Africa Business Forum to focus on opportunity, innovation in a growing economy



<em>The team of organizers for this year's Berkeley Haas Africa Business Forum</em>
Organizers of this year’s Berkeley Haas Africa Business Forum: Clockwise from back row L-R: Abigail Adu-Daako, Bosun Adebaki, Cheikhou Diaw, Zaidat Ibrahim, Kaffa Sakho, Roland Ekop, and Sarah Lebu, Ibrahim Balde, Iman Umer, and Stan Cataldo Gonzalez.

Solar-powered motorcycles zipping around Kenya. Elementary school students using robots to solve problems in Uganda. Honey-spun band-aids designed to more quickly heal diabetics’ wounds in Egypt.

Investors, startups, and entrepreneurs increasingly have their eyes on Africa, where innovation and creativity combined with fast growth and a young population are among the strengths to be explored at the 5th annual Berkeley Haas Africa Business Forum on April 6 at Haas.

This year’s conference — called “Africa on the Move: Enabling Homegrown Innovation” — focuses on the rapid development on the continent and how policymakers and business leaders can serve as a resource and support innovation and growth in areas from mobile money to solar power and battery storage.

The goal was to organize a bigger conference than in previous years: more speakers, panels, keynotes and attendees. About 200 people and 18 speakers representing firms such as IFC and Convergence Partners are expected to attend.

Cheikhou Diaw, MBA 19, and Zaidat Ibrahim, MPH 19, co-chairs of the conference planning committee, have been organizing the forum for the past year, alongside a team of undergraduate students and public policy and public health students.

“It’s really important for us to make sure that people in the Berkeley community and the Bay Area understand that Africa is more than a place with safaris or a place full of poverty and disease,” Diaw said. “There are billions of opportunities. Making people aware of those opportunities is something I’ve been trying to do since I joined Haas.”

A different perception

Six of ten of the world’s fastest growing countries are African: Ghana, which is boosted by oil and gas expansion, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Senegal, and Tanzania, according to the World Bank.

“Fast growth and a young population means that there’s tremendous business opportunity and this will continue over the next five, 10, 15 and 20 years,” Diaw said. “We should have a different perception of Africa in the West.

Throughout the day, forum attendees can take part in four panels, a morning hackathon, and two keynotes, discussing policy, financing, and entrepreneurship unique to Africa and its challenges.

Some panels will center around what government can do to help businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as how investors and financial institutions can support ideas and bring them to life.

This year’s interactive session will be the first non-technology hackathon, encouraging groups to come up with a public policy innovation. Judges will pick the winning team and award a prize, and the group will talk about the idea in the policy panel later in the day.

Some of the forum’s speakers include Andile Ngcaba, founder and chairman of the investment group Convergence Partners; Benjamin Fernandes, founder of fintech company NALA; and Nichole Yembra, founder and managing director of The Chrysalis Company.

Get more details and purchase tickets here. (20 percent off with code ABFHAAS19)