On Tuesday, 25 February, 2014 the IE Africa Club hosted the 4th annual Africa Day. This is a day that places emphasis on the dynamic nature of business and opportunities on the continent. As previous years have been focused on understanding the nature of opportunities in Africa, this year the theme was “How to build and sustain business in Africa” because for all the opportunity there is, only a few have been able to create businesses that last and continuously grow in this unique environment. We had several guest speakers from various industries such as FMCG, Consulting, Energy, Finance and ICT, participate and shed light on their experiences of the business climate and how they have managed to build successful business on the continent. The event also included participation from a number of initiatives targeting the continent at IE Business School such as Emzingo and Financieros sin Fronteras.
The event started off with a few words from Gayle Allard, the club’s faculty mentor who introduced the president of the IE Africa Club, Octavia Manaka, along with other coordinators of the club: Jeanine Muokwe, Armando Belchior Nunes, Michael Burke, Antoine Abi Kanaan, Onyekachi Eke and Stuart Blyth. She thanked them for their hard work and commitment to hosting this event and others, in an effort to engage others in relevant discussions pertaining to business on the continent. She also spoke of new initiatives that students can participate in such as the annual summer trip to Ethiopia where students are immersed into the culture while contributing to local communities.
This was followed by a presentation from the Director of Financieros sin Fronteras, Maria Luque, who spoke about the efforts of the NGO in addressing the need for microfinance in Ghana. The NGO empowers individuals to overcome challenges by single sustainable capitalism and involves finance students of IE pursuing multiple projects in Ghana and transferring their skills and knowledge.
As interest in working in Africa from both African and non-African students is on the rise, the Africa CV Book was officially launched and Careers in Africa presented on the nature of opportunities for work on the continent. They were well informed and did an excellent job in addressing all the questions students had around work permits, labor laws and career growth on the continent. The session highlighted that the continent has significant potential and career opportunities, however there is still a lack of skilled labor even with the increasing number of diaspora returning to the continent.
After this presentation, the Dean of IE Business School and the President of IE University, Mr. Santiago Íñiguez, officially welcomed all the guests and speakers and started the second part of the event.
Ms. Sofia Cerqueira Serra, a lawyer from Morais Leitao Galvao Teles, shared her learnings from her experience working in Mozambique and Angola. She provided insights on the legal framework for investments in the 2 countries and regulatory requirements of the oil and gas sector. She spoke of the challenges they faced in being a law firm from Portugal when working on the continent and how they viewed these as opportunities. She pointed out that the nature of these challenges did not significantly differ from what they have encountered in other emerging and developed countries.
Following this we were honored to receive an exclusive preview of the Africa Retail Development Index: Seizing the African Retail Opportunity from Mr. Jose Ignacio Nieto Puertas, Partner at AT Kearney Madrid. The ARDI uses a set of tools to analyze macro-economic and retail specific variables to identify and rank countries on the continent on their potential for retail expansion. The report was rather insightful and informed the audience on the business climate in Africa and why some countries are more conducive to retail expansion than others. This report will be officially launched in March 2014 and made available on the website  of the company.
Our keynote speaker, Mr. William Egbe, Group Director Sustainability, Strategy & Planning of The Coca-Cola Company captivated the audience by offering a realistic perspective on how to approach business on the continent and depicted how the unique nature of community and culture on the continent is not a challenge but rather a valuable asset. He highlighted 6 pillars necessary to building and sustaining successful business on the continent namely:
Long Term Perspective, where no matter the challenges faced today, one needs to remember that the demand is great and will exist long into the future thus significantly diminishing the costs of risks in comparison to the long-term gains.
Continuous Improvement, by building on what you’ve learnt and developing processes and components of the business in context of a continuously changing environment
Create Value to Drive Distribution by ensuring that you are creating shared value for all participants of your supply chain, as this will ensure your product keeps moving.
Social Investment, as no company can succeed in communities where people don’t have the basics and can’t afford to buy the product the company is selling, it is of great importance to help improve communities and empower them to provide for themselves in order for business to be sustainable.
Brand Building because the brand helps mass markets filter through the numerous products they are flooded with to identify quality. Coca-Cola’s managed to get its product to every corner of the continent by building its brand and integrating it into the local culture so successfully that the product moves itself to places where formal supply chains wouldn’t be effective.
Mr. Jorge Portillo of Abengoa took us through some of the projects that the company has invested in across the continent, primarily South Africa. He highlighted the potential for renewable energy projects, especially solar in specific sunny regions, as having the ability to increase access to electricity while keeping the costs of energy at competitive levels. He also spoke of the benefits that the continent would enjoy from desalinization of plants.
Ms. Reine Essobmadjie, the founder of Evolving Consulting, which operates primarily in Cameroon and France, and co-founder of NGO ICT4MDG, presented her opinion on the current state of the ICT sector on the continent. She identified the fragmented nature of the market as a key obstacle that also provided significant opportunity through consolidation. She provided a few suggestions on how best to develop the sector in the market and provide better access for Africa’s significant population. She also spoke of her role and how her company helps in filling the gaps through training and capacity building, hosting events and providing rewards and recognition for efforts in the sector.
Mr. Pablo Esteves introduced the audience to Emzingo, a business created by IE Alumni with an aim to inspire responsible leadership, prepare individuals to tackle global challenges and connect business to the citizen sector. The business has multiple programs, one of which involves social consulting projects in South Africa. This is an amazing cause that helps professionally tackle social challenges while developing leaders’ social conscious.
A cocktail ended off what had been an insightful day, and the audience had the opportunity to interact with some of the speakers and other distinguished guests. The turnout at this event was the greatest seen since the initiative began 4 years ago and speaks to the rapidly increasing interest in business on the continent. The overwhelming support from speakers who were keen to present and discuss multiple topics regarding the continent, is a clear indication that 1 afternoon is not enough to address the dynamic nature of business on the continent.
You can visit the full gallery of photos of the event HERE .