“Economic and social entrepreneurship in Africa is one of the most robust and fastest growing areas of interest at Harvard University and beyond,” says Oppenheimer Faculty Director of the Harvard University Center for African Studies, Professor Caroline Elkins.
The Center is the exclusive Academic Sponsor of the African Leadership Network’s 2015 Annual Gathering in Marrakech, Morocco, and launched its innovative and path-breaking African Entrepreneurship Program this year. Professor Elkins said, “The Program incubates innovative ideas, integrates entrepreneurship into the classrooms and study abroad programs, offers direct mentorship and internship opportunities for students, and cultivates collaborative opportunities for the production and execution of game-changing ideas.”
“The Center’s African Entrepreneurship Program is the focal point at Harvard University for initiatives centering on economic and social entrepreneurship in Africa,” said the Center’s Executive Director, Susan Cook. “In the past year, the Center helped launch the first African entrepreneurship course in Harvard College, which brought in over a dozen leading entrepreneurs.”
Over the past year, the Center has supported a wide range of initiatives, including Harvard Business School’s Immersive Field Courses in Africa, developing a course entitled “Africa: Building Cities,” which will explore how best to attract and deploy private capital and expertise in the context of rapid urbanization and resource scarcity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Center mentored and funded over twenty professional school students who traveled to Cameroon to meet with government and business leaders and host a youth entrepreneurship summit in Douala. The Center is also funding a three-year studio on urbanization and innovation by David Adjaye at the Graduate School of Design.
In addition, the Center has extensively funded student projects with an African entrepreneurial focus. Sue Cook highlighted the dramatic impact of the Entrepreneurship Program: “Dozens of Harvard graduates have launched social and economic entrepreneurship initiatives, and earned accolades ranging from Rhodes Scholarships to selection as a Forbes 30 Most Promising Entrepreneurs in Africa.” In addition, the Center funded the Clean Water Ideathon convened by Harvard Business School student Sangu Delle’s non-profit CleanAcwa, a “hackathon” style competition that drew nearly 100 participants, with the winning team presenting its innovation at CleanAcwa’s Clean Water Summit in Ghana.
The Center for African Studies also sponsors major conferences and networking events, both at Harvard and in Africa. In 2015, the Center again sponsored the annual Africa Business Conference at Harvard Business School. “The Africa Business Conference is the largest conference of its kind in the world,” said Sue Cook. The conference theme was “A More Inclusive Africa: The Pursuit of Progress for All,” featuring a keynote address by Fred Swaniker, founder of the African Leadership Network. The Center was also the lead sponsor and ongoing mentor for Harvard’s Africa Development Conference, which featured Mr. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger, as a keynote speaker.
“Looking ahead, the Center’s African Entrepreneurship Program will continue its leading role in facilitating initiatives on campus and in Africa,” said Sue Cook. “We have a wide range of projects in the pipeline, including an ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ program, a lecture series, and a global mentoring network. The possibilities are endless, and the importance of entrepreneurship in Africa cannot be overstated.” The Center’s partnership with the African Leadership Network is one of its flagship initiatives, emphasized Professor Elkins, and one that the Center sees as central to its goal of fostering African entrepreneurship. “We are thrilled to partner with the African Leadership Network, and look forward to presenting our panel on African Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century at the Annual Gathering.”