“I was absolutely transformed, professionally and personally, by what I learned in Africa.”
That’s how Doreen Gooden, who teaches management and international business in the College of Business Administration at Florida International University (FIU), describes a life-changing trip she feels privileged to have made.
In May 2010, Gooden was among 30 people who traveled to South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya as part of the Fourth Annual Faculty Development in International Business (FDIB): Faculty Overseas Study. The trip was sponsored by the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), University of South Carolina, and co-sponsored by FIU-CIBER.
Entitled “Understanding the Business Challenges of Sub-Saharan Africa” the program was jam-packed with opportunities to learn firsthand of the struggles and strategies—including the plausibility of micro-financing—of emerging and established African businesses. The group received briefings from professors and other area experts plus met with executives, entrepreneurs and embassy representatives.
Visits took place to sizable, prosperous businesses: Coca Cola (Nairobi, Kenya), Vodacom World Headquarters (Gauteng Province, South Africa) and other corporations.
In addition, the two-week trip offered up-close looks at traditional companies as well as innovative enterprises like the A-Z BedNet Factory which manufactures malaria-prevention netting.
“We continually learned about the challenges of developing successful businesses in countries where large inequality existed, and how empowerment for the masses is opening new opportunities,” said Gooden, who also leads study abroad programs for FIU-CIBER.
Group experiences the glory of African culture.
Since this was her first trip to Africa, she was pleased by its inclusion of many cultural experiences, including safaris.
“Giraffes, lions, baboons, zebras—we saw everything,” she said.
Authentic meals, a visit to an elephant orphanage, an overnight stay in a farmhouse and tours of cities, slums and historical sites all made for memorable learning opportunities.
One of the most moving experiences for Gooden was the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.
“I have read about this period of history but it was heart-wrenching to see the real evidence of the abuse of this time,” she said.