2015 marks the 12th Annual African Economic Forum at Columbia University to be held on April 10th and 11th. It has become an event that African scholars and students in the United States anticipate as a conference that delivers innovative and progressive solutions to African problems. This year’s theme is “Build Africa: Beyond Potential” aimed at investigating Africa’s bright future. They intend to do this by providing a platform for interested parties to facilitate open an honest discourse on Africa’s growth story. Above and beyond this they specifically focus on how to make the growth story more inclusive. Additionally this year will be extra special because for the first time since inception there will be a pitch competition that will see participants work on a real business issue in Africa. This will give them (the participants) an opportunity to transcend their knowledge and skills to current on-going problems on the continent for a chance to win a cash prize of $2,000.
Africa, infrastructure stands as a foundation for economic development, improvement of quality of life and drawing in foreign direct investment. It is central to sustainable growth and without it Africa can realistically go nowhere, this is why you see most African governments contracting the Chinese to build every road under the sun. Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy currently only has 28,980 kilometres of paved road, compared to 163,220 kilometres of unpaved road. This is a major obstacle to delivering products and services on the ground as well as taking them to the global stage. It is for this specific reason that governments should not be the only ones tasked with developing their country’s infrastructure; the private sector needs to get involved. Fittingly, this is the centrepiece of the challenge: What new financing methods can local banks use to help facilitate the private sector’s mobilization of capital to help solve the infrastructure problem?
The rules of the challenge are as follows:
- Enter as teams of up to 5 people, comprised of undergraduate and graduate students only.
- Responses to the challenge should be delivered as a 10-page deck, submitted no later than midnight, March 22nd, 2015.
- All submissions will be reviewed by the AEF Case Challenge Judging Committee, which will consist of representatives from the partnering company, industry experts, academics and members of the AEF Committee.
- Advancement to the next round will be based on the relevance of the content and ideas, the originality and feasibility of the recommendation, and the clarity of presentation.
- The 3 finalists will be announced by 27 March, 2015 and invited to present their proposals at the Columbia University African Economic Forum on 11 April, 2015 in New York.
The popularity of pitching competitions has undoubtedly increased with the rise of Africa. Angel and investor networks see them as a practical way to filter innovative ideas and help them to progress into real profit-generating businesses. This African Economic Forum does that and so much more because of its ‘real-impact’ element.
For all those interested, do not let this amazing opportunity pass you by! Register your team here by March 27nd 2015 and we wish you all the best of luck.