“Alone, I am nothing, I have nothing. We have power, but we will never see it work, unless we come together to make it work.” – Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
Ayi’s exquisite words summarize my reflections from the recently concluded Africa Business Conference at Harvard Business School. This past weekend, the Africa Business Club had the immense privilege of hosting 1,000 participants at our annual Conference. Co-organizing the Conference in the capacity of CFO and Conference Lead was a huge labor of love, and I cannot overstate how much the collective engagement of our leadership team, sponsors, keynotes, panelists, volunteers, alumni, Harvard staff, venue staff, and importantly, conference guests contributed to the success of the Conference.
We (the leadership team) spent several weeks last summer fiercely debating our Conference theme and soliciting feedback on the long list of themes we developed. We were wary of glibly alluding to “Africa Rising,” considering the political, economic, and social upheavals many Africans have endured since our last in-person conference in February 2020. We agreed on the theme of “Reimagining the Road Ahead,”
and we decided to give special focus to building sustainable private and public institutions for inclusive growth following the COVID-19 pandemic.
I had the great honor of moderating a keynote session with HE Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (PMN), former Deputy President of South Africa and Executive Director of UN Women, on Day 1 of the Conference. As a leader in government, civil society, the private sector, and in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, PMN was a truly inspiring keynote. She called on us to think critically about our role in the future of Africa’s economic, social, and political development. She also spoke about the motivation behind her journey from the classroom to the highest levels of South African government and the United Nations. Our other keynotes, HE John Mahama (former President of Ghana), Joshua Oigara (CEO of KCB Group), Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede (Chairman of Coronation Capital and former CEO of Access Bank), Elsie Kanza (Tanzania’s Ambassador to the US and Mexico ), Professor Hakeem Belo-Osagie (Harvard Professor), and Dr. Jumoke Oduwole (Special Adviser to the President of Nigeria on Ease of Doing Business), shared gainful wisdom and reflections throughout the Conference as well.
I would like to offer special thanks to speakers on the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain panel, Ezra Kebrab (Founder of Caliza), Josue Mpai (Founder of Betterticket), Nelly Chatue-Diop (Founder of Ejara.io), and Dr. Ponmile Osibo (Partner at Platform Capital), who gracefully accepted speaking invitations from me and Cedric and joined us in Boston. It was the first time we gave the topic a standalone panel at the Conference, and we are grateful you stepped away from building to share your uncommon insights during the panel discussion.
Finally, I am profoundly grateful for the support of my family and friends throughout the Conference planning process. Thank you for encouraging my dreams by creatively brainstorming with me, sponsoring the Conference in-kind, buying tickets on the first day of sales, and enduring long flights to Boston to attend the Conference.
This reflection was originally posted on LinkedIn.