Wharton Africa Business Forum

The organizing team

Run over 3 full days, the conference theme was  “My Africa Network—New Partners for New Solutions”, and explored diverse business opportunities that lie at the intersection of the public, private and social development spheres. Dean Udom (WG’17) and Dimia Fogam (WG’17) led a team of around 40 MBA and undergrad students to make the conference a success.

Mckinsey Senior Partner Acha Leke passing on some knowledge to Wharton Africa president Rajith Sebastian

Wharton may be far away from the African continent, but the school has an admirable focus on Africa. The Wharton Africa Business Forum (WABF) which was held from Nov 18 – 20 attracted 550 attendees, and again was the largest conference at Wharton, and the largest Africa focused MBA conference in the United States. Run over 3 full days, the conference theme was  “My Africa Network—New Partners for New Solutions”, and explored diverse business opportunities that lie at the intersection of the public, private and social development spheres. 

Fred Swaniker (African Leadership Academy), Sacha Poignonnec (Jumia), Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (Flutterwave)

The team was able to attract excellent speakers (around 50!) and basically fill the hallowed Huntsman Hall with Africans for the conference. Speakers included Acha Leke (Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company, Johannesburg & Co-founder, African Leadership Network), Ambassador Herman Cohen (Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs) and Sacha Poignonnec (Co-founder, Jumia).

Two of the team, Buhari and Amaka, share their views on the conference below:

Buhari: 

‘I had an amazing time at WABF! It was great to see so many people passionate about shaping the continent’s growth story in one room. The quality of discourse and cross-pollination of ideas was truly surreal. One of the highlights of the event for me was the afternoon keynote session, where we listened to the co-founders of Jumia and Andela get interviewed by Fred Swaniker, the co-founder of the African Leadership Academy. I recall Fred saying to the audience, ‘you shouldn’t return to Africa out of sympathy or pity; you should do so because there is fantastic opportunity on the continent for you to grow and develop as an individual and be a part of something greater than yourself’. 

As preparations begin for this year’s conference (our landmark 25th), I believe the Wharton and African professional communities can be excited for what promises to be an even more exhilarating experience.

Amaka:

Beginning my first semester of Wharton as a member of Wharton Africa Business Forum’s (WABF) planning committee has been undoubtedly my greatest privilege at Wharton. Within a few weeks of being on campus, I joined a rank of students from all backgrounds tasked with strategizing and executing programming for Wharton’s largest student conference and upholding its legacy as an international exchange beacon for African business insights, development, and progress.

I served as Chair of the 3rd Annual New Venture Competition that aims to connect promising early-stage African entrepreneurs to a broad network of investors, mentors, and coaches to inform and catalyze their growth. Our process is as follows: contestants submit business proposal summaries before WABF, and after internal review, and finalists are selected to pitch to an experienced panel of judges. 

No conference is the same, and no year is the same, but I find myself going back year after year for the people. There is something about the amount of sheer faith it takes to attend an Africa conference that makes networking feel quite a bit like fellowship. We hold faith in progress yet unseen, hum with a African energetic optimism, and relish in the shamelessness of verbs in the continuous tense. Spend a day surrounded by infinite conversations about doing…working on…going into…strategizing around…revising a plan around…aiming toward..etc, etc, and I challenge you not be feel renewed, excited, and so sorely encouraged to do more, and be more for the African continent. As an extension of the spirit, the WABF planning committee has served as a safe space and my campus nexus for hope where I have fellowship amongst passionately progressive peers, and ultimately wonderful friendships.

Africa at Wharton

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