Darden’s Inaugural Africa Week Showcases Continent’s ‘Vast Opportunities’
The Darden Africa Business Organization’s (DABO) first-ever Africa Week showcased the opportunities and challenges of doing business in the dynamic and diverse continent.
The student-run Africa Week hosted prominent speakers from around the world with business experience in Africa and included social events for the Darden community throughout the week.
“I wanted to organize Africa Week to expose my Darden classmates to aspects of the African business climate and encourage them to look at Africa as they navigate their careers,” said DABO president Agatha Patterson (Class of 2018). “I also organized the week because I have enormous pride in where I’m from and wanted to share some of my culture, and the cultures of other African students at Darden, with our classmates.”
The events kicked off with keynote speaker Andrew Dell, the former CEO of HSBC Africa, the African unit of one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organizations.
“His presentation touched on a few key misconceptions about Africa, namely its size and diversity,” shared Raoul Kouamou (Class of 2018), who attended many of DABO’s Africa Week events. “He also addressed the rise of democracy, improved governance and peace on the continent that makes investing in Africa increasingly valuable.”
Darden alumnus Augustin Apetey (MBA ‘02) joined Africa Week virtually from Ivory Coast, where he serves as the vice president of strategic investments, M&A Africa, for Olam International, a multinational corporation that promotes sustainable development around the world. Apetey shared his story and spoke about the Olam Livelihood Charter — an initiative that empowers farmers in the developing world.
Africa Week’s final guest speaker was Carlo Matta, managing director of Optimum Asset Management. Matta shared his entrepreneurial journey to West Africa, where he developed high-value commercial properties in Ghana and Nigeria.
“One of the main takeaways I gleaned from Carlo’s presentation is that there are usually three ‘whys’, or reasons, behind every big decision,” Raoul said. “It is important to ask yourself ‘why’ again and again to get to the bottom and uncover your true motivations in making critical decisions. This is how you can test whether you are making a good decision.”
Other Africa Week events included First Coffee featuring coffees from Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia; an African wine and cuisine night featuring traditional Nigerian food and South African wines; a Black Panther screening event; and an African dance workshop on Friday afternoon to conclude the week’s events.
“I think Africa Week was a great success, particularly because this was the inaugural one,” said DABO member Asong Lekeaka (Class of 2019). “Our guest speakers were amazing and painted a picture of Africa that I felt was in line with my experience when I visit Cameroon. We discussed the challenges in Africa, but also the business opportunities that are present in those challenges. The theme woven throughout the events of the week was that there are vast opportunities in Africa and it is important that Africa remains on the radar of the Darden community.”
Lekeaka will serve as DABO’s president for the 2018 – 2019 academic year, and said he is looking forward to growing the organization.
“This year’s leadership did a remarkable job building the organization’s presence at Darden and I certainly look forward to planning next year’s Africa Week,” Lekeaka said. “My hope is that the conversation around African business and the promise of African economies becomes more integrated in discussions at Darden. I think that there was a lot of value in what was presented this year and my expectation is that next year would have even greater attendance and participation from the Darden community.”
DABO worked in partnership with other student organizations to sponsor the events, including Net Impact at Darden, Darden Wine and Cuisine Club, Black Business Student Association, Darden Technology Club and the Adam Smith Society, as well as Darden’s Office of Student Affairs, Center for Global Initiatives and Richard A. Mayo Center for Asset Management.