Africa Business Forum 2018 to explore next generation of innovation

Before last year’s Berkeley Haas Africa Business Forum, Ekene Anene, MBA 18, landed a coveted summer internship at fintech startup Branch.co in Lagos, Nigeria. At the conference, she met the company’s CEO, who spoke on a fintech panel.

“It’s a good place to come if you are looking to network or work at a company in Africa,” said Anene, who with Annie Porter, MBA 18, is co-chairing the 4th Annual Berkeley Haas Africa Business Forum: The Future of Africa: Exploring the Next Generation of African Innovation.

The event will be held April 7 from 8:45 am to 6 pm in Chou Hall on the Haas School of Business campus.

A diverse lineup of speakers from North, East, and West Africa will sit on panels that focus on opportunities, challenges, and emerging trends across technology, health care, and education in Africa.

This year’s keynote speaker, Samuel Alemayehu, is co-founder and managing director of Cambridge Industries, a firm that’s building Africa’s biggest wind farm and first waste-to-energy facility.

Students founded the forum four years ago, with the goal of gathering visionaries to share innovative business solutions to Africa’s biggest challenges. Today, the forum’s organizing team includes about 20 undergraduate and graduate students who represent Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, Ivory Coast, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, and the U.S.

“It’s a great mix of people who all share this passion for Africa and its future,” said co-chair Annie Porter, MBA 18, who grew up in Durban, South Africa, and moved to Berkeley to attend Haas. She said the group also includes three Haas undergraduates who wanted to get more involved with the Africa conference.

Panels during the day-long event include:

  • “The Future of Tech,” which will leverage the Haas Bay Area location, exploring how emerging technologies, including blockchain, artificial intelligence, mobile and big data, are impacting Africa. Chukwuemeka Afigbo, who drives Facebook’s global developer programs strategy, and Abdesalam Alaoui, director and co-founder of Hightech Payment Solutions, in Morocco, will speak on that panel.
  • “The Future of Health,” which will explore how mobile and digital services will help Africa overcome its infrastructure challenges. Speakers include Brittney Hume, head of international growth at Zipline, which operates drones that deliver medical products to health facilities in East African areas with challenging roads, and Gregory Rockson, co-founder and CEO of mPharma, a drug benefits manager working to improve access and affordability of high quality drugs across the continent. MPharma was named Fast Company’s most Innovative Company in Africa in 2018.

Africa has the world’s largest youth population. In 20 years, the number of sub-Saharan Africans reaching working age of 15 to 64 will exceed that of the rest of the world combined. By 2050, half of the world’s youth will be African.

Reflecting on those numbers, a “Future of Education” panel will explore what this shift means, with an emphasis on how Africa will educate its youth and create new job opportunities.

Speakers include:

  • Vivian Wu, managing partner at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which has led $34 million in venture capital investment in African education startups.
  • David Njonjo, vice president of finance and operations at Eneza Education, a Kenya-based educational technology startup.

There will be far more to experience at the conference beyond the panels, says Anene.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind Berkeley experience,” she said—including authentic African food, a live dance performance from the Nigerian Student Association and Senegalese drummers, an open bar wine reception from a boutique Napa Valley vineyard, and a student-facilitated design-thinking workshop with Djagora University, an African startup university.

Read Anene’s op-ed about the event in the Daily Cal.

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