the macro-level research that addresses public policy and institutions that are intertwined with business and entrepreneurship development.
It is expected that the online delivery of the conference will generate greater scholarly participation from the African continent and, indeed, some other parts of the world. It is also expected that the pan-HBCU scope in conference preparation will further enhance the reach and attractiveness of this conference. To be clear, though, submissions are invited from ALL academic institutions across the world, provided that the scholarship has an African context or focus.
Before the pandemic this year, African consumer and business spending was expected to grow beyond $4 trillion, with a striking demographic dividend indicated by a massive working-age population that will be larger than either China or India by 2034, abundant resources, and fast-paced growth (McKinsey, 2016). While the current pandemic has caused a recessionary environment across the continent, it has also created opportunities (and challenges) for entrepreneurship and small & medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (World Economic Forum, 2020). Innovative solutions including products/services have been introduced in various countries across the continent in response to the pandemic - which may have far-reaching implications well after the current pandemic subsides in Africa and across the globe.
The past few years have witnessed cross-fertilization of African-born entrepreneurship and innovation into other parts of the world, along with growth opportunities for MNCs and SMEs into Africa. We firmly believe that the time is ripe for an updated showcase of scholarly insights regarding international business in this under-studied continent - including, and especially, insights and strategy/tactics that originated from Africa. This conference will also mark a significant step toward creating a sustained effort among HBCUs - with Morgan leadership - to connect with Africa in business-related research at both the micro and macro level.
Despite the promising social economic development in Africa and foreign marketers' enthusiasm toward its future growth, there is limited market or consumer research for marketing practitioners (McKinsey's, 2012). The literature review shows that existing knowledge on African consumption and behavior is fragmented. We set following three goals for the conference:
The conference intends to provide opportunities for brainstorming and dialogues among researchers and marketing practitioners. We will especially encourage collaboration between academia and businesses in the US and those from all over Africa. The conference is open to any and all scholars who have research work related to the conference theme, and these can include: academic faculty, doctoral students, policy makers, bureaucrats, think tank researchers, NGO experts, and senior corporate managers. We encourage scholars from Africa and worldwide to submit work.
1. Arts, culture and consumption
2. Consumer psychology and behavior
3. Services, retailing, and customer experiences
4. Consumer well being and pandemic effects
5. Social media and digital marketing
6. Emerging middle class and Bottom of Pyramid (BOP) consumers
The Society and Public Policy division/program seeks to investigate public policy and societal institution’s role, effect and changes that are intertwined with business and entrepreneurship development on continental Africa. Potential topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Public and private enabling institutions in Africa: Academic outreach.
2. Governmental supports and barriers
3. NGOs: foreign and local
4. Laws, trade barriers and enticements
5. Institutional framework and support for entrepreneurship.
6. Sociological shifts