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Student group’s signature event focuses on the future of Africa, amid pandemic

Why it matters: Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s Africa Business Club discussed advancement opportunities for the African continent in a post-pandemic world.
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COVID-19 has created implications for individuals worldwide. This year’s Africa Business Conference, hosted by Carey Business School’s Africa Business Club and themed “Rethinking Africa in the World Beyond COVID-19,” placed emphasis on the future of the African continent

The group’s signature annual event took place virtually on March 5 and 6.

The Africa Business Club, founded two years ago, is a platform enabling Johns Hopkins students interested in business on the African continent to connect and collaborate.

Mahamed Konfrou (Flexible MBA ’21) co-founded the club after attending a conference where Carey students discussed their findings regarding a class trip to Africa.

The annual Africa Business Conference has engaged with business leaders in Africa to help find solutions for the pressing issues facing the continent.

“Although navigating the virtual world can be challenging, it brought a lot of opportunity for us to connect with business leaders in Africa,” Konfrou said.

The group reached out to students at top business schools on the continent to virtually facilitate and take ownership of specific parts of the conference.

Keynote speakers included Admassu Tadesse, president and CEO of the Eastern and Southern Africa Trade and Development Bank, and Owen Omogiafo, president and CEO of the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria.

Before the start of the pandemic, several markets in Africa experienced double-digit growth. However, the economic stresses created by COVID-19 quickly became an overarching continental issue.

“We wanted to think about how we will see Africa after this crisis and how we can reinvent the systems to become more resilient,” Konfrou said.

Technology and youth leadership

Throughout the two-day conference, four topics were addressed – technology, healthcare, finance and development, and youth leadership.

With over 600 registrants, the conference brought together many possible ideas for creating a brighter future for Africa. It even considered the pandemic as a way for Africa to transform.

“This pandemic is actually transforming technology in Africa. The continent is currently leading the world in the transfer of digital payments,” Konfrou said.
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“This pandemic is actually transforming technology in Africa. The continent is currently leading the world in the transfer of digital payments,” Konfrou said. In areas with no access to internet or electricity, officials are identifying ways to pioneer technology and transfer funds from one region to another.

A key takeaway from the conference was youth leadership’s large role in the continuous development of the African continent.

“There is a huge youth population in Africa, so how do we prepare them to lead the continent? How do we leverage the diaspora for the transfer of knowledge and technology?” Konfrou said.

He mentioned how training and mentorships will prepare the youth population for leadership roles.

Though this year’s was only the second annual conference, the committee used the virtual aspect as a new way to plan the event.

“We had an amazing team. Despite working in different geographic locations, each of our planning team members gave 120 percent to make this conference happen,” Konfrou said.

While planning, the committee met with mentors including Professor James Calvin, Rebkha Atnafou-Boyer, and Constant Beugre. The guidance was particularly helpful to the students because they were able to leverage their resources and networks, which played a large part in making the conference a success.

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