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International scholars to attend conference on Ethiopia

July 25, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Pressing issues facing the second most populated country in Africa will bring scholars and policy-makers from around the globe to Western Michigan University in August.

The fourth "International Conference on Contemporary Development Issues in Ethiopia" will be held Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 2-4, for academics, policy makers, investors, donors, students and the public. The event explores the challenges to increasing development and reducing conflict in Ethiopia and Northeast Africa in particular and on the African continent in general.

Participants will be coming from across the United States as well as nations such as Austria, Canada, Denmark, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Japan, Somalia, Sudan and Sweden. This year's main speakers will be a noted academic, Detroit humanitarian and state department official.

"Development remains one of the greatest challenges for Africa in the 21st century," says Dr. Sisay Asefa, WMU professor of economics. "Our biennial conference provides an independent forum where people can freely discuss their research and views regarding development issues and how Ethiopia and other African nations can move forward."

Conference registration will be held in the Fetzer Center from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3-4. The academic sessions will take place across from Fetzer in Schneider Hall and begin on Friday. A key feature of this year's event will be the exchange of scholarly papers--a select group of which will be considered for inclusion in a new online publication called the Journal of Ethiopian Development Studies.

The Friday sessions will be devoted to examining issues related to the economy, culture, and natural and human resources. In addition, Dr. Donald N. Levine, the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, will give a keynote luncheon address on "An Ethiopian Dilemma: Deep Structures, Wrenching Processes" at 1 p.m. in Fetzer. Levine, a consultant to several U.S. government agencies, served on the international team invited to monitor Ethiopia's 1992 national elections and worked to mediate the crisis in that country following 2005's elections.

Saturday, the conference will focus on globalization, conflict, institutions, politics and foreign investment and feature two main speakers. First up will be James C. Swan, deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of African Affairs. He will talk on "U.S. policy on the Horn of Africa" during a plenary luncheon lecture at 1 p.m. in the Fetzer Center. Swan is responsible for the bureau's offices for Central Africa, East Africa and Regional Security Affairs.

Dr. Ingida Asfaw, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Detroit's Sinai-Grace Hospital, will present a keynote lecture on "The Role of the Ethiopian North American Health Professional Association in the Health Care Sector and Forging Synergy Within the Diaspora" at 7 p.m. in the West Ballroom of the Bernhard Center. Asfaw is a world-renowned cardiac surgeon originally from Ethiopia. He has led numerous medical missions there and founded the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association, an international network of nearly 1,000 medical and nonmedical professionals dedicated to promoting preventative care and better health in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is roughly the size of Texas yet has a population of 77 million people, making it the second most populated country in Africa. The nation is situated in northeast Africa, also known as the Horn of Africa, which includes Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti.

"Despite its many assets, the Horn is one of Africa's poorest and most unstable sub-regions, suffering from conflicts and violence within and among its member states," Asefa says. "The problems it faces have important implications for the rest of Africa and other developing nations. As a sub-region, the Horn is one of Africa's and the global economy's most strategic areas, serving as a bridge between Africa and the Middle East as well as the oil fields of the Persian Gulf."

The conference is being sponsored by the WMU Center for African Development Policy Research, which Asefa directs; numerous other academic and administrative units at the University; and the Ethiopian Development Studies Association. The latter organization is based in Michigan and was created in March to engage in Ethiopian development activities and organize future conferences related to Ethiopia. It will be inaugurated at the upcoming conference.

For more information, visit international.wmich.edu or contact Sisay Asefa at sisay.asefa@wmich.edu or (269) 387-5556.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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