Yesterday, I went to the African Business Day 2017 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands at the Erasmus University. I already went last year, so I had already an idea of how it would be and how well-organized the event actually is. And since I wrote a blogpost about last year’s event, (which you can find here) I am writing one about this year’s event! As I mentioned in the other blogpost, it is important to share experiences and reflect on events. After all, “I aspire to inspire others by sharing my experiences”. So, if you are curious about who were speakers at the African Business Day 2017, keep on reading! Trust me, you’d want to know!
African Business Day 2017
The African Business Day 2017, was on the 27th of May in Rotterdam at the Erasmus University. Unlike last year, they organized a two-day event. Workshops were given on Friday and the individual presentations and panel discussions were planned for Saturday. Traveling to Rotterdam is quite far, therefore, I decided to only go to the event on Saturday.
It was supposed to start at 13:00 however, due to an accident it started on African time (meaning 1/1,5h later). The event was hosted by Keturah King, whom you may know from CNN’s African Voices.
First speaker was the proud Cameroonian Diane Audrey Ngako from @visiterlafrique! I have to be honest with all of you, it is because of her that I came to this event. I really love the platform Visiter L’Afrique and I was so excited to see Diane’s presentation and hear her thoughts on the panel. Diane basically talked about how she was born and raised in Cameroon and came to France at the age of 12 with her mom. Then she continued and talked about how she started to forget about her Cameroonian/ African culture to become more ‘white’. Afterwards she explained what she did academically. She worked on promoting traveling, her blog lead her to her journalism job at TV5 le Monde and photography etc. Audrey also talked about her bond with Africa and how she came to the creation of Visiter L’Afrique. She shared her views on the new African Passport that is supposedly allowing African citizens to travel visa-free across Africa, which I think is very important considering what her platform is all about. If you want to know more about Diane Audrey Ngako, please follow her on IG: @voodart and check out Visiter L’Afrique’s website and on IG: @visiterlafrique!
The second speaker was an Erasmus University Alumni named Soufiène Marzouki who works as a Managing Director for the North-African region at Jumia Food/Jumia Group. Soufiène talked about how he was interested in challenging the western paradigms and concepts of business solutions and creating new ones for the African market. Which I think is the most amazing factor of working in Africa for Africans. Also, it is something I have learned during lectures about emerging markets. Of course, it only makes sense as there are steps in technology that Africans have totally skipped, such as ADSL, banking with cards etc. Compared to western countries, Africans are more advanced in that aspect. Soufiène told us about certain ups and downs he has faced while working for Jumia in Africa and how he does not perceive these challenges as negative due to the fact that it motivates him to find even better solutions.
Then, we had Saqib Nazir of Interpay Ghana tell his story. His story was remarkable, as he is a Pakistani who grew up in Ghana and sees Ghana as his home. One of the most important things he said was that it does not matter where you come from, if he goes to Pakistan, he does not fit there and even in Ghana he does not fit. However, there is nothing he can do about it. His story was not about fitting in anywhere. Not even about trying to fit anywhere. Just to do what you need to do and do it. Even though I am not necessarily interested in online payment methods, I find their development in Africa very fascinating. The message Mr Nazir had, spoke to me. I think it would speak to a lot of people in the African Diaspora. We go back to our countries and people are constantly telling us that we talk, behave or dress ‘European’ and that we should be more ‘African’, ‘Senegalese’, ‘cultured’ etc. But we actually do not have to. We did not grow up there and that is ok.
Last but not least, we had Uche Ofodile tell her story about her experience of working in Africa and at Facebook. Ms Ofodile had a very interesting story which was about connectivity in Africa. Like me, she also worked for Millicom’s brand Tigo (telecommunications) and I found her take on it similar as mine. A lot of people in Africa have phones, most people have multiple actually, however, not everyone is connected through the internet. Of course, that is slowly changing now, but it affects a lot of businesses. Which is something companies that want to operate or expand to Africa, have to take into consideration. People in Europe and America can order EVERYTHING online and it works. However, the case is not (yet) the same for Africa.
I think that African Business Day 2017 was a great experience. Overall, I think all the presentations were relatable, especially if you have experience in working in a country in Africa. We should not forget that Africa is not a country. Also things may not work for the Senegalese market, however, it may work for the people in Zambia or Djibouti. Remember that you can hold the key to what might work for the market that you want to serve. I have to add that ALL the keynote speakers were inspirational. They encouraged us to go back, explore and provide our own solutions to problems on the continent. They each conveyed the message of not giving up, on yourself and on your dreams. Which I think we might forget sometimes.
Thank you guys for reading this about the African Business Day 2017! If you want to know more about the speakers, check out the links I have provided you with. If you want to read more about a similar event, please check out my article on the AfricaWorks! event of 2014 and the African Business Day 2016. I will most definitely try to get each presentation on my youtube channel and share that :). Please let me know if you’d consider working in Africa and why or why not?