ICYMI: Columbia University African Economic Forum 2017
Saturday, April 1st was the African Economic Forum. Without the huge banner of welcome at the front, a few might have left bewildered by the number of black people in one of the most prestigious Law Schools in the world. In that space, we were definitely not the minority.
Scores of people of color decked in dark tailored suits, brightly colored frocks, and African prints decked the halls all ready for a day of learning, networking, and conversation on the economic development of the African continent.
The opening keynote speech was by Adebola Williams who has been pegged as the man who helped the present President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari win the election with the power of social media. Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, author of Power Necklace, went in second.
There were a variety of panels on innovation, law, economy, and media. Many were spoilt for choice. Ayiba Magazine attended two panels: African Narratives and Women in Business.
Whoever curated the lineup for the African Narratives panel did an amazing job. They were a diverse set of speakers with respect to gender, ideologies, and medium of storytelling.
“I have spoken on many panels but this is the first where I am the only man on a panel,” Michael Rain, editor of Znewsletter, said on the diversity of the panel speakers. The panelists included Ayiba alum Amy Sall founder of SUNU, Nosarieme Garrick of My Africa Is, Karen Ruggles of Dream Africa, Lolade Olayokun of Batta Box, Michael Rain, co-founder of ZNews Africa, and award-winning author Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond. It was moderated by Timothyna Duncan of The Daily Mail.
The conversation centered on Africa narrative and how we can change the age-old story of a disease and poverty-ridden continent yet still show the realities of Africa. Nosarieme of My Africa Is, summed it up perfectly saying it will be irresponsible to tell stories of the continent without showing all sides just because it isn’t our reality.
Another topic discussion was on the diaspora. Did they have the right to tell the stories? “Yes,” Amy Sall said.
“Being in the diaspora is being part of the African Narrative.”
Things got a bit heavy during the conversation of appropriation. Mention Drake in a conversation on cultural appropriation and of course several opinions and think pieces show up. Lolade Olayokun of Batta Box was all for it as she believes it allows for recognition of our culture. Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond believed that the world is global and we have to be careful not to be the appropriation police.
Michael Rain said it best. “We have to retain the license of authenticity in regards to our culture.” That I believed summed up the entire discussion.
The main event was the keynote speech by Hakeem Belo-Osagie which was filled with gems: do’s and don’ts for aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to work in emerging markets. “In returning, the quality you should have is the willingness to be bold and not hesitate,” said Belo-Osagie. His message to attendees: “Think big, be bold, be daring.” And with those words, many left the event inspired and ready to do work.
I know I did.
Follow the hashtag for a recap. And special thanks to Asabe Vincent-Otiono who attended the event for Ayiba.