Ross hosts Africa business conference over weekend

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Samson Rapheal Osagie, the minority whip of the Federal House of Representatives of Nigera, speaks at the Ross Africa Business Conference on Friday . Buy this photo

By Stephanie Shenouda, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 8, 2013

It was the result of nearly a year of planning and a desire for community, and it was almost derailed entirely by the weather.

But people from around the world braved the snow to attend the first Ross Africa Business Conference Friday, where they engaged in panels, lectures and discussions.

The most anticipated event of the day included a visit from Samson Rapheal Osagie, the minority whip of the Federal House of Representatives of Nigera, who spoke on behalf of the Speaker of the House, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. During his keynote speech, he stressed the relevance of the continent as a business power — a far cry, he believes, from what is often portrayed in the media.

“Africa’s economy is one of the most resilient in the world,” Tambuwal said. “Africa is in a position to become the second fastest growing region in the world, and an increasingly attractive place for potential investors, and it could be even better by the end of the year.”

Rackham student Uzo Agusiobo, president of the Africa Business club, said this year the club wanted to have a larger presence and make a bigger impact within the business school.

“We basically wanted to bridge the gap between people who do business in Africa and Africans,” Agusiobo said. “We spent a lot of time networking, trying to get different people to come based on the theme of our conference.”

Agusiobo said the African community in the business school is tight-knit, which she attributes in part to the club’s efforts.

The event was successful, though only about 100 of the 150 registered guests were in attendance due to complications with the weather. She also said the club hopes to make this an annual event and will continue to inform people about the potential Africa has as a business power, as well as the options available for Africans studying business abroad.

Rackham student Wil Asumeng, the club's vice president of finance and corporate relations, said he was mainly involved in fundraising for the event.

“The focus of the event was to give presence to the African community, especially in the business school,” Asumeng said. “Even though it’s a young organization, we felt this was a good time to have a conference to give people from Africa the time to come and speak because usually people know very little about Africa outside of the media.”

Asumeng agreed that the turnout and interest level were “promising” for the group, and that the success of the event shows the potential for a thriving African community within the larger academic one.

Though most in attendance were graduate students, LSA freshman Eberechi Ogbuaku came out for the event at the recommendation of her African Studies advisor.

“I’m Nigerian myself, so when there’s a conference about Africans and trying to build community, that always interests me,” she said. “It’s something that needs to take place, so I was interested in hearing other people talk about how we can build that community stronger and energize it, as the conference’s goal is.”

Ogbuaku said she feels more informed, but that the time it will take to see actual progress being made is “frustrating.”

“It’s going to take time to see the actual growth happen, you have to do it in steps,” Ogbuaku said. “I’m definitely more interested in the business side than the law making side, but it’s not about pointing fingers, it’s about making progress as a united Africa.”