Students shaping Africa’s future
Ten students from the Hill, nine of whom are from Africa, attended the 13th Annual Africa Business Conference presented by the Africa Business Club at Harvard Business School. The conference invited participants to share their personal ideas and experiences with shaping Africa’s future.
On February 18-19, over 900 undergraduates, grad students, educators, corporate sponsors and business and community leaders joined together to participate in what was both a networking and an educational experience. According to the program’s brochure, “The conference is the world’s largest student-run event focused on business in Africa.”
This year’s conference theme was “Your African Legacy: Defining the Contribution of the Next Generation.” “The conference was a good way to interact with other people while still in college; it provided to us an opportunity to talk with different professionals, grad students, and it helped us to learn about all the potentials,” Jean-Jacques Ndayisenga ’13 said.
The other students from the Hill who attended the conference include Kukua Banson ’11, Wyke Bazirake ’12, Abigael Cheruiyot ‘12, Thando Dlamini ’13, Solomon Gisemba ’11, Rumbidzai Gondo ’14, Hong-Phuc Le ‘11, Tendai Mutunhire ’13 and Gift Ntuli ’14. They left the Hill on the afternoon of Friday, February 18 and attended the evening reception, opening concert, fashion show and banquet that night.
The conference was divided into a series of speeches and three sessions of panels, in which attendants could learn about specific topics in a smaller setting. The first panel session on Saturday offered a variety of subjects including “Healthcare in Africa: The Need and Success Stories,” “Innovative Mobile Technology: Solutions and Businesses” and “SMEs: Vehicles of African Developement.”
After this session, Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Europe at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Thierry Tanoh received the Leadership Excellence Award. Tanoh “has led IFC’s strategy for the poorest and conflict-affected states and supported industry departments in agribusiness, general manufacturing and services, and health and education,” as described in a brochure from the conference.
Other keynote speakers included Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Zinox Technologies Leo Stan Ekeh and Founding Partner and CEO of Satya Capital Limited Tsega Gebreyes.
“The conference highlighted challenges of starting businesses there, but also stressed that young people can be successful for life there,” Ndayisenga said. “It was inspirational to see the accomplishment[s] of other people who have made an impact in Africa and across the globe.”
The second panel that afternoon offered sessions such as “Africa’s Pharmaceutical Dilemma: The Opportunity for Private Entrepreneurs” and “The $1 Trillion Africa Infrastructure Opportunity: Capitalizing on the Business of Infrastructure in Africa.” Session three concluded the conference with the opportunity to attend other panels, including one entitled “Africa and China: The Next Stage of Engagement and Agribusiness in Africa.”
All of these panels emphasized the different vehicles for development in Africa, opportunities for construction and Africa’s capital market. “Attending the conference was a good way to learn that Africa has a future, and it shows that Africa is going to be the next shift in the global market because of its natural resources, large growing population and the existence of people starting businesses there now,” Ndayisenga said.
After the panels were over, participants were able to talk in greater detail to representatives from all the companies that interested them. “It’s very surprising when you talk to people here in America and they show their surprise at the success of some people and businesses in Africa,” Ndayisenga said. “[At the conference] we got to talk to professionals, grad students and people going into different companies; it helped us to learn about all the potential.”