‘Africa Incorporated’ – AHI at Harvard Business school

‘Africa Incorporated’: first thoughts on the HBS Africa Business Conference

Evans Essienyi, AHI West Africa Associate

Left: The auditorium starts to fill.
Right: Evans and David

This past weekend, March 2-4, it was exciting to be at the Spangler, Burden and Aldrich Halls of the Harvard Business School (HBS) for the 14th edition of the annual African Business conference. The theme was “Africa Incorporated”.

More than 1,300 participants came from countries across the globe. When I first met a student from Stanford, I was impressed they had come from such a distance. Then I met others from Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa and felt the true intensity and commitment of attendees. While some were Harvard students, many were Africans with actual businesses and initiatives in Africa.

The participants comprised students, industry practitioners, and academics from various fields including social entrepreneurship, banking, agribusiness, entertainment, real estate, mass media, health care, education and telecommunications.

I attended three panel discussions – ‘How I did it’, ‘Real estate investing’, for which AHI’s Founder David Smith was a panel leader and ‘Social Entrepreneurship.’ At these sessions, experts shared their insight into how social issues can be addressed with for-profit and non-profit business models, how Africans and non-Africans from the Diaspora have gone back to Africa, and have surmounted all the seemingly-insurmountable challenges the continent presents to building thriving businesses. Finally, real estate experts, including David, shared their thoughts on the metrics they use for evaluating deals of various kinds in Africa, and the pleasant surprise that await all who dare to invest in real estate in Africa.

To me, the conference was exciting, the learning and insights were helpful, but nothing compares with the warmth and thrill of meeting so many Africans, in one location – Boston. I couldn’t make it to the banquet and after party, but I am reliably informed that they were the real climax to all that had happened during the day. I cannot wait for the next HBS African Business Conference, and am sure there will be much to report.

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2 thoughts on “‘Africa Incorporated’ – AHI at Harvard Business school

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