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  • Notes from Columbia U’s 2010 Africa Economic Forum

    Posted April 1, 2010 By in Art, Books/Magazines, Business, Events, Fashion, Film/Television, General, Politics, Sports, Technology, Travel With | Comments Off on Notes from Columbia U’s 2010 Africa Economic Forum

    2010-AEF-Logo-300x223Last week I attended Columbia University’s annual African Economic Forum (AEF). The two-day conference was a diverse and insightful one with discussions ranging from Branding Africa to the growing, sometimes controversial China-Africa relationship. The organizers put together a great program with much discussion during and in-between panels. While I couldn’t attend the full program, I was able to participate in some great discussions with attendees and panelists in the Africa Arena. I’ve provided my notes from the discussions I was able to attend below. My notes cover a mixture of discussion topics and perspectives from the esteemed panelists and attendees. Please keep in mind that the notes below are portions of the hour plus long discussions from my perspective as an attendee. If you have any insight into any of the topics in my notes please feel free to comment. For clarification on any of the points in my notes please shoot me an email.

    ATTENDANCE NOTES:
    Panel: African Fashion Going Global
    Moderator: ZANDILE BLAY, Market Editor, Paper Magazine
    Panelists: OLUCHI, Supermodel and the Original Face of Africa; BUSIE MATSIKO, CEO and Co-Founder, Fashion Indie Media; AISHA OBUOBI, Designer & Founder, Christie Brown; MIMI PLANGE, Designer and Founder, Boudoir D’huîtres

    • Should Africans sell primarily to Africans?
    • African designers are more torn about designing Africa-inspired clothes vs. other western designers designing Africa-inspired clothes
    • Western designers are not limited or stigmatized when using African influences in designs
    • Should there be an African fashion capital? Some panelists say no
    • Is there a viable African consumer enough to support African fashion industry?
    • Designers don’t want to get pigeonholed as an ethnic designer; need room for growth
    • There is very limited support (i.e. factories, retail outlets) for African designers on the continent
    • Some panelists say African designers should focus on African consumers rather than targeting global consumers first
    • There is lack of business expertise among designers on the continent
    • Designers need to partner up with business professionals on the continent
    • Pricing African designs is tricky
    • Not too many Africans will pay high prices to support African designers
    • There are two types of African consumers: 1) those that travel and buy high-end western clothes 2) the locals who can’t afford couture and buy mass
    • It’s hard to produce on the continent particularly if you’re not doing mass production
    • Many African designers aspire to go to South Africa fashion week because it’s the top African continent fashion industry
    • Just like you don’t only have New Yorkers in New York Fashion week, South Africa’s Fashion Week has Africans from all over continent
    • African designers get inspiration from everywhere just like other designers
    • Some African designers are more drawn to cultural design than others

    Panel: Brand Africa – Defining a Continent
    Moderator: LOLA OGUNNAIKE, Entertainment Correspondent, CNN American Morning
    Panelists: FEMI AGBAYEWA, Director of Production, Real Livin Films; HELEN JENNINGS, Editor, ARISE Magazine; ROSALIND McLYMONT, Editor-in-Chief, The Network Journal; MARK WALTON, Executive Vice President of Sponsorship and Corporate Development, The Africa Channel

    • Mostly lazy journalists who cover Africa
    • Mainstream media is invested in negative African images so corporations can go ahead and extract resources without contest
    • Many NGO’s benefit from the negative images of Africa
    • “Born again Africans” in the USA were slow to embrace the Africa Channel
    • Peace Corp. types were 1st to embrace The Africa Channel
    • Focus on African stories helps cross-over appeal
    • Do channels have responsibility for positive Africa images?
    • We should be focused on Africa telling African stories
    • African storytellers should also create opportunity to cross-over to other audiences to get money to continue telling African stories
    • Bollywood didn’t cross-over initially, so African film industry shouldn’t focus on that; should rather nurture African audiences first for revenue
    • Make films true to the African communities and sell locally, to diaspora, and other interested communities
    • There was a forum discussion between Bollywood, Nollywood, Nigerian government and other interested parties in Nigeria recently on how to get images out globally
    • Nollywood movies are not shown on The Africa Channel because of lack of adherence to legal and copyright laws
    • There doesn’t need to be a single Africa brand leader
    • Obama is the ultimate African brand
    • World Cup is a big opportunity for brand Africa to push forward
    • South Africa has the world’s biggest non-unionized film crew
    • Do the best within your sphere of influence to further the African brand
    • Agitate! Africans don’t make themselves known for good or bad
    • African diaspora don’t usually exercise its influence
    • Consumers have to own the responsibility to change programming
    • Africans should video and upload their life stories to show world another view
    • There needs to be an Ad Council-type entity for African media
    • The Africa Travel Association and The Corporate Council of Africa have been doing a good job of furthering brand Africa
    • World Cup is “The Super Bowl” for Africa and should be treated as such
    • Industries can coordinate branding efforts once it’s solidified
    • African diaspora media should take leadership responsibility for re-branding Africa
    • There is need for good local African journalists because big media won’t invest in sending journalists to continent
    • When business and financial news is positive, big media will always take interest and cover
    • The Africa Channel is invested in original African produced content
    • Only four African countries currently spend money with the The Africa Channel
    • African countries would rather spend money on CNN who will only plop ads into mixed programming without effort

