WMU News

Ethiopian scholars, policy makers converge on WMU

Aug. 8, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Ethiopia is half a world away from Kalamazoo, but an opportunity to discuss issues facing this developing African country will draw more than 150 scholars and policy-makers from around the globe to Western Michigan University this month.

The "International Conference on Contemporary Development Issues in Ethiopia" will be held at WMU Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 16 through 18.

Participants will come from as far away as Kenya, South Africa, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan and Ethiopia to explore the issues that affect development in sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest nation.

"Development is the greatest challenge for Africa in the 21st century," says Dr. Sisay Asefa, WMU professor of economics and director of the University's Center for African Development Policy Research. "This conference will provide an independent forum where people can freely air their views on the issues affecting Ethiopia and discuss how Ethiopia can move forward."

While the conference may focus on Ethiopia, a country in northeastern African that's roughly the size of Texas, Asefa says the issues being discussed have relevance elsewhere on the globe.

"The problems that this country faces and how they are dealt with have important implications for the rest of Africa and other developing nations with similar conditions," he says.

Each day of the three-day conference will focus on a set of specific issues. On Thursday, Aug.16, in sessions at Sangren Hall, conference participants will examine Ethiopia's natural resources, agriculture and food security. At 1 p.m., Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, professor of agronomy at Purdue University, will present a keynote luncheon address titled "The State of Agricultural Research in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for Ethiopia."

On Friday, Aug. 17, the conference moves to the Fetzer Center and will focus on human resources, economics and technology issues. At 1 p.m., Dr. Lemma W. Senbet, the William E. Mayer Chair of Finance at the University of Maryland-College Park, will present a keynote address during lunch titled "Financial Sector Reforms in Emerging African Economies: Lessons for Ethiopia." Friday will conclude with a special dinner featuring Ethiopian food catered by Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Mich. The dinner will take place at the Wesley Foundation on WMU's campus and is open to the public. The cost is $10, but space is limited to 120 attendees on a first-come, first-served basis.

On Saturday, Aug. 18, the conference will move back to Sangren Hall and turn its attentions to the Ethiopia's institutions and politics as well as issues related to the African diaspora. The conference concludes that evening with a dinner featuring a concert by Ethiopian singer Hanah Shenkute. Open to the public, the dinner begins at 7:30 p.m. in The Glens at the Radisson Hotel, 100 W. Michigan Ave., with Shenkute's performance starting at 9 p.m. Tickets for the dinner and performance are $40; tickets for Shenkute's performance only are $25.

The conference is being conducted in partnership with the Ethiopian American Foundation of East Lansing, Mich., and is supported by these WMU units: the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Department of Economics, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Haworth College of Business.

The conference is just one of the activities of the Center for African Development Policy Research, which was created at WMU last year. Housed in the University's Diether H. Haenicke Institute for International and Area Studies, the center facilitates research, exchange of scholars, publications and conferences on various dimensions of African economic development.

To register for the conference or to purchase tickets to any of the public events, contact the conferences and seminars at WMU at (616) 387-4174. For more information, contact Asefa at (616) 387-5556.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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