“Investing in the human capital of the continent is the most effective path to a prosperous Africa, Education, healthcare, skill development, and public-private partnerships are crucial elements for economic growth and innovation. This is the way forward to harness the great potential of the continent” stated Travis Adkins, President and CEO of the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), during his closing remarks at the recently concluded Georgetown Africa Business Conference. The conference, held at Georgetown University and attended by over 250 participants from the United States and around the world, centered around the theme “The Future is Africa: Harnessing Opportunities for A Prosperous Continent.” Adkins highlighted the importance of education, healthcare, skill development, and public-private partnerships as crucial elements for economic growth and innovation in Africa. The event featured three distinguished keynote speakers who shared valuable insights on various topics related to Africa’s economic development.
Bobby Pittman, the founding partner at Kupanda Capital, discussed the challenges and opportunities for growth in Africa’s creative and entertainment industry. He highlighted the significance of digitization in addressing issues such as visa delays, banking obstacles, and anti-money laundering regulations while stressing the significance of digitization in addressing these challenges and creating a more modern society.
Antoinette Sayeh focused her keynote on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and its impact on the economic development of Africa. She emphasized the potential of AfCFTA in fostering trade and economic cooperation among African countries, promoting regional integration, and driving sustainable growth.
Travis Adkins, the President and CEO of the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), delivered the closing remarks of the conference. He urged Africans in the diaspora to invest in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as they play a pivotal role in Africa’s economic activity. Adkins highlighted the importance of Africans taking charge of their own prosperity, health, and innovation, emphasizing the significance of women and youth in driving economic growth and innovation.
The conference provided a platform for stakeholders to engage with the next generation of African and African Diaspora entrepreneurs and business leaders. Participants had the opportunity to discuss the future of Africa across various industries and sectors, including business and trade policy, technology (particularly in Fintech, Agritech, and Healthtech), and clean energy and energy transition.
One noteworthy discussion during the conference focused on Africa’s creative industry and its influence on the global fashion scene. African fashion has had a revitalizing effect on Western fashion, inspiring Western brands and ready-to-wear labels like Zara. African fashion movements in cities like Johannesburg and Lagos have also influenced renowned figures like Beyoncé, as seen in her song “Black is King,” which celebrates African and African American artists.
Experts in the creative industry, including Audu Maikori, Abiodun “Bizzle” Osikoya, and Editi Effiong, attributed Nigeria’s success in the creative industry to factors such as its large population, striving mentality, and deep storytelling roots. However, they acknowledged the challenges African artists face in terms of support and recognition, emphasizing the need for more government assistance.
Rama, the leader of the African program at the Atlantic Council, highlighted the importance of support from African governments and organizations like the African Development Bank to empower African artists and drive the growth of the African creative sector.
The Energy Plenary session focused on clean energy and energy transition in Africa. The panel, led by Ruth Ochonma, engaged in a lively conversation about Africa’s involvement in the energy transition and the significance of sustainable energy solutions on the continent. One key topic that emerged was the issue of energy equity and the perceived hypocrisy of Europe and America. The panelists pointed out the contradiction of these countries wanting to import African natural gas while hesitating to support projects that would enable Africa to utilize its own resources for development. They highlighted the failure of these countries to fulfill their commitments in supporting green alternatives in Africa, raising concerns about fairness and consistency in the energy sector.
Vijaya Ramachandra and Ainojie Alex Irune criticized this approach as hypocritical, as it hampers poverty alleviation and energy security efforts in Africa. They expressed frustration over the lack of funding for infrastructure and green projects in Africa, coupled with the failure of rich nations to meet climate finance targets, which exacerbates inequality.
In his closing remarks, Adkins emphasized the importance of Africans driving their own prosperity, health, and innovation, despite prevailing narratives of poverty and conflict. He underscored the significant role of women and youth, who make up the majority of the continent’s population and play crucial roles in the economy, law, labor, and decision-making processes. Adkins highlighted the mission of the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) in decolonizing foreign assistance and directly investing in African entrepreneurs.