International Conference on Business Resilience, Continuity and Regeneration

International Conference on Business Resilience Continuity And Regeneration
From left: Professor Mabutho Sibanda, Mr Sithembiso Freeman Nomvalo, Professor Gordon Dash and Professor Managay Red

Business rescue experts, academics, postgraduate students, practitioner-researchers and entrepreneurs from all four corners of the world exchanged research results and problem-solving approaches on the issues surrounding business rescue at the inaugural International Conference on Business Resilience, Continuity and Regeneration during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) Business Rescue Unit (BRU) at the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani Hotel from 22 – 24 March 2023 in the picturesque, vibrant coastal city of Durban, South Africa.

The BRU’s purpose is to promote research and knowledge sharing in the field of business rescue, financial distress prediction, insolvency rehabilitation and turnaround management of companies. The conference theme, Rethinking Business Resilience, Continuity and Regeneration during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic, was carefully chosen to address the current problems that are being faced by businesses. This three-day conference saw over 85 research paper presentations in the disciplines of Accounting and Auditing, Economics and Finance and Management.  

Dean and Head of School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Professor Mabutho Sibanda, articulated that ‘The Conference comes at a fitting time when the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly and adversely affected the operations of businesses worldwide. Even though a multiplicity of measures have been introduced to help manage the spread of COVID-19, some of these measures were economically painful. The COVID-19 catastrophe has exposed businesses to severe operational challenges as markets and norms changed, resulting in some of them failing or being exposed to the risk of failing. Hence, Business Resilience, Continuity and Regeneration has never been more vital than in the present day and additionally, it has become a key research issue in management sciences.’

In her welcome address, College of Law and Management Studies Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Managay Reddi propounded that ‘The Conference theme speaks to the fact that successful businesses and organisations recognise that resilience isn’t just about dealing with the issues and challenges of today. The very definition of resilience – which is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties – requires that we act with striking speed. Now is the time to reimagine our operations, adapt, and overcome the age-old idea that there needs to be a trade-off between efficiency, growth, and resilience. The University of KwaZulu-Natal prides itself on its strategy of being relevant and providing relevant academic programmes and training to our students and the society we serve.’

Guest speaker, South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sithembiso Freeman Nomvalo, spoke on the crisis of leadership or lack thereof in South Africa. He called on all participants to do their part through their professions to ensure that South African businesses are operating in the manner that they should for the benefit of the country’s citizens. He further propounded that ‘We meet at a time when our country is facing load shedding, our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is not growing and our education system, especially our matric students, are not doing well and we need business rescue. The picture I have just painted talks to the lack of leadership and we need to ask ourselves where we stand. Business rescue practitioners should adopt the attitude of ensuring that businesses are working, thinking about what legislation asks us to do and having the necessary skills needed to save them.’

The keynote address was delivered by Professor Edward I Altman, Professor Emeritus of Finance at Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University. Altman’s presentation was in two parts. The first part answered the question Where Are We in The Credit Cycle? and the second part focused on Global Zombies: An Alternative Type of Resiliency.

Plenary talks were given by Dr Nhlanhla Msomi, UKZN’s Director of Innovation, Professor Gordon H Dash from the University of Rhode Island, Dr Helper Zhou from the Durban University of Technology, and Ms Zanele Khomo, Chief Growth Officer of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Msomi spoke about Innovation and Business Architecture. Dash spoke on Ethical Neuro AI: The “Unseen” Driver of SMME Resilience and Continuity. Zhou spoke about Explainable Artificial Intelligence and Firm Performance Heterogeneity during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interestingly, postgraduate students were offered a chance to present their research work to an assemblage of seasoned researchers. Further, with management sciences dominated by quantitative research, conference delegates had an opportunity to attend a workshop on qualitative research facilitated by an expert from the UKZN. The workshop focused on how to conduct scoping reviews and systematic literature reviews in management and business research.

For more information on BRU, visit: https://businessrescue.ukzn.ac.za/.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied

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