This weekend saw our dedicated Oxford Business Network Gong team (Tom Griffiths, Sarah Nicholas and me) at the Said Business School, networking amongst 389 delegates incorporating presidents, academics, business leaders, media – and the odd egg-bearing political protestor.
The conference marked the fruition of a six month-long relationship with the business school’s Africa group, sparked during the research we undertook with Jacana Partners, which found that 70% of African MBA students would like to return to Africa to work after studying. Of that number, over half intended to start their own business.
Business was the theme of the day, with Dr. Mthuli Ncube, Vice President and Chief Economist of the African Development Bank, opening the morning’s keynote with the forceful affirmation that: “Africa is a place where business can be found”. He continued by calling for the unleashing of “a class of African entrepreneurs” through joint ventures with foreign investors that would build business and place Africa firmly at the forefront of solving the global economic crisis.
Supporting the endeavours of those entrepreneurs who responded to the Jacana survey, Andile Ngcaba, Chairman at Convergence Partners advised Said’s MBA students looking for jobs in the African technology industry to go and create their own businesses across the continent. In his call to action, he said: “Entrepreneurship is in the mind. Embrace failure; don’t let it punish you.”
Fortunately, the OBN Africa MBA students had no ‘failure to embrace’; the conference, which featured H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda as keynote speaker, was a raging success.
Almost one year ago, I entitled one of my blogs “Food for Thought”.
In it I mention that food shortages might soon cease to be a reality in Africa thanks to ”new crops resistant to heat, droughts, and every bug under the sun”, and that according to Harvard University, the entire continent will easily be able to produce enough to feed its growing population within the next decade. In fact, Africa might start exporting food by 2020!
I would like to elaborate on this today.
Africa is the second largest continent in the world after Asia, and with a total land area of more than 3 million hectares, its landmass is more than 3 x that of the USA.
Agriculture and horticulture are crucial economic activities, providing employment for many, and serving as the basis for many industries. With more than 200 million people (50% of the total labour force) active in agriculture a decade ago (WHO), it is estimated that this percentage will increase to 60 % by the end of this year.
As Africa continues to grow in economic significance, combined with the afore-mentioned new technologies, is it safe to assume that land is therefore the continent’s greatest asset?
Pride of heritage was the flavour of the evening at the Africa Diaspora awards, held in London’s West End on 2 May 2013.
The continent had much to celebrate, with awards presented to the brightest and best from the worlds of Business, Academia, Entrepreneurship, Media and Community. Her Excellency Ms Thandi Modise, Premier of North – West Province, Republic of South Africa, set the tone for the evening with a moving speech on the role played by the African Diaspora in securing the continent’s successful future. “The spirit of internationalism has sustained humanity” she proclaimed, vocally grateful for the benefits that a global perspective can have not only for the individual Diasporans, but also for the separate countries within the continent. Her vision was for a continent that works with its neighbours and international allegiances to build an ever more promising future.
A prime example of her vision in practice is Eric Vincent Guichard, who secured the Entrepreneur of the Year award for his online initiative, Homestrings – an investment platform that facilitates Diaspora investments into their own communities. It was an award we thoroughly toasted, as well deserved of our client!