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When Africa Means Business

ImageNow in its 15th year, the Wharton Africa Business Forum (WABF) is expected to bring together in November over five hundred business leaders, investors, academics and students to learn about the rapid transformation of Africa’s business and political environment, network and develop business relationships.

The Wharton Africa Business Forum is an integral component of the Wharton Global Business Forum, the pre-eminent business school event addressing the major economic, social and political trends affecting Africa, Asia, Europe, India and Latin America. The WABF has become the leading conference on business in Africa at business schools. The 2007 edition will host an exciting gathering of professionals, dignitaries and experts on investment, trade or development, many of whom are recognized across the globe for their entrepreneurial and leadership achievements.

Africa Rising: The New Dawn of Trade and Investment

Under the theme ‘Africa Rising: The New Dawn of Trade and Investment’ the approach of this year’s Forum is aimed at identifying viable and attractive areas for investment and trade with Africa.

ImageWithin the context of discussion about business opportunities, the changing economic and geo-political landscapes, and examples of success stories, panelists and speakers will share their views on Africa’s future and discuss their vision for the continent.  The 2007 WABF keynote speakers include Mandé Sidibé, Chairman of pan-African banking group Ecobank, Yibrah Tesfazghi, GE President & Corporate Regional Executive for Africa, Akere Muna, Vice-Chair of Transparency International and a Member of the African Union Audit Commission and Euvin Naidoo, President and Chief Executive Officer of the South African Chamber of Commerce in America

The speakers, who include successful global leaders in charge of multi-billion dollars organizations, have substantial investment in Africa and represent diverse regions of the continent.  With their proven business experience, the speakers offer what the organizers describe as ‘a unique vantage point to understand the 53 countries continent of Africa which accounts for 20% of the world’s population.’

Moving Beyond the Myth

A key objective of the Business Forum, says Victor Petenkemani, WABF 2007 Chairman, MBA/MA Class of 2008, is to create awareness of Africa.  “We want to move beyond the myth to uncovering the truth. We need a story of Africa by Africans who best know their continent. Africa is a fast changing continent for the better.”

From 1999 to 2005, 34% of African countries had annual GDP growth of 4.5% or above. Against a backdrop of high commodities prices and the implementation of increasingly sound macro economic reforms, Foreign Direct Investments into Africa have reached unprecedented levels, with an estimated net inflow of $40 billion in 2005.

“As the premier business school in the world, Wharton has invaluable links with the investment community and can facilitate African entrepreneurs’ access to capital.”


“Investment is returning and it is more diverse with the increased presence from China, India and the United States,” says Petenkemani.  “There are huge natural resources that can be used to jump start African economies and we want to leverage the Wharton Brand and to reach out to the investment community.”

Promoting Entrepreneurship – The Business Pitch

Another key objective for the organizers is to promote entrepreneurship as a solution to development.  The Business Forum is providing a platform for future entrepreneurs with prospective African ventures to present their ideas to participating financing institutions that already invest in Africa. Pre-selected applicants to the Business Pitch contest will have the unique opportunity to pitch their business idea to participating Banks, Venture Capitals, and Private Equity firms.

“As the premier business school in the world, Wharton has invaluable links with the investment community and can facilitate African entrepreneurs’ access to capital for new ventures, business expansion or trade development into new markets,” says Petenkemani. “Pitching is an important technique entrepreneurs must acquire to quickly impress venture capital and private equity in the real world.  Those who succeed can effectively raise the capital needed for the development of their venture.”

The Forum will provide a setting for networking with leading figures from the business community while a Career Fair will run alongside the main event, enabling conference participants to meet recruiting sponsors and participating recruiters. For prospective students to Wharton, the Forum will aim to demystify the application process into Wharton Business School and provide a unique insight in applying and gaining admission into Wharton.

Making a Difference

The Organising Committee is in no doubt that the Business Forum will have a positive impact.  “The event will make a difference because of the incredible awareness it creates,” says Petenkemani.  “The Wharton Brand is extremely powerful in the investment community as Wharton is the reference on the street for educating top business professionals.”

By matching investors to entrepreneurs and demystifying the process, the organizers believe that the Forum will teach African entrepreneurs how to reach out to raise the money they need. “There is plenty of capital out there looking for great ideas, whether for small or big businesses.”

“The Forum will benefit a wide range of participants,” adds Petenkemani.  “Students, prospective students, professionals, investors, career seekers and entrepreneurs will gain something from attending.  We also invite corporations to attend because Africa is a fast growing emerging market of 900 million people, rising to 1.4 billion by 2040.  We invite everyone to join us on November 10 to witness, contribute and learn from great minds about the business opportunities that Africa possesses.”

Participants can register at:

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