University professor holds workshops in West Africa

STEUBENVILLE – According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, countries in West Africa rank in the upper echelon worldwide for business and government corruption.

Against this backdrop of “grease payments” Franciscan University of Steubenville business professor Michael Welker gave 15 talks and workshops in 20 days in Nigeria, Ghana and Togo.

Sponsored by the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, Welker delivered a message of hope and practicality in workshops held in big cities and jungle villages.

“Corruption diverts resources away from productive activity, causes foreign investors to pull out and stifles economic growth,” said Welker. “First, we showed them the evidence that corruption is a block to economic growth and then told them as business people how to corruption-proof a business,” said Welker.

One of his talks to African businessmen, “10 Steps to a Just Business,” explained how to hire, train and monitor employees.

Welker said the Catholic faith is strong in West Africa, making it possible for him, at times, to take a catechetical approach. In Togo, he spoke on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and implications for family and servant leadership in business. In some talks, he explained how the business vision statement can be viewed as part of God’s creation plan.

“The people we met want to know how to evangelize; how to attract someone to become morally good in government and business settings,” he said.

Welker returned from the trip with a positive outlook for the developing countries.

“There is strong evidence they are learning to handle their health problems. The median age is getting older; their educational systems are full, so I expect to see an explosion in entrepreneurship.”

The Rev. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., a sociology professor at the Catholic University of America, joined Welker for talks on Catholic social doctrine, providing participants with a solid grounding in the concepts of human dignity, solidarity, the common good and subsidiarity. At an extension parish in the outskirts of Accra in Ghana, the Rev. Sullins celebrated Mass and performed 22 baptisms.

Other members of the presentation team were Winnie Okafor, an American-born Nigerian who is a graduate student at the University of Maryland, and Matthew Delgehausen, who graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville this year with a finance degree.