With the theme ‘Crisis as a Catalyst for Change’, the event explores how chaos can propel the world forward by challenging ‘business as usual’, and how business can harness the moment to generate positive social change. Participants will examine the African landscape specifically, discussing how to embrace and overcome the complexities of doing business on the continent.
“Doing business in Africa is not the same as doing business in, say, Europe and North America, or even large parts of Asia,” says Salma Zacharia, MBA candidate at the UCT GSB and Chairperson of the Africa Business Club. “It’s a principle that we take to heart, and what we hope to do with the conference is to understand how businesses are navigating the pressures and thriving anyway.”
The line-up of speakers and themes covers a spectrum of concerns, showcases and successes. In her opening address, Dr Catherine Duggan will make an argument for ‘Business as a Force for Good and Africa’s Future’. Among the guest speakers is Wendy Thuir-Muir of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, who will look at economic inclusion for women and youth in Africa. MBA graduate Joel Bauer of Citra Development and Construction will take delegates through the company’s rolling out of affordable eHomes in South Africa and elsewhere. Ruth Tabbu of global logistics company Maersk will speak about how to unlock opportunity and growth through innovation and integration.
According to Tabbu, Covid-19 was a painful reminder for businesses to be prepared for life’s unknowns. Especially in Africa, where the impacts of lockdowns were perhaps even more severe than in wealthier economies. “Businesses always have to be ready for external shocks,” says Tabbu. “They must build resilience and agility into the way they operate.”
Underpinning the theme with robust research, Claire Barnardo, Manager of the UCT GSB’s Case Writing Centre, will introduce two African-focused cases. “Cases are an incredible tool,” says Barnardo. “They help students engage with real-life business dilemmas and problems.”
One of the event’s highlights will be an interview with UCT GSB alumna Esther Hoogstad, CEO and founder of Enlabeler, an innovative tech start-up that is meeting a global need for high-quality datasets while also targeting skills gaps and the problem of youth unemployment in South Africa. In a recent press release, Statistics South Africa put unemployment at nearly 64% for young people aged 15-24, and an equally troubling 42% for those aged 25-34.
“I think there is a wide consensus that in Africa we face challenges on a scale that other parts of the world would be paralysed by,” says Zacharia, pointing out how South African entrepreneurs continually adapt and innovate amid a shifting landscape. “We can teach the rest of the world about how to build a business within the most challenging of contexts,” she says.
The 2nd Annual Africa Business Conference will take place in a hybrid format allowing individuals to attend either online or in person. For more information, click here.