"Within my first few weeks of living in Nairobi, it became clear that I would have to rethink how closely I heed the warnings against venturing around “Nairobbery.” Surely there is some truth behind the anecdotes of petty crimes against visitors and even long time residents in the city. Besides, it wasn’t too long ago that major attacks grabbed headlines either in the heart of Nairobi or on the coast of Kenya. However, the warm embrace of my co-workers and everyday folks around the city began coax me out of my shell."
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"I expected my experience as an Africa Business Fellow to be rewarding, but I have been surprised by the magnitude of all that I have learned and the quality of the relationships that I have established. I find myself agreeing more and more with the sentiment that travel is both a window and a mirror. I am not only seeing new things but I am also reflecting on business and life in the U.S. Every day I expect to see or learn something new. Luckily for me, I have met plenty of people to guide me down that path in a way that helps me better contextualize and understand what I am learning along the way."
"I could talk for hours about all I have been pondering on during the last few months. I am honoured to have been a member of the inaugural Africa Business Fellowship cohort – all of the learning above would not have been otherwise the same or possible. To close, I want to thank the ABF team, the other fellows, Liquid Telecom, and the various Nairobians that invested in ensuring we had a worthwhile experience. Though it is bittersweet to close this chapter, I am comforted by the relationships I started to build which shall grow into the future."
"Here at Atlas Mara, I work within the Office of the CEO, which is comprised of the CEO, Head of Strategy and Planning, and Chief of Staff. This is so cliché but my day is never the same. One day I am drafting a speech for our CEO to present at an international conference and on that same day, I am combing through each country’s income statement and balance sheet and presenting a summary of our financial performance to our management team. The best way that I can summarize how Atlas Mara smells is through the key terms that Professor Ghoshal attributed to a Fontainebleau work environment:"
"My initial thoughts when I first arrived at work-- the Zeleman offices look amazing! It has the vibe of an NYC ad agency. My main project is to help change the culture of the Client Services team, so I'm working on optimization recommendations. I look forward to working alongside account executives to make their work life more efficient."
"I arrived in Zimbabwe on June 18th. I lived and worked in the country 5 years ago and I had been looking forward to coming back. In the office, I'm currently working on the broadband/data side of the business, with a team in charge of introducing new products and services. It's a very active, busy and dynamic place. All of my colleagues have been amazing. They ask for my ideas and feedback and it's great to see that contributions I make are welcomed and appreciated. I'm also involved with a young professionals program where cross functional teams of young Econet leaders are working on new and innovative ideas."
"'Lagos is crazy,' 'the traffic is insane,' 'don't be scared when you arrive at the airport,' 'don't walk the streets alone' ...these were just some of the pre-departure warnings. Once I arrived, everything made sense. There was no shortage of heavily armed guards, who didn't hesitate to demand money, simply for pointing you in the direction of baggage claim. The scene was colorful and hectic. Lawless, even. Welcome to Lagos."
On Friday June 3rd, Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) hosted the ABF Class of 2016 in New York City for U.S. Orientation. It was the first time Fellows met each other and other ABF stakeholders. The one day programming covered a tremendous amount of advice and information to prepare each fellow as they live and work across Africa and the Middle East.
Catherine Carrington, MLT Chief of Staff kicked off the day's festivities with welcome remarks and Adedana Ashebir, African Leadership Network ABF Program Director, encouraged the cohort to maximize their experience during their placement.
Four panelists shared their experiences working in the continent and focused specifically on cultural competency and expectations. These panelists included Andrew Leventhal of Tau Investment Management, Cherae Robinson of Tastemakers Africa and Bokar Ture of Solektra International. The purpose of the panel was to present fellows with insight on working on the continent. Facbeook's Mitch Harris offered advice on how best to leverage networks during and after the placement. Fellows also got a chance to sample a social enterprise problem through a case study. In groups, Fellows presented ways for Tanzania's Yogurt Mamas to achieve profitability and scale.
Senator Chris Coons of Delaware sent a message to the group via video. He emphasized the importance of U.S.-Africa relations and the unique opportunity the Africa Business Fellowship provides. Fellows were able to meet Peter Henry, Dean of NYU Stern School of Business; Strive Masiyiwa, Econet Founder & Chairman; John Rice, Founder & CEO of MLT; and Mindy Silverstein, Managing Director at Credit Suisse at an evening reception. Orientation concluded with a Fireside Chat with Strive Masiyiwa moderated by Mindy Silverstein.
