West African Students Impress with Vast Knowledge on Cocoa Industry
Students from Wittenborg Amsterdam showed off their debating skills against a group of American students who are on a short-term, study-abroad programme at the University of Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit.
The topic of debate was the use of child labour in the cocoa industry and stakeholder responsibility. Students were divided into groups, representing different stakeholders – farmers, corporate companies, NGOs, consumers, social entrepreneurs, as well as the governments of Ivory Coast and Ghana – the two top cocoa-producing countries in the world.
Wittenborg senior lecturer, Amy Abdou, said: “Each team had 20 minutes to brainstorm their main talking points. The discussion was greatly enriched by the participation of students from West Africa who had a deeper knowledge of the issues surrounding the industry. We started from the perspective that human rights should be respected in the cocoa industry but asked the question: How will we get there? After 20 minutes of discussion, the teams reconvened and participated in a debate. We agreed that for all stakeholders, including corporations who run a reputation risk, the current system is unsustainable.
“As we focused on solutions, the debate shifted towards investment in infrastructure within the countries where cocoa is grown, to allow them to benefit from a larger share of the profits associated with refinement. Other solutions included greater transparency within the industry, respect for human rights, NGO auditing as opposed to corporations auditing themselves, and an overall greater awareness among consumers to support Fair Trade.”
Afterwards, students from both universities had a chance to socialise and network over refreshments in the canteen. All agreed it was a fruitful discussion and a great opportunity for students to showcase their talents.
Abdou, who organised the event, remarked: “Wittenborg has a wealth of knowledge and diverse perspectives within our student population. That is a significant form of capital that we can share with other universities. We look forward to organising more of these types of collaborations in the future.”
The discussion also touched on the broader issues of sustainability in global commodity chains and the ethical exportation of raw materials from underdeveloped countries. This is the first time students from Wittenborg's Amsterdam campus welcome a group of their peers for an academic debate. Abdou said she hopes this event sparks more engagement with students from surrounding universities who are engaging with issues connected to sustainability and corporate governance.
by James Wittenborg
©Wittenborg University Press