Oxford BFA Roundup: Don't be afraid to be unreasonable, Africa
All pathways towards growth are littered with pain, obstacles and challenges, each requiring the acquisition and application of greater strength, wisdom or capability, if to be overcome. In light of what every Africa-focused banker, sales-person and consultant tells me has been a “tough year for the continent”, how will our young prospects weather its recent storms…? According to the distinguished guest speakers at this year’s Oxford’s Business Forum Africa (BFA), the continent will overcome, by tapping into its capacity for “being unreasonable”; using previous successes (Billion dollar companies have emerged from African countries lacking stable electricity) as inspiration for a continued and bold ascendancy. Key to Africa’s defiance is the question tackled so smoothly by Keynote Speaker – Trevor Manuel, Former Finance Minister of South Africa – who asked “Can we run before we can walk?” The resounding answer was yes, but this leapfrogging would depend on certain variables. Permit me to share these with you via touching on some highlights of the day.
1. Views from Keynotes
In between my media duties , I managed to catch talks from:
- The slick – Trevor Manuel, Former Finance Minister of South Africa
- The composed – Dolika Banda, Independent Consultant, and former Managing Director of the CDC Group
- The focused – Colin Coleman, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs
Although they all shared thoughts tinted by politics, finance and gender, all seemed to resonate a push towards considering a broader range of problems and solutions for Africa. For example, Trevor mentioned the need for better Urban planning, suited to the communal needs of African states, as a means of enabling more commerce. The speakers also pushed for integrity and self-reflection as those in positions of power choose where to work and who to work alongside.
2. Industry-specific conversations
Smaller discussions also took place on the day. The capacity of branding, infrastructure, private equity and technology as enablers for an unreasonable Africa were exposed by panels of experts ranging from representatives of Microsoft, through to the CEOs of South Africa’s branch of Interbrand and power company, Genesis Electricity. Whilst guests had to choose between talks, I’d like to highlight two salient points I was privy to:
- The first is that for African companies to grow successful global businesses, focus has to be paid to building internationally recognisable brands that consumers all over the world adore; think of what brands like Facebook, Amazon and Uber have contributed toward glamorising the USA.
- The second is that “infrastructure is not boring”. Projects are exciting and impactful and need the brightest minds helping to build relevant solutions for the continent.
3. The Movemeback Careers Session
Our attendance at the forum was crowned with the opportunity to interact with attendees, advising how they may engineer ideal move back’s to the continent. The key topic on people’s mind related to the range of opportunities available to members outside of commercial or financial roles. To those who share the same thought, watch this space! With Movemeback collaborations well and truly kicked-off, working with talented individuals, pursuing interesting projects, will become ever easier. Moreover, as we continue connecting with more and more creative companies, myriad roles will be up for grabs.
Look forward to seeing what your collaborations and applications bring.