    Panel: African Hospitality – The Power Within
    Moderator: SCOTT SHUSTER
    Panelists: RUMIT MEHTA, CEO, Immersion Journeys; ANDREW MURPHY, CEO, Eco-Ghana; STHU ZUNGU, President, South Africa Tourism

    • South Africa Tourism did a lot of research to come up with brand ideals
    • Tourism is as significant to South Africa as gold industry
    • Bed and Breakfasts are mushrooming ahead of World Cup
    • Domestic and inter-regional tourism is important for any tourism in Africa
    • Travel is an investment in local culture
    • Eco-Ghana trained locals on how to structure tourism
    • Eco-Ghana is looking for Ghanaian investors
    • Eco-Ghana is focused on Ghanaian and Nigerian tourists
    • Company is looking to create first Ghanaian hospitality group
    • There needs to be infrastructure to enable diverse tourism destinations within African countries
    • With local travel comes promotion and dispelling myths
    • Wealthy Africans traveling within Africa can experience and communicate good brand images of continent to others
    • Infrastructure in domestic tourism needs to be established
    • Need education among Africans to bolster pride and ownership
    • Branding Africa tourism comes down to which countries have the most money to do so on behalf of particular regions/areas

    Summit: China – Africa Trade and Investment
    Moderator: DR. HARRY BROADMAN, Senior Vice President, Albright Stonebridge Group LLC & Chief Economist, Albright Capital Management LLC
    Panelists: JIAN-YE WANG, Chief Economist, China Export-Import Bank; REMI BELLO, Founder & Head of Research, B&M Consulting; ABIODUN (ABI) ADISA, Founder, Oridun Capital; DR. TOM DORSEY, Chief of the Strategy, Policy and Review Department, International Monetary Fund

    • South-South trade and investment is a global trend not just between Africa and China
    • How can Africa exploit Chinese investment?
    • Panelist Bello forecasted higher growth potential of African commodities in 2010 due to BRIC interest
    • In the past, Africa was affected by world economy decline, but today Africa continues to grow despite of it
    • South-South trade will take up more of world trade in next couple of years
    • Africa’s problem is investing too low; African governments invest too conservatively in infrastructure
    • Africa should look at China as a market; China is still growing
    • China needs local African partners to invest
    • Chinese provide finance and have influence with African governments
    • Chinese best practices are driven by local standards; they have a range of competencies
    • Poverty data is expensive and lacking in Africa
    • Better macroeconomic and other policies is helping sustainable growth
    • Many Africa deals are not documented widely
    • IMF published book “Building Bridges”
    • Many drawbacks of Chinese aid to Africa
    • Chinese aid is in form of loans not grants
    • Aid is below market rates
    • Aid is tied to procurement of Chinese goods
    • Countries should keep an eye on debt sustainability: ability for project to pay for itself
    • 90% of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa is still USA and EU based
    • Africa governments should make sure production is done in country to take advantage
    • Chinese are looking to set up local factories in Africa to alleviate manufacturing cost to China
    • Management of public finances are Chinese strong point
    • If Africa doesn’t invest in Africa then don’t expect others to
    • Africa can learn from China’s growth
    • China started from agriculture and so should African countries
    • Chinese invested in infrastructure, human capital, and primary education to spur domestic growth
    • Africa should invest in government processes and cutting red tape; less bureaucracy
    • African countries should trade with other emerging countries and within the continent
    • If African countries are going to borrow Chinese money, they should pay attention to how the money is spent
    • Africa needs independent cost/benefit analysis to make sure project loans are viable
    • Cleaning up bureaucracy will move projects forward faster
    • Africa governments should set up laws to make sure Chinese projects are using locals and track reporting of such practices
    • African Union should create Chinese production standard with reporting and tracking guidelines
    • African Union should monitor and regulate standards and quality
    • African governments need to strengthen regulations and consumer protection laws
    • African governments should pay attention to environmental effects; learn from China’s mistakes
    • African governments are still too closed to open investment and transparency; maybe because they are scared of past mishandling of public monies

    For more about the conference please visit the 7th Annual African Economic Forum (AEF) at Columbia University website.

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