The Association of Students of African Heritage (ASAH) from the Erasmus University (Rotterdam, Netherlands) did it again with the African Business Day this year. The theme: the African dream. In 2015, almost ten years following its creation, ASAH launched the African Business Day (ABD) in order to be more business oriented and have a steady event that puts ASAH in relief. It is a yearly event that gathers several speakers who are involved in a business settled in Africa or linked to it. So far, there were 3 editions of it, and this one was the 4th. It is at the 9th and at the 11th floors of the Rotterdam Science Tower that the event took place. The first part gave place to workshops, followed by a coffee pause, the speaker’s session, and a dinner.
Part I: ABD 2018 – Workshops
O.S.E.R. L’Afrique could follow the one of MoveMeBack, with its founder, Charles Sekwalor, also called Chale, who presented the company, its activities and led a very interactive session for more than 1 hour and a half. The attendants were coming from different African countries (Somalia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco…) but also from European countries such as the Netherlands and France.
The debate raised several questions: why moving back to Africa? What is holding you from moving back there? What are you going to start doing to move back?
To answer those, Charles firstly presented several supportive information regarding some sectors such as the banking sector, agricultural, food-business sectors and health sectors among others where there are multiple opportunities to seize.
Then, the participants could explain what is holding them back through their personal experiences. Some quoted that confidence and trust in the system in some countries, political issues, technology development,etc. hinder them in their willingness to go back to Africa. Others explained why the short-term thinking mentality was the main issue for them to go back as there is often a cultural shock between the diaspora and the local inhabitants, and how they dealt with managing their rejection.
The solutions proposed? For instance, create stronger institutions to eliminate corruption, when going back, create a community of professionals that have the same mindset, build trust, etc. According to Charles, « the diaspora has the potential to almost be the bridge, the translator » between Africa and the rest of the world, another important thing is to get prepared for « bad days » as there are always challenges.
Part II: ABD 2018 – Speakers’ session
For the speakers’ session hosted by , 4 of the speakers were from Nigerian roots (Minna Salami, Obinna Ukwuani, Taofick Okoya and Ada Osakwe) and one speaker was from Cameroonian roots (Tonjé Bakang Tonje).
Minna Salami: « My African dream is a stable, progressive, wise, decolonized and socially democratic Africa where women and men coexist equally ».
Minna is a Finnish-Nigerian writer, feminist blogger, and social commentator. She is the owner and author of the award-winning website, MsAfropolitan. Minna started her speech with the sorry is her naming ceremony that was done according to Yoruba customs and drew a comparison between that ceremony and the ASAH event that day. She intends to decolonize minds in Africa and encourage Africans to think critically. The comparison was made between the American dream and the African dream. We consume the American dream every day through TV shows, food, clothes…Her vision of the African Dream envisions through a different cultural revolution that will be the one from Africans. Culture must have a leading position in society. To illustrate that she underlines that it has not been done enough, and that is one of the reasons why the movie « Black Panther » was so successful. There is a need to reinforce culture and its roots among Africans.
As a final word: « Envisioning and naming the African dream is an act of highest social political and economic order ».
Obinna Ukwuani: « My African dream is of an Africa where every young person has access to an education that equips them with skills to be productive as a global citizen, education that expands their mind and develops within them a boundless imagination, and the freedom to pursue whatever ambitions they have that will create value for themselves, their family, and society at large. »
Obinna is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, Cambridge, United States), graduate. He is an entrepreneur and an educator. He was born in the United States and went back to his African roots, in Nigeria to fulfil his African dream. There, he opened Africa’s first STEM in 2012 (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) campus in Nigeria while he was just out of the MIT, and later in Rwanda. He started with a Robotic boot camp, to teach students how to code, build robots, teach them leadership. Several years after they finished their program, the kids who could attend it are still writing letters to him to testify of the change of their life thanks to his program.
