The Olin Africa Business Club’s Emerald Deku, MBA ’23, and Chinazar Okoro, MBA ’22, wrote this for the Olin Blog.
It was the second day of the Olin Africa Business Forum, which ran February 24-25, 2022, where guests from across the world converged to hold crucial conversations. The panel sessions—which covered topics ranging from finance, agriculture, entertainment and healthcare—were insightful for many, as our speakers delved into Africa’s state of affairs from firsthand perspectives.
The end of these sessions signaled a networking event and time to taste another aspect of Africa—food!
Walking into the atrium (where the event was staged), it was exciting to see the Olin Africa Business Club members working together to set up for the occasion. Bosoye Abitoye, MBA ’23, worked with Co-President Prince Boateng, MBA ’22, in setting up the banner. They joked about putting technical skills to work as MBA students.
Moving over to the table, it was beautiful to behold the country-by-country representation of food. There was crumbly, creamy African meatpie and spring rolls; moin-moin that begged to melt in your mouth and gizdodo; asun that offered a warm embrace for your taste buds and pepper soup eager to please your senses.
There was amala, kenke, ewedu and gbegiri, pounded yam and egusi. And then, there was puff-puff, standing gallantly with admirable arrogance on the same stage as jollof rice. Oh, the jollof rice. On this day, neither the Nigerians nor the Ghanaians could be bothered about the famous jollof wars. Waakye (Ghanaian for rice and beans) with spicy pepper sauce, did not go unnoticed. It brought with it the nostalgia of home and the good times families share eating that meal together.
Click to see video of the panel discussions from the Olin Africa Business forum event: day one | day two
It was sheer pleasure experiencing first-hand reactions from non-Africans enjoying the meals.
“It is my first time eating African food, and it is so good—especially the rice,” Minjy Koo, MBA ’22, remarked.
Moving over to some Africans to hear their thoughts, Baffour Boaten, MPH ’23, responded with the satisfaction of a person with a well-pleased palate: “I will say this in Zulu: nandi kakhulu. It means ‘so delicious.’” That set off everyone on his table talking about their country, language and food. What was not to love about the euphoria of the moment?
It was great to connect in person with alumni who attended the event. Ashley Macrander, senior associate dean for graduate student affairs, was present offering support, as well as Chris Collier, MBA career coach from the Weston Career Center. The entire event strengthened the bond between current students and alumni, leaving a legacy of friendship, collaboration and support.
There is an African proverb that says, “One who eats alone cannot discuss the taste of the food with others.” Indeed, the Taste of Africa event was our mouthpiece. It echoed the rich, tasty and colorful culture of Africa, our proud origin.
NOTE: All photos courtesy of Adeoluwa Babatope, MBA ’22. Pictured at top: Olin MBA students from the classes of 2022 and 2023, along with alumni and Ashley Macrander.
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.
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.
Chioma Ukeje and Sharon Mazimba, MBA 2019, contributed this post on behalf of the Olin Africa Business Club.
Where can existing business leaders and Olin business students find a market of 1.1 billion people? Or a market that demands innovation in sustainable and affordable agriculture, support for a burgeoning middle class, and action to build new supply chains?
The Olin Africa Business Club will explore answers to these questions and more in its first ever Olin African Business Forum, scheduled for March 30. The morning and early afternoon event includes speakers such as Toyin Umesiri, CEO of Nazaru; Mark Taylor, dean of Olin Business School; Rob Dunlop, regional business director for Monsanto; Anne Toba, CEO and founder of Ripples Foundation; and Ade Osibamiro, Project Manager and consultant for Mastercard.
“Olin Africa Business Club is positioned to elevate and expose Africa’s potential to current and future business leaders,” said OABC President Ony Mgbeahurike, MBA 2019. “This event is a key step in that direction.”
Toyin Umesiri, our keynote speaker for the event, has previously worked in various leadership positions at Walmart is passionate about bridging the gap between companies here and businesses in Africa. She will center her talk around opportunities and the potential the continent has to play a major role in the business world.
We asked Toyin some of her thoughts on key questions relevant to the forum.
What do American leaders need to know about Africa that they do not know?
Africa is a continent whose history is rooted in commerce and not different from other parts of the world like India, Latin America and China. Africa has 1.1 billion people, a quarter of the number of countries in the world, and is home to some of the fastest growing economies.
By 2050, the population of Africa is projected to double and become one of the world’s largest youth workforces. There is a functioning and business side to Africa with a growing middle class on the rise to claim global significance in years to come.
To support this, there are a growing number of leaders working to develop sustainable and affordable food solutions, inclusive health, create new supply chains and build the infrastructure to support seamless movement of goods and services across the continent. With manufacturing steadily shifting from China to Africa, business leaders can no longer ignore Africa.
America leaders will need to develop an effective strategy towards Africa if they want to engage in the market positioned for rapid economic growth in the future.
What do students need to know about Africa and the opportunities there?
We have all read the stories and seen the images depicting Africa has a region of war, famine and diseases. What is missing from the narrative on Africa are the stories that capture the aspirations of Africans: Their triumphs and quest to build successful businesses with global relevance.
