Felicia Kola-Amodu, MBA ’20, and the vice president for communications at the Olin Africa Business Club, wrote this post for the Olin Blog about the club’s second annual Africa Business Forum on April 19.
The Olin Africa Business Club took care in selecting a theme for its second annual Olin Africa Business Forum: “Africa Ascending: Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies,” was crafted to showcase the positive rising trend in entrepreneurship, governance and private investment in Africa.
The theme was also designed to call to Africans and the world at large to think far beyond the challenges and shortcomings the citizens of Africa and the continent itself has faced for decades: but to look at the many opportunities that abound, especially in several emerging markets in Africa.
The forum opened on April 19 with an opening remark from Ony Mgbeahurike, Olin Africa Business Club co-founder and outgoing president. This was followed by remarks by Olin Business School’s Dean Mark P. Taylor, who remarked that “At Olin, we talk about being values-based and data-driven. The Olin Africa Business Club is a great example of that focus.” Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton also delivered welcome remarks, highlighting the university’s effort in starting WashU’s Africa Initiative, led by Benjamin Akande.
The first keynote speaker, Leslye Obiora—law professor at the University of Arizona and former minister for mines and steel in Nigeria—highlighted the solid mineral resources in Nigeria, and the talent and resources required to harness and develop the output for a greater good. She also spoke to the fact that although Nigeria is mostly known for crude oil, as the 13th largest crude oil exporter in the world, there are 34 other minerals that can be tapped into in the country, offering great economic opportunities for private and public investors.
During the lunch break—featuring a wide variety of African foods—Staffan Canback, founder of Canback Consulting, hosted a fireside chat with forum attendees. Canback shed more light on his experiences in different parts of Africa and shared many highlights about the different rich cultures across Africa.
Canback and his associates also hosted an information session on April 18, providing first- and second-year MBA students interested in internships and full-time opportunities time to learn more about Canback and how to join their firm—stressing the need for global business leaders who are capable in working in dynamic markets including Africa.
Challenges for women
The last keynote speaker for the day was Aishetu Fatima Dozie, founder and CEO of Bossy Cosmetics and former investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Aishetu spoke about the challenges and possibilities for women in investment banking and for women in Africa especially. “Face your forward and be bold”—a quote from Aishetu—reverberated in the room regarding the different stereotypes and challenges that women might face in the work place.
To seal the very eventful day, Aishetu Dozie received the 2019 Olin Africa Business Club’s “Trailblazer Award” from Rebecca Matey, first-year JD/MBA candidate and incoming co-president of the club.
The program also included several panels: agro-tech, public health and finance. These three sectors have been going through constant disruption in smaller and larger scale across Africa. Several startups across the 54 countries in Africa are addressing and creating effective solutions to these sectors: from easier access to healthcare, health insurance, preservation and sales of agricultural products such as tomatoes, to e-commerce, mobile money for the “unbanked” and many more.
These disruptions have been happening for more than 10 years, but they are beginning to gain more traction as more people are starting up more solution-based organizations.
Moderated by Mgbeahurike, this panel included Stella Salvo, lead, development and deployment, Bayer Crop Science; Natalie DiNicola, chief communications officer, Benson Hill; and Matt Plummer, principal, The Yield Lab. The panel discussed the importance of food preservation, increasing crop yield and contrast the development between farming business in Africa and the U.S, and ways African farmers increase food supply.
Public Health and Social Impact Panel
The public health and social impact panel and was mainly hosted by the Brown School at Washington University. Introducing the panel was Omoluyi Adesanya, a first-year MPH/MBA candidate and the vice president of technology for the Olin Africa Business Club.
The panelists were Proscovia Nabunya, a professor at the Brown School of Social Work and assistant director of WashU’s Africa Initiative. The other speakers were Thabani Nyomi, a PhD candidate at the Brown School; Christine Ekenga, assistant professor; and Dr. Joshua Muia, WashU Medical School, hematology instructor.
The panel spoke at length about the many opportunities available for the gaps in the healthcare system in Africa to be filled. They reiterated that data gathering will—just like in other sectors—help to move healthcare and social impact forward in emerging markets.
One thing that resonated with a lot of the forum attendees was when the panel talked about using certain communities for data gathering and research and then walking away from those communities: it is therefore important that the data gathered be used for the good of the communities used for research.
This panel was introduced by Abraham Kola-Amodu, MBA’20, incoming co-president of the Olin Africa Business Club. This panel consisted of Akin Sawyerr, director of Feleman Limited, an investment and consulting firm. Participants also included Yinka Adegoke, the founding editor for Quartz Africa; Vik Sasi, principal, VC Dreamers (WashU Alum 2007); Faridah Usman, CFA, vice president, Kuramo Capital; and Habiba Ibrahim, a postdoctoral research fellow at WashU Arts and Sciences of Education who moderated the panel.
The panel focused on the financial landscape constantly changing with the emergence of investments in e-commerce, and mobile payments. The panel enjoyed some friendly banter on the African e-commerce giant Jumia listing in the New York Stock Exchange.
The entire day wrapped up with a cocktail hour where attendees and forum speakers continued the discussion over drinks.
Olin Africa Business Club was very excited to host the second annual Olin Africa Business Forum. We thank our sponsors: Olin dean’s office, Kuramo Capital, Canback Consulting, WashU’s Brown School Global Programs, Olin Weston Career Center, Benjamin Akande, WashU Office of Vice Chancellor for International Affairs and other community partners, including the St. Louis African Chamber and Brand of St. Louis. We look forward to seeing you next year!
Pictured above: Ony Mgbeahurike, president of the Olin Africa Business Club, opens the forum on April 19.