Earlier this month the McDonough School of Business, in conjunction with the Walsh School of Foreign Service’s African Studies Program, hosted Georgetown’s inaugural Africa Business Conference with the theme of Africa Rising: Business in Action. The purpose of the event was to exhibit the growth and impact of the private sector across the continent and to facilitate a discussion on ways to continue the positive business trend.
Business leaders from all over Africa spanning a wide range of industries were in attendance. The conference featured a variety of breakout panels on topics including private equity, music, banking, and technology. Session speakers included a number of top executives from companies such as Ethiopian hydrocarbon firm Southwest Energy, Coca-Cola, the World Bank, Trade Africa, and TRACE Urban. Notable guests included John Vitalo, CEO of banking giant Atlas Mara, and Ghanaian afrobeats superstar Fuse ODG.
The conference sold out of tickets multiple times, even after the conference team made adjustments to accommodate for additional ticket sales. A total of 420 guests registered for the event. Dean of the McDonough School of Business David A. Thomas opened the conference expressing that, “the point of this conference is to find someone who has an idea that excites you and connect with them.” The message seemed to hit home, as the crowds were filled with enthusiasm and engaged discussion. Attendees of the event were extremely pleased with the content of the conference; many congratulated the student coordinators for organizing such a successful event.
Georgetown’s inaugural conference marks one of the newest additions to the east coast’s well-established Africa business conference circuit. Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School , and Columbia University have all hosted conferences for over a decade.
Manish Padhiar, MBA-MSFS candidate and director of the conference, said he and his team weren’t afraid to replicate the successes of Harvard and Wharton; the objective was to bring the conversation of African business to Georgetown. Naa Adjeley Kome-Mensah, a senior in the SFS and content manager for the conference, expressed similar sentiments of initiating an Africa-centered dialogue, saying, “Georgetown places an importance on global leadership but has yet to place a particular focus on Africa.”
By taking on this project, the organizing team wanted to see the university lead the discussion of African business in the greater DC area. Moreover, the team wanted the university’s administration to be more engaged in African business. Students interested in business on the continent signalled that the McDonough School of Business should acknowledge the demand for and importance of allowing an Africa focus. Organizers hope that the success of the conference will result in a gradual move toward more Africa related courses as well as a greater recruitment of students from the continent. One thing is certain: the successful execution of Georgetown’s inaugural Africa Business Conference gives it a promising future on the Hilltop.