PhD Defence: Caroline Witte


In her dissertation ‘Bloody business: Multinational investment in an increasingly conflict-afflicted world’, ERIM’s Caroline Witte evaluates the causes of political conflict and its consequences for investments by multinational enterprises (MNEs).

Caroline defended her dissertation in the Senate Hall at Erasmus University Rotterdam on Thursday, January 25 at 15:30. Her supervisors were Prof. Enrico Pennings and Prof. Harry Commandeur. Her co-supervisor was Dr Martijn Burger. Other members of the Doctoral Committee are Prof. Rajneesh Narula (Henley Business School, University of Reading), Leo Sleuwaegen (KU Leuven), Prof. Taco Reus (Rotterdam School of Management), Prof. Job van Exel (Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management).

About Caroline Witte

Caroline Theresia Witte was born on the 21st of October 1990 in Zoeterwoude, The Netherlands. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree cum laude in Liberal Arts and Sciences at University College Maastricht (Maastricht University), The Netherlands in 2012. Subsequently, she did a master’s degree (MSc) in Economics and Business at the Erasmus School of Economics (Erasmus University Rotterdam). She wrote a master thesis on the determinants of social entrepreneurship and graduated cum laude in 2013. In September 2013, she started her PhD journey at the department of Applied Economics at the Erasmus School of Economics, under the supervision of Professor Enrico Pennings, Professor Harry Commandeur and Doctor Martijn Burger.

Caroline’s fields of interests include international business, development economics and applied econometrics. She is mainly interested in the strategies of multinational enterprises in fragile economies. She presented her work at several prestigious conferences in the fields of economics and business, such as the Conference of the Center of African Economies in Oxford and the Annual meetings of the Association of International Business (AIB) in Bengalore, New Orleans and Dubai, and won the AIB best dissertation proposal award in 2016. During her PhD she chaired the PhD council of the Erasmus Institute of Management and was a board member of the Young ESE Program. During her PhD, Caroline also had the opportunity to work as an external consultant for the World Bank and to go on a three-month research visit at the University of Oxford. She is continuing her career as an assistant professor of international business at the department of Strategic Management and Globalization at the Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.

Thesis Abstract

Over the last few years, the world has been shocked by a new wave of political conflict, including the events of the Arab Spring and the conflict in Ukraine. This dissertation evaluates the causes of political conflict and its consequences for investments by multinational enterprises (MNEs). The studies that are part of this thesis aim to improve our understanding of the relationships between political conflict, investment and ultimately human prosperity. These three concepts are interdisciplinary in nature and the different chapters included in this thesis reflect this. By combining conceptual frameworks and methodologies from economics and business research, they shed light on the increasing levels of political conflict and the reaction of firms to this development.

In the first part of this thesis, the causes of non-violent political conflict are examined. The findings demonstrate that a decrease in subjective well-being (i.e. happiness) can motivate citizens to engage in acts of civil resistance. In the second part, the consequences of armed political conflict for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) are examined. The effect of political violence on greenfield FDI is heterogeneous across types of violence, sectors and firms, falsifying the claim that all FDI flows are negatively affected by political violence. In addition, the results indicate that similar to international conflict, internal wars can disturb existing relationships between the MNEs’ home and host country.

Photos: Chris Gorzeman / Capital Images