Economy of Communion, in response to Africa today

The Study Center is established: first courses already begin in July

Economy of Communion, in response to Africa today

By Liliane Mugombozi

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Friday January 28, 2011 saw the close of a significant International Conference on EoC – Economy of Communion – sponsored by the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) and the Focolare Movement that took place in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the first of its kind on the continent.

From its first very starts the over 300 participants that filled “Jubilee” hall were full of expectations and high hopes. This convention based on dialogue in search of insights for a new model of economic development, gathered economists and other experts from different disciplines from North to South, from East to West of Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, around the theme: “Economy of Communion: A New Paradigm for African Development.” We’ve already reported on the first day of work, January 26, in an earlier article on our website.

The morning of January 27 was opened with the reflections of Dr. Justus Mbae, President of Academics at CUEA, on the dynamics of reciprocity in the African cultures. He noted that if, on one side, there were “strong points” like those 110126_Nairobi_40_ridrepresented by living in a community where people help one another, and that the joys and sufferings of the other are mine, the other side of the medallion is represented by the risk of not bringing the individual into relief and of slowing down development. Leo Andringa then presented the reciprocity found in the Economy of Communion. Justus Mbae commented, “I was very touched by this way of interpreting reciprocity. When Andringa spoke of gratuitousness, comparing reciprocity to a sacrament, I saw new horizons ahead of us…we have much to do, but now the way is always clearer”.

African challenges were looked at with rationality and truthfulness. Geneviève A. Sanze, specialist in Business Ethics and Sustainable Development, underscored the stumbling blocks to development in Africa such as: bad governance, social-cultural factors, natural disasters but also armed conflicts, lack of intellectual creativity, etc.

The rest of January 27 was centered on concrete experiences of entrepreneurs and economists from all around the world who made a strong life decision: to believe in fundamental values of communion, of reciprocity, of sharing. In brief, people who made a choice of sanctifying oneself in our today’s society with all its complexity.

110126_Nairobi_43_ridTeresa Ganzon, managing director of Banko Kabayan (Philippines) spoke on her experience in microfinance, a very much felt reality in Africa. John Mundell – USA, president of Mundell & Associates shared his day-to-day experience in a highly competitive business environment in the United States of America. An economics student commented, “I was deeply touched by the inner strength, by the conviction of these people...here, we lack trust in the poor, no one ever thinks of them as a resource”.

Can these experiences be a light for Africa?” some asked. “The answer is Yes”, contended Dr. Mbae, “because here, we are dealing with a light from the Gospel, from a charism given to Chiara Lubich. The EoC is a fruit of a lifestyle; therefore it can be lived by Africans in their society. It is up to us to find ways to make it fruitful”. He further affirmed that, as the CUEA has embarked on the path of holistic education, “training hearts as well as brains, the EoC approach is the ideal for African development”.

The Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya, Archbishop Paul Alain Lebeaupin, was presented and commented, “I am happy that the Focolare Movement has been able to give this message of the EOC that the Pope feels so strongly about. I also want to thank their efforts to study effective development models for Africa”.

The conclusion of this much awaited conference, on January 28, marked a land mark for EoC and CUEA, a partnership 110128_Nairobi_55_rid that saw the introduction of the Study Centre.  With coming July 2011, the first course will already start for students who wish to register for the program. The partnership was sealed in the signing of welcomed the signing of a memorandum by the Institution in the person of Vice chancellor Prof. John C. MAVIIRI and Prof. Luigino Bruni central coordinator of the EoC in the world – an act welcomed by a thundering applause from an audience of over 300 people.

Prof. John C. MAVIIRI underlined at the end, “A true African development must carry with it the spirituality of Communion, a concern for others and solidarity with the needy. This is great opportunity to introduce a new dimension in the curriculum of studies on economics and human development.”

Expressing his thanks to the University but also to the Focolare Movement on the African continent, Prof. Luigino Bruni affirmed: “Today is a very important day for the history of EoC - Economy of Communion, all over the world; the Focolare will celebrate this day. Although it is just a first step of a journey, it is the most important”.

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