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“The opportunities exist and the potential is there for business and investment (in Africa),” said former Nigerian President H.E. Olusegun Obasanj, the Kellogg Africa Business Conference keynote speaker.

2012 Kellogg Africa Business Conference

From talk to action

The 2012 Kellogg Africa Business Conference encourages entrepreneurs to capitalize on the continent’s business possibilities

By Daniel P. Smith

4/6/2012 - Before a crowd of more than 200 assembled at the James L. Allen Center for the 2012 Kellogg Africa Business Conference, former Nigerian President H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo spoke of the business potential blanketing the African nation before offering a direct challenge to audience members.

“Let us grab the opportunities,” Obasanjo said in his morning keynote address March 31.

After decades of anemic expansion, Africa is embracing growth on the backs of international partners as well as homegrown entrepreneurs, a burgeoning middle class and a motivated workforce.

Seeking strategic action plans to further enliven Africa’s growth, conference leaders, attendees and presenters embraced the event’s pragmatic theme – “Unlocking Africa’s Potential: Defining the Next Steps” – to advance Africa’s entrepreneurial climate.

Obasanjo touts opportunity
During Obasanjo’s two terms as Nigerian President (1999-2007), his administration executed a litany of projects that launched the country into unprecedented social and economic growth. Today, the west African nation stands among the world’s fastest-growing economies with annual GDP growth regularly hovering near double digits.

“There is a clear move to actualize the potential and take advantage of the opportunities,” said Obasanjo, who is among the key African leaders urging both African and non-African agents to explore business opportunities throughout the continent.

While acknowledging that political, social and economic reforms remain among the continent’s 54 nations, Obasanjo assured all that Africa has a vibrant place on the world’s economic map.

“The opportunities exist and the potential is there for business and investment,” he said.

Eager to spur action
In addition to Obasanjo’s morning keynote, the conference hosted David Bruce Wharton as its closing keynote speaker. Wharton has served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of African Affairs since July 2010.

The conference also included panel discussions among domestic and international corporate executives and entrepreneurs that spotlighted successful and critical growth-driving areas in Africa, namely human capital, technology, business development and capital investments.

As an increasing number of entrepreneurs and companies label Africa as the next frontier, conference leaders sought to deliver candid dialogue about business realities in the continent.

“A lot of businesses still are still trying to figure how to use [Africa’s resources to] their advantage,” conference co-chair Hawa Dramé ’12 said. “Our goal was for our attendees to leave with a clear understanding of how … they can identify and capitalize on market opportunities in Africa.”
Attendee Feyisayo Oshinkanlu ’12 credited the conference with sparking the spirit and motivation that drives people to action.

“Africa is not a dark continent anymore, but a place of possibilities,” Oshinkanlu said. “This conference gave us reason to explore the practical plans that will move us to action.”

Further reading:

Africa’s golden age

Africa: The new economic frontier

One Acre founder Youn ’06 reunites with Kellogg supporters