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Second annual Africa Rising Week spotlights economics, study opportunities

From the village market to vast Chinese factories to the entrepreneurial spirit alive in the African diaspora, the African experience in world commerce is rich and varied.

After a focus on refugees at last year’s inaugural Africa Rising Week at Creighton University, this year’s event will highlight the ways immigrants, refugees and other members of the African diaspora are contributing to local business in Omaha and in capitalism around the world.

“There’s a desire to tell stories of personal and professional success, to show that migrants and refugees are making their way here and creating opportunities for themselves and others,” said Jay Carney, PhD, associate professor of theology and director of Creighton’s African Studies Program. “And it’s happening here in Omaha with the number of African businesses and business leaders we have, as well as on the larger global stage.”

Faculty from the Heider College of Business, along with local business owners, will take part in panels and discussions about business and economic conditions in Africa and on the role immigrants and refugees play in the economies of the nations in which they settle.

And while the specific theme centers on business and economics, the week and its associated celebrations are also a means to educate and inspire.

“A big part of it is to help people gain perspective and take something away from the events that is more than just a passing, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’” said Olufemi Oladokun, a Creighton senior and president of the African Students Association. “We want the week to be a chance for people to gain perspectives on refugees, immigration, business, development. Instead of talking about that continent across the Atlantic, we want people to learn more specifics about Africa and what life is like.”

To that end and with a Creighton Global Initiative grant, Africa Rising Week last year engaged the services of entrepreneurs, artisans, restaurateurs, artists and musicians from Africa and the wider Pan-African sphere in the Caribbean and Latin America, to market their wares and works, share food and perform at a culminating festival.

The festival will again be a highlight this year, held Saturday, Sept. 23 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Skutt Student Center Ballroom. Music will be provided by Omaha’s own Edem Garro soul group and Rhythm Collective.

But a film screening, panel discussions, roundtable conversations and a traditional African Mass are also significant pieces of the week’s celebration. Carney said a major component of the week will be Creighton students who have visited or done study abroad in African countries speaking with their fellow students about similar opportunities.

“We want more students to see the opportunities available in Africa and see themselves pursuing travel or research there,” Carney said.

The Creighton University Study Abroad Fair will coincide with Africa Rising Week, taking place Wednesday, Sept. 20, from 3 to 7 p.m., in the Skutt Ballroom.

Africa Rising Week begins Tuesday, Sept. 19 with the 7 p.m. showing of the film Guangzhou Dream Factory. The documentary follows African migrants from Ghana to China and back as they seek economic opportunities in the factories and shop rooms turning out goods of every type and contributing to the increasing economic development of both China and Africa. The film, screened with the co-sponsorship of Creighton Asian World Center, will be followed by a panel discussion.

Thursday, Sept. 21, from 7 to 9 p.m., a panel discussion with African business owners in the Omaha area will take place in the Harper Center, Room 3029. The talk panel will be moderated by Kristie Briggs, PhD, associate professor of economics in the Heider College of Business. Panelists will include Ms. Chaima Maradi of Chaima Restaurant; Mr. Victor Ful of Omaha Tropical Market; Mr. Nedu Ibokwe of Banwo & Igbokwe Law Firm; and Ms. Violet Iluebbey of International Day Care.

“Africa faces many challenges to economic growth and development, but it also possesses many opportunities,” Briggs said. “Having a better understanding of the local economies in these countries — their opportunities, their challenges, and their ways of doing business — is key to building relationships that enhance Africa’s integration into global markets in a beneficial way.”

Friday, Sept. 22, the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice will lead its weekly refugee outreach from 1:45 to 5 p.m., focusing on conversations and service with African refugees in Omaha.

And the African Mass, featuring Omaha’s African Chaplaincy Choir, will be held Sunday, Sept. 24, at 4:30 p.m., in St. John’s Church.

For a full listing and further description of all events during the week, follow this link.

All events during Africa Rising Week are free and open to the public.

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