Round-up from Wharton Africa Business Forum and New York

Travelling with my cofounder is always eventful. It typically starts with a frantic dash to the airport – this time I take full blame for our late arrival. Next stop – check-in. Leading the way, suited and booted with a child-size box of Ribena, Charles typically feigns dismay when he is told that one of our suitcases is severely overweight. When asked if the suitcase is mine (because surely the suitcase is full of heavy high heels!), I typically take a step back, physically denying all knowledge, whilst Charles takes a sip of his drink, admits he is to blame and manages to charm his way out of paying for extra luggage.
Intimate dinner with Movemeback members in New York
Intimate dinner with Movemeback members in New York

It was the Wharton Africa Business Forum that took us on our inaugural USA Movemeback visit. But with an increasing presence of members living in USA, we took the opportunity to arrive a few days early, to meet our New York community. Amidst a rigorous schedule of meetings, it was refreshing for us to spend our evenings with groups of Movemeback members – including dinner at the Great Gatsby style speak-easy, Beauty & Essex; seafood in the vibrant Meatpacking district at Catch New York; and drinks on the rooftop at Monarch. Thank you to all of you who joined us!

Round up of Wharton African Business Forum
Movemeback founders with WABF 2015 co-chair Shalewa Odusanya, and WABf 2014 co-chair Bemi Otudeko
Movemeback founders with WABF 2015 co-chair Shalewa Odusanya, and WABF 2014 co-chair Bemi Otudeko

On our 3rd day in USA, we repacked our luggage and took a less than glamorous train journey 100 miles North-East to the Wharton School in Pennsylvania, to be part of the 600 people strong Wharton Africa Business Forum (WABF).  During their packed 3-day schedule, the Wharton Africa Students Association (WASA – the brains and engine power behind WABF) showed us that they know how to work and play hard. In a pleasant departure from a typical African conference, WABF was not just about sharing knowledge and insights – but also about supporting and facilitating action. In addition to an impressive series of panel discussions and talks, the conference also hosted an information session for prospective students, small group dinners organised around specific interest areas, a careers fair and “coffee chats” (which enabled employers and students to learn about each other in an intimate setting).
Keynote from Mo Abudu - Keynote from Mo Abudu - "Africa’s Most Successful Woman"
Keynote from Mo Abudu – Keynote from Mo Abudu – “Africa’s Most Successful Woman”

Our personal highlights of the conference include keynote addresses from Mr. Hakeem Belo-Osagie and Mo Abudu – both of whom received standing ovations from the audience. In her lunchtime keynote address, Abudu, founder of Ebony Life TV and “Africa’s Most Successful Woman” (according to Forbes magazine) spoke about how she married her experiences in the UK and Nigeria, to become a successful entrepreneur, and to realise her ambitions of making a truly global creative brand of African origin. She also stressed the importance of tenacity and passion when following an entrepreneurial path: “It’s one thing to dream ideas. But it’s really about how you exercise your dreams.” (See our post for more details on Abudu’s engaging talk).
Mr. Hakeem Belo-Osagie (chairman of Etisalat Nigeria and previously Chairman of The United Bank for Africa), who self-proclaims that depending on the audience he is either famous or infamous, gave the audience much food for thought. “Be bold…don’t listen to the voices that tell you to ‘be realistic’” he told us. Among his many calls for action, Belo-Osagie reflected on the responsibility/possibility of our generation to create the large African corporations of the future, comparing it to his generation’s responsibility and accomplishments of creating large national corporations, and of his parents’ generation responsibility of securing African independence. (More details on Belo-Osagie’s words of wisdom can be found here…)
Kosova - proud winners of the 2nd ALN Ventures Programme Competition
Kosava – proud winners of the 2nd ALN Ventures Programme Competition

In the spirit of collaboration and action, WABF also held its 2nd ALN Ventures Programme Competition in partnership with ALN Ventures. The competition was open to all African focused ventures which met their criteria (fewer than 50 employees, less than $50,000 raised to date), regardless of their relationship with Wharton. With the 4 finalists having pitched during the day at the WABF, the announcement of the winning venture was met with lively hails. The winner was Kosava – a discount coupon aggregator for online and physical stores – who in winning the competition secured  $5000 of investment from ALN Ventures.
This round up would not be complete without mentioning the numerous occasions WABF presented for letting down your hair (in a suit / cocktail dress of course – this is still a Conference weekend after all!) and solidifying the connections made over the course of the conference. In addition to a drinks reception, a late night cocktail reception, a Gala and post conference brunch (co-hosted by the organisation Young African MBA’s), WASA also hosted an after-party featuring DJ Zimo and the ‘Classic Man’ singer Jidenna.
We feel honoured to have had the opportunity to be media partners at the WABF, and to meet so many outstanding individuals both at Wharton and in New York. We thank the WASA team for organising such a motivational, thought-provoking yet action-oriented conference, and to everyone who took the time to reach out to us or join us at one of our events. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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