Thursday, 14 March 2013


The Africa Business Conference is the world’s largest student run event focused on business in Africa. It brings together about 1,200 participants and is the ultimate networking opportunity for business and community leaders, corporate sponsors, students, educators from around the world and anyone passionate about business opportunities in Africa.

Finance Deputy Minister Miles Sampa (centre) flanked by

AU Ambassador Amina Ali (left) and ADB Vice President

Charles Boamah (right) during a discussion themed Africa on the

move at Harvard School of Government and Leadership

 in Boston, Massachusetts
The 15th Annual Africa Business Conference was held on the 15th-17th February, 2013 at the Harvard Business School campus in Boston, Massachusetts.
According to the 2013 Africa Business Conference co-chairs Trish Amoah-Ntim and Jessica Asinugo, the conference  was aimed at providing a multi-dimensional view of the various ways in which individuals and businesses alike are redefining Africa and cementing its place in history as a strong contributor to the global economy.
The conference  was themed  “Redifining  Africa: The Emergence of a New African Story” in recognition of the fact that as Africa evolves, so too must the World’s perception of her”, they stated.
Three phenomenal keynote speakers graced the discussions. These were  Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian Minister of Finance who is also  Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Nkosana Moyo, the Executive Chairman at the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) in South Africa and Ms. Eva Muraya Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of  Colors Creation Limited in Kenya.

Panelists and  moderators  exchanged  ideas  throughout the 23 panels covering a broad range of fascinating and relevant issues. These included the following:
·         Venture Capital in Sub Saharan Africa,
·          Media Roles and Responsibilities in Defining Africa,
·          Tackling Corruption and Good Governance in Africa,
·          Africa Debt Capital Markets,
·         Empowering Women in Business,
·         Transportation Infrastructure in Sub Saharan Africa,
·          Private Equity: Creating Value during the Investment Holding Period,
·          Education and Healthcare, Infrastructure and Natural Resources
·         Agribusiness in Africa
·         Oil and Gas
·         Insurance in Africa
·         Scaling up the African Pharmaceutical Industry
·         New Era of China-Africa relations
·         Foreign Investment
·         Finance
·         Business and Geopolitics

One such panel comprised the African Union Permanent Representative to the United States of America Ambassador Amina Ali, the African Development Bank (ADB) Vice President of  Finance, Mr. Charles Boamah , Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of OnPoint Africa Group Mr Amadou Sanankoua and Zambian Deputy Minister of Finance and National Planning Miles Sampa.
In his introductory remarks to the discussion themed “Africa on the Move: A discussion with Experts from the Field”, Mr. Sampa urged his audience  to pay particular attention to Africa as the continent was poised to be the next ‘frontier of investment’. This, he said, was against a background of huge raw materials, natural resources and a rapid and economic population that the continent was experiencing.

“Africa is growing, Africa is modernizing. It is no longer the hopeless continent as was portrayed in the early 2000. It is a continent in progress, in constant evolution, with an ongoing commitment to offering its people better living conditions,” he added.

He briefed the meeting that Africa could no longer continue to be known as the continent of negatives, but one where growth rate was exceeding seven per cent annually, where democracy was beginning to thrive, where governance was taking root and where corruption was being rooted out.

To substantiate his statement, Mr. Sampa  gave  an example of Zambia and proudly noted that after concerted efforts of reform,  and because of the country’s conducive and enabling environment for the private sector, industrial growth, political stability and most of all ‘peace’, Zambia is ranked among the top 10 countries in Sub Saharan Africa in the “Ease of Doing Business” and according to the 2013 World Bank report and among the top 100 in the world.

It was  in  this  regard  that  the Deputy Minister encouraged Harvard scholars to undertake research that not only highlighted Africa’s huge economic potential but also research that would rebrand the continent away from negative adjectives.

He concluded,” Africa needs to rebrand itself an image that it is not a continent of war, famine, disease and all the bad vices that are presented to us by the media. There is a positive side we are proud of such as  in agriculture, tourism, mining, oil deposits, education and the construction of modern cities.”

On her part, African Union Permanent Representative to the United States of America Ambassador Amina Ali first spoke about the African Union’s strategies to accelerate socio economic integration of Africa, promotion of peace and stability, building partnerships between African governments and all segments of the civil society, in particular women, youth and the private sector.

“ Our leaders are now more focused on Regional Integration because of the huge markets that countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Commission for West African Countries(ECOWAS)  offer,” she noted.


Ambassador Ali also emphasized that good quality infrastructure was a key ingredient for sustainable development noting that all African countries needed efficient transport, communications systems, energy and sanitation if they were to provide decent living standards for their populations.


She told the audience that the African Union was involved in the support of Africa’s development through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The partnership (NEPAD), she said, was designed with specific intentions to address challenges of poverty, under-development and marginalization.


Turning to issues related to the Diaspora, Ambassador Ali said the African Union has recognized the Diaspora as the sixth region of the African Union because of its immense contribution to Africa in recent years.


“Countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria have become economic successes partly because of the active roles and contributions made by their diaspora,” she added.


This was in recognition that many Africans now reside outside the continent expanding the reach of Africa into countries in the USA, South America, the Caribbean, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the Far East and where they had formed powerful networks.


“It was for this reason that the African Union office had organized a Diaspora Trade Symposium in December 2011 that focused its deliberations on economic trends and investment opportunities in Africa viz-a-viz the African diaspora,” she concluded.


And African Development Bank (AfDB) Vice President for Finance Mr. Charles  Boamah  said investment in Africa’s infrastructure was the way forward in promoting regional integration and trade and in creating an environment that was more conducive to economic growth.


He also noted that good governance and fair competition would help Africa meet its sustainable development agenda.


However, this transformation had a long way to go to reach its full potential citing the need to root out issues of corruption, the spread of wealth and the battle against hunger.


At the end of the panel discussion, it was evident that that business persons, students and academics undoubtedly found inspiration from the bright future of Africa painted in the intimate panel discussion.


The writer is the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia in Washington DC.

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