The Africa Business Fellowship is proud to support Fellows during their time in Africa and the Middle East and companies are even more eager to receive and host them. Onward!
"Founded in 2014, the company works to increase food and income security to rural farmers in west Africa. They use technology to track the usage of the tractor via GPS, perform data analytics on location, plant size, seasons of planting and exact location. Additionally, farmers use SMS messaging and mobile money to request, schedule and prepay for the tractors. Not only is it an innovative company solving one of the continent's largest problems, it is also a prime example of U.S.-Africa private sector collaboration."
This is the Africa Business Fellowship’s (ABF) third and final blog post from the Corporate Council on Africa's 10th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Addis Ababa.
The closing plenary was advertised as “African Industrial Revolution” but it was more about the entrepreneurship experiences of panelists across the continent. I appreciated these case studies more than the usual presentation of facts and figures. These entrepreneurs have been doing the hard work and mostly without widespread recognition.
Mossadeck Bally built the Azalai Hotels brand from the purchase of one former state-owned hotel in Bamako. Azalai Hotels now has properties in five African countries, with plans for an additional five more. This growth did not come without challenges. Bally shared with the audience how he once waited three years for a building permit and has had to provide much of the hotel's water and infrastructure himself. He urged the diaspora to contribute to Africa's human capital development.
"I had no business running a business," said Rahama Wright, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Mali. A Ghanian-American, she only learned about shea butter and its value chain while volunteering. She was inspired to create Shea Yeleen, a beauty products company that creates gives shea farmers access to international markets. Ten years after its founding, Shea Yeleen is now in Whole Foods.
Dr. Toni Luck spoke on behalf of Petrolin Group founder Samuel Dossou-Aworet. The company began 24 years ago, when Petrolin Group brought together several small scale oil producers in Gabon. They are now building a pipeline extending through three West African countries. Dr. Luck, formerly at Exxon Mobil, spoke to the need for corporate social responsibility and asked the business communities to become more political active through business chambers and organizations.
“Africa transformation will not be driven by FDI but by Africa itself and its entrepreneurs,” proclaimed Zemedeneh Negatu of Ernst & Young Ethiopia. He spoke to Francophone Africa’s lag behind Anglophone Africa in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship. Fellow panelist Mossadeck Bally echoed these sentiments. Zemedeneh reiterated that the continent is not the place for a quick return on investment.
There are plenty of conferences in Africa and about Africa. While the conference circuit serves as a reunion of sorts of familiar faces, I must say that the Corporate Council on Africa provided an unparalleled forum for the private sector to connect across continents and borders. I’m glad CCA hosted their event on the continent (again, for only the second time) and I look forward to the next gathering.
Looking back on the past three days, I can’t help but wonder if this new U.S.-Africa push is a defensive play spurred by China’s engagement. It is well documented that the United States has fallen behind China in terms of FDI on the continent. The U.S is primarily associated with aid and stern directives to the continent’s lifetime leaders. In spite of this, some American private sector players have been on the continent for quite some time. John Deere, the agricultural machinery manufacturing company, bought their first stake in an African company in 1935. They’ve had an official presence on the continent for over fifty years. Coca-Cola has been in Africa since 1928. Many American companies such as KFC, Domino’s, and Starbucks are making their push into the continent. I hope the next conferences will see more evidence of the reverse being true as well, Aprelle Duany perhaps?
Adedana Ashebir is the African Leadership Network Program Director of the Africa Business Fellowship. She is based in Nairobi.
This is the Africa Business Fellowship’s (ABF) second of three blog posts from the Corporate Council on Africa’s 10th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Addis Ababa.
My favorite panel of the day was by far the “Growing Your National Tourism Economy.” Speakers included Ethiopian Tourism Organization CEO Solomon Tadesse, Zimbabwean Minister of Tourism Walter Mzembi, former U.S. Department of the Interior advisor Gail Adams and South African Airways VP for Sales North America Stroebel Bekker.
Did you know?
· One tourist creates 9 jobs according to the UN World Tourism Organization.
· Sub-Saharan African tourism represents just 1% of the global tourism industry.
