Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reducing Corruption through Ethics Education in Ghana

Dr. Brian Engelland
Dr. Brian Engelland recently traveled to Accra, Ghana to participate in an educational conference at the Catholic Institute of Business and Technology.  Here is his fascinating and inspiring report: 

I know it’s a small world, but my horizons have expanded considerably as a result of my visit to Ghana.

Ghana is a small country with a big problem. Corruption is rampant in government and business – everyone there seems to be on the take – and as a result, the country is growing more and more impoverished as citizens are bled dry and money is funneled out to Swiss bank accounts. Over 60% of the country lives in poverty. How can the corrupt be convinced to stop their cheating?  Where does one start?

Most Reverend Charles Palmer-Buckle, the charismatic archbishop of Accra (the largest city in Ghana), is convinced that education is a major part of the answer. When business and government leaders can be shown that ethical world class companies are highly successful without engaging in unethical conduct, those leaders can be convinced to come around to the ethical side. After all, there is a right way to conduct business, a way that doesn’t involve lying, cheating or stealing.  It’s a way that serves society so that everyone benefits.

The Opening Ceremonies
I had never been to the African continent, but at the Archbishop’s invitation, I found myself on a Delta flight to Accra along with two other Washington, DC – based experts: Rev. Dr. Paul Sullins, professor of sociology at Catholic University, and Steve Hilbert, Africa Policy Advisor for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Our role was to assist professors at the Catholic Institute of Business and Technology (CIBT) in delivering a one-week seminar to 130 Ghanaian Catholic business people and educators on how to conduct business ethically. The Archbishop’s idea was to start with Catholics – they comprise 16% of the population and participate in the highest levels of business and government – reasoning that if Catholics can begin behaving ethically, then a groundswell of ethicality can begin to transform the entire country. 

I came ready to deliver four ethics presentations totaling approximately six hours of lecture and to lead group case analyzes involving ethical situations at such organizations as DeBeers, The World Bank and Wal-Mart. I based much of my remarks on the new Church document released in March by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, entitled “The Vocation of Business Leaders.” That document refers to six critical principles in Catholic social teaching that apply to ethical issues in business. Amazingly, the principal author of that document was none other than Ghana’s own Cardinal Peter Turkson! So here I was, an American coming to explain to the Ghanaian people what was contained in a document written by one of their own religious leaders! God certainly has a sense of humor! 

Brian working with a task group
Our format consisted of three integrated sections each day.  First we conveyed the principles of good ethical conduct, second we looked at specific business and organizational applications, and third, we broke the larger group into small discussion groups and challenged them to apply ethical concepts to local Ghanaian situations.

Dr. Engelland addressing the conference

We had an outstanding week with lots of good effect, blessings and cultural exchange.  God was awesome in all of it.  Our visit and content was a lot more important to our hosts than we realized beforehand.  We were showered with thanks, appreciation and gifts.  The opening and closing ceremonies were broadcast on Ghana national television.  Newspaper coverage featured multiple color pictures taken at the conference.  During the week the archbishop met with us twice and we were invited to meet with the papal nuncio; both of them underscored the importance to the diocese, country and region of what we were doing. 

The number of participants grew throughout the week.  By Thursday they were so into discussing and applying what they were learning that, when we called breaks from discussion, everyone ignored it and kept right on discussing!  It was exciting to be teaching such a vibrant and receptive group, who were just drinking it all in.  Conference evaluations provided evidence that conferees really appreciated our approach, so much so that we were invited back to participate in the next stage of the Archbishop’s plan – a follow-up  program to be scheduled next summer.

When we were at dinner with the charismatic Archbishop, he told us that most people who come to Ghana for one week fall victim to the “Ghanaian disease.”  And what is that disease?  It’s an intense desire to return to Ghana!  Yes, I think I’ve contracted the disease.

Dr. Brian Engelland
Professor of Marketing

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