Building the African Dream

As opportunities for boundless growth continue to diminish in the United States and other developed nations, businesses are learning how to shift their focus to emerging economies. Though Asia, particularly China, has benefited most from this new wave of foreign investment, Africa is beginning to reposition herself to capture some of the benefits of globalization. Africa remains one of the most challenging environments in which to do business. Poverty, corruption and conflict continue to serve as obstacles to enterprise on the continent. In spite of these challenges, the region has experienced explosive economic growth in the past few years following aggressive liberalization across the continent.

And with this growth have arisen new challenges that we, as businessmen and women, must tackle: distribution of wealth, stabilization of macroeconomic conditions and regional integration. It is with these challenges that the Africa Business Club at HBS concerns itself.

On Saturday, March 8, 2003, the Africa Business Club will host its fifth annual Africa Business Conference and this year’s theme is entitled, “Building the African Dream.” With distinguished keynote speakers Mark Shuttleworth, an African entrepreneur devoted to technology and the first African in space, Irene Charnley, the chairperson of one of the largest telecommunications company in Africa and one of the most powerful non-US-based women in business according to Fortune magazine, and Fola Adeola, founder of one of the most successful banks in Nigeria, the conference promises to offer an interesting perspective on what constitutes successful business development in Africa.

Recognizing that success in Africa will be driven by business leaders who are not only creating wealth for shareholders but are deeply committed to the welfare of the citizens of their countries, the conference has invited socially responsible keynote speakers and panelists who have contributed significantly to development in Africa. From running non-profit organizations to sitting on the boards of grant-making organizations, the conference involves a diverse group of people who participate actively in community, country and continent development.

The conference kicks off on Friday, March 7 with a concert featuring new singing sensation, Rhian Benson. Born in Ghana, the soulful singer has been compared to a diverse range of artists, from Jill Scott to Seal to Sade; from Enya to Lauryn Hill; Dinah Washington to Dido. Rhian’s music has been described as R&B, soul, jazz, reggae, hip-hop and world beat, and each of those genres apply. Rhian represents the wealth of musical talent emerging from Africa and refusing to be pigeon-holed in one category. As the conference unfolds on Saturday, it will become clear that African business leaders, female and male, young and mature, are determined to break down stereotypes and chart a new path to success for the continent.