· Religious tourism moves 300 million of the world’s annual 1.2 billion travellers.
· Nigerian prophet TB Joshua receives more visitors than Buckingham Palace.
· Most of South African Airways customers traveling from the U.S. to Africa are leisure travelers, not on business. This is expected to change in the coming years.
Panelists engaged in an honest discussion about American perceptions, Western media, and their combined impact on Africa travel interest. The media generally does the continent no favors – firstly, Africa is often depicted in headlines as a country (check #AfricaSees for my previous work on that) and hunger/war/disease/destruction narratives usually supersede any positive news out of Africa. One consequence of this lack of knowledge: 12 international conferences in Zimbabwe were cancelled due to Ebola – which was nowhere near Southern Africa. 12.
The panel agreed that education of U.S. travellers was necessary but some members of the audience disagreed whose responsibility it was. Gail Adams pointed out that many Americans don’t even know the U.S. capital, how would they know about Africa? In this case, is it the job of Africans to educate Americans about the continent? I say no, but a job for tourism ministries and boards across the continent? Definitely, if interested in increasing arrival numbers.
One policy prescription I appreciated was from Minister Mzembi. He suggested that government support for tourism should mirror the dedicated (albeit partially lip-serviced) pan-African support for agriculture. “We pledge 10% of the national budget to agriculture with the Maputo Declaration. If we gave 1%, the continent’s current 53 million arrivals can double by 2018.” A good starting point but as today's panel agreed, it is going to take stakeholders across sectors and borders to boost sub-Saharan Africa's global share of tourism.
Those reading in the U.S., have you visited the continent? Why or why not? Feel free to answer in the comments.
Adedana Ashebir is the African Leadership Network Program Director of the Africa Business Fellowship. She is based in Nairobi. Follow the US.-Africa Business Summit using #AfricaBizSummit.
This is the Africa Business Fellowship’s (ABF) daily blog from the 10th Biennial Corporate Council on Africa’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Addis Ababa.
The Corporate Council on Africa is the leading organization in the United States that promotes trade and investment on the African continent. For only the second time, the Council is hosting their Summit in Africa- in Ethiopia, one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
This conference is a milestone in many ways. The 10th Summit is the first time the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry have collaborated on a conference and this is the largest event of its kind that brings the United States' and Africa's private sector together. The conference attracted 1200 registrants, a huge jump from previous years, perhaps the largest harbinger of increased interest in U.S.-Africa business collaboration.
There was a brief nod to other countries involved in investment in Africa. Symbion Power CEO Paul Hinks welcomed delegates from Turkey and China declaring that all countries have a shared interest in investment in the continent. The latter is the currently the largest source of FDI in Ethiopia and is expected to increase their investment, perhaps up to four-fold in the next year according to a senior Ethiopian official I spoke with.
While it is a U.S.-Africa Summit, Ethiopia is using the forum as an opportunity to showcase its potential. At the Doing Business in Ethiopia panel, a distinguished group, including the Director General of Ethiopian Investment Commission Fitsum Arega, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Ernst & Young Ethiopia Managing Director Zemedeneh Negatu painted a promising picture of the country’s growth: increased life expectancy, expanded access to primary and secondary education, declining poverty rates, and the various opportunities in the power, tourism, and agriculture sectors.
Black Rhino Group’s Brian Herlihy presented the firm’s experience investing in Ethiopia - USD1.3 billion into a petrol pipeline between Ethiopia and Djibouti. He shared an anecdote about contacting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn about the project. The Black Rhino team was hesitant to reach out to the Ethiopian leader noting his busy schedule but was surprised by the Prime Minister’s willingness and response, “What is a country but a collection of projects?”
As an Ethiopian-American, the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) “Creativity In Motion” campaign was perhaps the highlight of the panel. When the video premiered last year, I was filled with pride, THIS was the branding I and many others had waited for. JICA is helping Ethiopian products reach a niche market in Japan including iPhone covers, clothing, and quality leather products.
“Ethiopia confounds every expectation,” said Noah Samara of Yazmi in his keynote address, quoting a travel writer’s take on the country. With the facts and figures presented today, expectations are sure to be high.
Adedana Ashebir is the African Leadership Network Program Director of the Africa Business Fellowship. She is based in Nairobi. Follow the U.S.-Africa Business Summit using #AfricaBizSummit.