The future of Africa is being created by innovators, change agents, entrepreneurs, and global business leaders working hard every day to build solutions that will power Africa’s growing economy.
Technology advancement on the continent of Africa is driving the creation of disruptive solutions and we must develop future leaders who would see and understand where the “world” is going and not only where it has been so that they can help create the future.
What opportunities exist for business leaders in Africa?
Africa offers new markets for US-made products. Similarly, the United States serves as an untapped market for authentic African products—raw and manufactured. For leaders interested in export and import, sustainable agriculture, supply chain, and logistics, they need to start thinking about expanding into Africa.
The Olin Africa Business forum is scheduled for March 30, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Emerson Auditorium. In addition to Toyin’s talk, two panels are scheduled—one on agriculture technology and a second on leadership—featuring industry experts from companies such as Monsanto and Mastercard.
Olin Africa Business Club (OABC) was the brainchild of Ony Mgbeahurike. As a first-year MBA student, Ony saw there were few students at Olin from the African continent, and there was a dearth of information on Africa and the rich opportunities it has to offer. Africa had been buried in the conversation, an afterthought–and he wanted to change that.
He wanted Africa to become the narrative; to be part of the conversation.
“While applying to Olin, I realized there were many student clubs, but none related to business in Africa,” Mgbeahurike recalls. “I realized there was an opportunity to create an organization that could promote Africa and be a partner in achieving Olin’s mission and vision as a truly global school.”
Mgbeahurike recruited fellow students from Africa to conceptualize and launch OABC. Matilda Thomas, Sharon Mazimba, Chioma Ukeje, Eric Ontieri and Ubaka Ogbunude, are all founding members and officers of the club.
Among OABC’s ambitious goals is the mission to increase awareness of business opportunities, culture, politics, and the economic potential of Africa. Here a just a few facts that may surprise non-Africans:
Africa’s consumer spending to be $2.3T by 2025 (McKinsey report)
The United Nations predicts that one-fifth of the world’s population will be living in Africa by 2050, with over 40% being youth.
Uber, McKinsey, GE, P&G, Nestle, Danone, Unilever are among many companies currently investing in Africa.
While the overall theme is to raise awareness on campus, we believe that OABC can add value to the rich tapestry that is Washington University in St. Louis. We aim to help with recruiting by supporting the admissions office and serving as a resource to prospective students from Africa. We want to infuse Africa into the curriculum, encouraging professors to include the economics and business landscape into the classroom conversation.
We plan to encourage graduates to explore career opportunities in Africa. Collaborating with and leveraging the WCC platform and alumni network, we plan to extend the employment network for Olin graduates outside the territorial United States. Also, we are positioning to be a resource to Olin’s experiential learning opportunities on the African continent (e.g. CEL Practicum in Madagascar and Global Management Studies).
Ony Mgbeahurike, President
Ony was born and raised in Owerri, Nigeria. He moved to the U.S at age 12 where he completed his undergraduate degree in Manufacturing Operations at University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Having worked at General Mills for over 3 years in various roles, Ony’s passion and ambition is to increase global food supply, especially in Africa. He plans to use his MBA as a springboard to realize his ambition.
Chioma Ukeje, VP Finance
Chioma was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria where she completed her undergraduate degree in Accounting with Honors from Covenant University, Ota. She has worked in various functions since then, her last stint being in Guaranty Trust Bank, PLC Nigeria. Chioma is passionate about finance and strategy, especially in the technology space, and is using her MBA as a platform to realize this career path; she is also passionate about youth development in Nigeria.
Matilda Thomas (VP Programs)
Matilda is an architectural designer with experience working in both the United States and Nigeria. Originally from Nigeria, she earned her BA degree with honors in architecture from Baylor University in Texas in 2014. Matilda is a career switcher interested in working in strategy and consulting. She takes special interest in issues affecting the developing world, especially Africa, and hopes that through a career in consulting, she would be equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues affecting the continent.
Sharon Mazimba (VP Programs)
Sharon is a first-year MBA hailing from Lusaka, Zambia. She has traveled and lived in various places, which has exposed her to the different views and perceptions people have about the continent. She is therefore extremely excited to be part of a club that is bringing Africa and all the amazing opportunities the continent has to offer to the Olin and broader WashU community.
UbakaOgbunude (VP Social)
Ubaka was raised in Eastern Nigeria in a middle-class family. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Calabar and Post Graduate Diploma from National Open University of Nigeria. Ubaka has about 9 years of career experience from Zenith Bank Plc- a leading retail bank in Sub Saharan Africa. Ubaka’s interest rests on emerging and developing financial markets.
Eric Ontieri (VP Communications)
Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Eric pursued a BSc. in Actuarial Science at St. John’s University before doing a stint on Wall Street. He then moved to Kenya to start an ISP targeting the lower half of the pyramid. He came to realize he was insufficiently skilled to scale the business and enrolled at Olin. He has an interest in technology, finance, and social entrepreneurship.