The Business Horizon Quarterly (BHQ) is the Emerging Issues team's signature publication. Its purpose is to share informed insights on emerging issues facing the American business community. By asking questions like “what is growth?” and “what is innovation?”, we aim to inform and to spur debate.
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The terrorist attack and hostage crisis in Algeria and the conflict with Islamist insurgents in Mali have spotlighted the security problems that bedevil troubled hotspots in Africa. Behind these tragic and troubling events, however, a more encouraging phenomenon is emerging—the breakthrough of Africa as a budding economic powerhouse and strategic trading partner. This development has the potential to reshape the global economic landscape, especially if spoilers such as insecurity, poor governance, and weak rule of law can be defeated.
Africa’s vigorous GDP growth and surging construction, investment, telecommunications, and retail sectors have seized the world’s attention. To put this stark turnaround in perspective, in May 2000 The Economist magazine called Africa “The Hopeless Continent.” Just over one year ago, the magazine’s cover had a quite different take on Africa, celebrating “The Hopeful Continent.”[i]
Several years ago, when our four children were ages five, three, and two, along with a newborn, we spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office. Way too much, in fact. We would detect an ear infection coming on, make an appointment with the pediatrician, bundle the four in snowsuits, load them in the minivan, and then unload, unbundle, and wait 45 minutes for the doctor to perform a three-minute exam. On perhaps a dozen occasions, the doctor told us the ears were fine—only for us to return, bundled, locked, and loaded, two days later with an unhappy child with an obviously full-blown infection.
The health care system didn’t reward our intuition. Tomorrow’s parents and children, however, may not have to endure two days, two visits, and two sleepless nights before getting treatment. They will have help from, among other things, their smartphones. Plug in a scope to your phone, peer into your child’s ear, and let your phone’s camera and an app analyze what it sees and senses. Amoxicillin to the rescue, without leaving the house.
Technological breakthroughs have always been critical to the economic success of rural areas. Today, this innovation holds promise for the entire American economy.
Our farmers and ranchers have consistently found through innovation new ways to grow more with less. American researchers and agronomists are responsible for some of the most amazing and groundbreaking discoveries of the 20th century. And since the time of President Lincoln, we as a nation have found it important to support such innovation at the Federal level.
We are uniquely poised today to continue our traditions of innovation, partnership, and investment. To achieve this, we must understand the evolving importance of rural areas to our nation. As a part of that discussion we must recognize the willingness of Americans to innovate and adapt to changing circumstances. We must appreciate our potential as a society to further invest in new markets, and always be looking for new partnerships that translate innovation into business success.
A Productive Rural America and a History of Innovation
Rural America provides a great deal to all of us—an abundant food supply, clean water, renewable energy, outdoor recreation, and much more.
A Banner Year Belies an Underlying Trend
2012 seemed like a pretty significant year for women across American society. In November, Americans elected a spate of new women to Congress—today, we have a record 20 women in the Senate and 82 in the House.
In the business world, we saw several talented women soar to top posts in some of America’s leading corporations. After serving four years as Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg was the first woman named to the social networking giant’s board of directors. Marissa Mayer was named president and CEO of Yahoo!, making her the youngest chief executive of a Fortune 500 company. Ginni Rometty of IBM, Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, and Phebe Novakovic of General Dynamics have each recently become Fortune 500 CEOs. And numerous others took the helm of Fortune 1000 companies or were named chief operating officer or chief financial officer.
Yet what seems like a banner year belies the underlying trend. Some 40 years after the feminist movement, women have hit a plateau when it comes to the power seats, particularly in the C-suite or on corporate boards.