Africa Trek Makes Stops in Ghana and Ethiopia
By Hakeem Yusuff '13 | april, 2013, Issue 1
Chicago Booth students at the Ghana Parliament House, Accra, Ghana on Mar. 27 with Deputy Finance Minister and Booth alumnus, Hon. Kweku Ricketts-Hagan, EXP-10 (ninth from left) and Trade and Industry Minister Hon. Haruna Idrissu (MP) in native attire in the center.
(Photo by Bode Ajiboye '14)
The second annual Africa Trek organized by the Chicago Africa Business Group (CABG) was held March 22 - 29 with expansion and increased impact as its main improvements over last year's highly successful trek to South Africa and Kenya. This year's CABG Africa Trek made stops in Ghana and Ethiopia, on the West and East Coast of Africa, respectively. Led by second year CABG members, Edem Dzakpasu and Jack Namvou, there were thirty students on the trek.
"It is heartwarming to see the trek more than doubled in size in just one year," noted Dr. Besant Parker '13, who also joined the trek to South Africa last year.
It is believed that promising economic indicators in the region accounted for some of the increase in interest. Communicating with nationwide listeners, in prime time on Ghana's leading radio station, Joy FM, Edem Dzakpasu '13, encouraged bright Africans considering an MBA to see Chicago Booth as their number one destination and to consider the many benefits such a decision brings.
The trek provided trek participants with real life case studies on how to start or run a business in specific countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It also accentuated the importance of understanding the overarching implications of the prevailing macroeconomic framework in any individual sovereignty in the region as a critical determinant of potential returns on any investment in such an economy. For instance, at Ghana Home Loans (GHL), the nation's pioneering market leader in mortgage financing, trek participants met with the organization's CEO, Dominic Adu. Adu shared what he has learned so far about doing business in West Africa in his ten years covering the region for Actis Private Equity and taking GHL through its tremendous growth. GHL is the only privately owned mortgage company in Ghana with 65 employees.
"As a native Cameroonian, I was blown away myself by the positive economic changes in Ghana and Ethiopia as well as the tremendous business opportunities on the ground," says Alain Nono '13, one of the co-Chairs of the CABG.
The visit to the office of the vice president, His Excellence Amissah-Arthur provided trek participants with a rare glimpse into what the policy makers in Ghana consider top priorities. While stating that energy provision, infrastructural development and fostering an environment conducive for economic activities remain key to the government growth initiative, His Excellence also pointed out that the West African economic bloc should be doing its part in ensuring that foreign influx of goods does not pose fatal threats to the region's nascent manufacturing sector.
In addition, there were Chicago Booth fusion events in both Accra and Addis Ababa. These events brought together prospective applicants, newly admitted and current students, alumni and people in the extended Booth network in the general vicinity of both cities.
"These Booth Fusion events are truly a testament to where Booth has been on the continent of Africa and how vast its potential is to contributing to future growth on the continent," mentioned Robert Ahomka-Lindsay, EXP-5(2000).
The list of companies visited in Ghana included Ghana Home Loans, Tullow Oil, Kingdom Africa Management, EcoBank Ghana, SABMiller Accra Breweries, IFC Ghana, Millicom Ghana Limited (TiGo Ghana), IC Securities, Cargill Ghana, and Vestergaard Frandsen. Other visits included the U.S. Embassy, the Ghana Parliament, and the Flag House office of the Ghana's Vice President, H.E. Kwesi Amissah-Arthur. On the cultural side, the trek visited Kakum National Park where participants traversed the rainforest canopy in tandem on string bridges before moving on to tour the historic Elmina Castle on the Cape Coast.
In Ethiopia, the group visited Precise Consulting International, SouthWest Energy, InSight Solutions Advisory, and the U.S. Embassy. Cultural activities included a traditional Ethiopian dinner, tour of the city of Addis Ababa, and visits to Debre-Libanos, Blue Nile Gorge, Melka-Kunture, and Adadi Mariam.
Amongst other observations, "I was also impressed by the devout people, extremely delicious food and the beautiful untouched scenery of Ethiopia," stated Wendy Shi '14.
"The trek was a tremendous opportunity for Booth students to witness firsthand the changes taking place on the new economic frontier. Our hope is that Booth can institute a class that teaches about the economic realities of a particular African country (rotate every year), which would culminate with an experiential learning opportunity on the ground," reflected Jack Namvou '13.