There is no day that goes without receiving an invitation or hearing of a new conference on Africa.
As a matter of fact the African edition of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is hosting its first conference in Abuja, Nigeria and believe me that is not a coincidence. The last WEF in Cape Town had 16 heads of states and Government attend. The World Economic Forum is the undoubted leader in this field and brings its prestige and klout to the table.
There is an Africa oriented event taking place every day across the continent and beyond its borders from The Africa CEO Forum in Zurich by the African Development Bank to the Africa Business Summit organised by the London Business school and all the major International Business schools such as Harvard,Wharton,Cambridge and Oxford now have a flagship Africa focused business event to cater to the 200,000 students who leave Africa each year to study abroad with London School of Economics joining their ranks with their Inaugural event that had his Excellency John D Mahama the president of Ghana as the Keynote speaker.
Tech is not left out
One of the most notable tech focused conferences in this space is Mobile West Africa which takes place May 13 – 16 in Lagos Nigeria. Some incredible changes driving this wave of high interest is the growth of mobile adoption and its uses across the continent. This was widely evident in Nigeria this week as the campaigners to rescue the abducted girls in Northern Nigeria took to social media and specifically to twitter using the now infamous #BringBackOurGirls hash tag and most of the traffic was coming from Mobile handsets.
One of the Largest yearly event is AfricaComs which is a 3 day bonanza attended by over 8000+ organised by Informa which also hosts other regional events.
The TED brand has also seen a great number of interest from those seeking a piece of this pie, from TEDX Kibera to TEDx Soweto and beyond such as TEDX Euston which is one worth a mention at this stage due to the calibre of the speakers that they have been able to attract and their ability to bring together the African Diaspora to tackle various issues. Other high profile events with a high price tag to match such as the New York Forum organised by Attias and Associates and Milken Institute gathering have become another gathering of African and International business leaders and Policy makers.
The Africa Venture Capital Association has just concluded their 11th Annual conference in Lagos Nigeria which was entitled Private equity: a catalyst for change. From its humble beginnings in 2003, AVCA has held conferences in Cameroon, Morocco, Kenya, Senegal, Botswana, Ghana and South Africa attracting over 400 delegates from over 30 countries globally. We can’t talk about tech events and forget to mention DEMO Africa which was launched in 2012 and has seen a fantastic growth and tremendous interest both in terms of attendees and sponsors.
The business of conference
The conference business is not very different from the evangelical church movement that we have seen taking Africa by storm over the last 15 years; they are both selling inspiration and creating fantastic networking opportunities. One thing I have learned from being part of this industry is that it is a true meritocracy: history is full of examples of people whose lives have been changed because somebody that they met at a conference or an executive who came across a product/service at a conference and that led to a company getting a substantial contract or getting acquired.
The conference Africa Inc is a big business and we need to see more African brands becoming major players in this market because it is a multibillion dollar market that will continue to grow for at least the next 20 years as the African economy grows in more leaps and bounds.
So let’s embrace home-grown projects such as The Nigeria Symposium for Young & Emerging Leaders organised by the Future Project and expand them across Africa. We can certainly agree to disagree that Africa is Rising but rest assured that everyone is talking about Africa and we need to be part of that conversation.
[Photo Credit: Africa Union]