It was then followed by the Makers Academy to be a genuine school, permanent to follow what he did with the boot camp. Obinna could raise USD 50,000 for that project that defines his willingness to change the face of education in Nigeria. He wants the kids to develop skills at an early age, i.e. by the age of 12 so that they have a base as early as possible just like people such as Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.
Taofick Okoya provides tailored services to companies since 2001 with Finco Solutions Ltd, and he is the creator of The Queens of Africa dolls (Nigeria). « My African dream is to use the Queens of Africa project as a tool to empower the African Girl Child through play […]. The Queens of Africa project celebrates being an African girl in the 21st century by drawing on the strength and achievements of African women who have excelled above societal limitations and serves as an inspiration to today’s generation of African girls. Representation indeed matters! ».
In 2009, the focus of his company changed because of an event linked to his daughter. At 3 year-old she asked him « what colour am I? ». Taofick knew his daughter knew the answer. So he decided to change things for her and his journey started thanks to that question. His project opened his eyes on his direct environnement, on Africans, especially women. « Representation matters« , that is the motto of the Queens of Africa brand. At the nuclear level, Taofick wanted to make his daughter feel confident as an African and as a girl so that she can grow and think she can become who she wants to be, have a sense of identity. We understand that it contributes to the growth and development of people cultural appreciation at the global of the continent as well, especially for women so that they can have a better self-appreciation.
Ada Osakwe is the Chief Executive of Agrolay Ventures, an investment firm dedicated to growing the agricultural and food sector in Africa: « My African dream, really, my African conviction, is that Africa’s youths will emerge to be the transformational force that lead to the Continent’s revival. That their energy and zeal for positive impact will permeate across all regions, creating a new cadre of leadership that is committed to making Africa a better place for all Africans ».
Her company is an investment and advisory firm focusing on early-stage agribusiness companies. Involved in food-business and in agribusiness, Ada delivered a tremendous speech on her journey as an entrepreneur in Nigeria. She underlined how having better marketing could change the vision we have of our products. She deplores the fact that so many of our food products are still imported in Africa (tomato sauces, some other vegetables, ananas, palm oil…) while we can produce them locally because we have the natural, human and business-oriented resources for that. Ada wants the food to be locally produced and intends to open more shops all around Africa. One of her advice was to focus on marketing, packaging, so that the consumers are more driven to buy the products. We understand that it requires an effort that traders can do to higher their standards. According to her « we (Africans) need to be relevant » and to add value to be competitive on the food market.
It has not always been easy for her as her first shop in that industry was closed by the national authorities and it took her roughly 6 months to re-open another one, and today, it is rolling thanks to her determination and hard work.
« My African Dream is of a continent where the youth should be able to think « entrepreneurially ». How to solve big problems with limited resources, how to think innovatively, how to form and lead teams, and how to dream big ».
Tonjé was one of the first partners of O.S.E.R. L’ Afrique during our crowdfunding in 2016 which enabled us to open our innovative space O’BOTAMA this year 2018.
Tonjé is an incredible entrepreneur who cares about his people as he says himself. For his Afrostream project, his inspiration was coming from common people. He started very young at the age of 16, by producing stories. He was inspired by stories, books he had at home, and also by other things he saw around him. His idea was to give role-models to his people, such as black doctors or lawyers for instance. He created his own company at 18 without a degree, and that was the best school for entrepreneurship according to him. Even if in his journey he was most of the time the youngest person in events where he went to meet potential partners or investors, he was able to network, show his drive but also his vulnerability in order to convince people. On his journey, he was led to travel in Asia where he understood that locals consume the visuals, TV productions from their geographical area. It was a convincing step for him to build a streaming service featuring « black » stories, i.e. from Africa, the U.S.A., Caribbean, with content for all publics. Another feature of Tonjé’s speech was to give advice on how to reach people when you have a project and « how to be nice…express your ideas ».
As a final word, this edition was a blast :).
Thank you to
The team O.S.E.R. L’Afrique