Seeing an ‘Emergent Africa’


By Jonathan Treble, WG’10

With Africa poised for substantial growth in the next half-century, the 2008 Cape Town Global Alumni Forum was well timed. The weekend forum, which ran from June 26 to June 27, brought some of the world’s top minds on African business together around the theme of transformational leadership for an emergent Africa.

The prospects for African growth were detailed by Wharton Professor Jeremy Siegel in a special presentation. Among other indicators, Africa is projected to be home to 20% of the world’s population and will account for 7% of the world’s GDP by 2050.

“Many see Africa as the next frontier,” said Victor Petenkemani, WG’08. “I met many alumni, who are mostly working in Africa, in NGO and other high-profile industries such as private equities and hedge funds. All are bullish on career and development opportunities in Africa going forward.”

“Many of the alumni at the forum are involved in enterprises with huge possibilities, from consulting in Rwanda to mining in the Congo to telecommunications in Nigeria,” said Sir Paul Judge, WG’73, Alderman of London and executive of several enterprises. “Wharton already has a number of social enterprises on the continent and we had a particularly poignant presentation about how Wharton was using linear programming and financial skills to improve the supply of fertilizer to African farmers.” Wharton Professor Ian C. Macmillan, moderator of the panel on Societal Entrepreneurship, detailed how such projects were a more viable path to economic development.

Other diverse panels, representing what forum organizer Anthony Hamilton Russell, WG’90, proprietor of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, described as “an incredible concentration of African experience,” included Mining and Natural Resources, and The Impact of Sport on Societal Development.

Business leaders in attendance, in addition to Judge, included David Noko, Chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines; John J. Teeling, WG’69, Executive Chairman of African Diamonds, Dublin; J. Eric Wright, WG’92, Founder and CEO of Africa Venture Partners, and many others. Nearly a dozen Wharton professors attended, representing the Wharton faculty on each of the panels.

“The Forum signals that Wharton is serious about Africa. This is of tremendous importance in an era where the school competes with the likes of HBS, Stanford, and Kellogg for top African talent,” said Eric Kacou, WG’04, and managing director of the OTF Group, a venture-based firm focused on emerging economies.

 

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