Gearing up for the Inaugural U.S. Business in Africa Awards, Johannesburg, October 28-29

Plans for the inaugural U.S. Business in Africa Awards scheduled for late October are in high gear. Working with multiple partners, the African Centre for the Study of the U.S. (ACSUS) at the University of the Witwatersrand has put together a wide-ranging program of activities for this ground-breaking initiative.

The highly anticipated awards ceremony on October 28 at the Hilton Hotel in Johannesburg kicks off a series of activities. The ceremony has been designed as an evening dinner with 350 guests representing industry, government agencies, multilateral agencies, and academia in attendance. This will be the climax of nearly three years of meticulous planning by a multi-sectoral Governing Board.  Stakeholders include the U.S. mission in South Africa, the US Commercial Service (Sub Saharan Africa and North Africa), the U.S. Africa Business Center of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce SA, and the Corporate Council on Africa among others.

Broadly, the awards ceremony will honor and celebrate U.S. businesses making impactful contributions to African economies. Crucially, the celebration component of the initiative has an in-build research, case study and corporate ambassadorship dimension which will be unveiled during the late October events.

By the end of August, over 20 U.S. businesses had been shortlisted after either self-nominating or being nominated. From the pool of the shortlisted business, winning businesses will clinch bronze, silver, gold, and platinum prizes categorized into large and medium U.S. businesses. Currently, a panel of five eminent personalities judges is sifting through and evaluating the submissions to determine the winners. In the large U.S. business category, the competition has narrowed down to six businesses namely, Coca-Cola Africa, Flutterwave Inc, Kimberly-Clark of South Africa, Alistair Group, Discovery/Vitality Global, and Massmart. Contestants through to the final stage in the medium-sized business category are, Honeywell, NBA Africa and Fayus Nigeria Limited.

Moderated by Michael Sudarkasa, CEO of the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership, and a founding member of the competitive project, the initiative is garnering an increasing number of confirmed speakers and participants. The initiative’s founding Governing Board members will be present to first annual edition of the awards. They include, Dr Mima Nedelcovych, Chairman of AfricaGlobal Schaffer, a leading Washington DC and Baton Rouge, LA-based advisory and project development firm with a long and extensive footprint in Africa. Nedelcovych’s counterpart, Prof Bhekinkosi Moyo brings in academic and research perspectives. Moyo is founder of the Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI) at the Wits Business School, a pioneering entity focused on studying and researching African philanthropy and responsible corporate practices.

Adam Clayton Powell III, who doubles up as Co-chair of the Advisory Board of the African Centre for the Study of the US at Wits, will represent the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.   

The second set of activities will be convened on October 29 at the Wits Business School will comprise a conference on “U.S. Doing Business in Africa”. A session on the topic of “Opportunities for U.S. Businesses in Africa” will be headlined by professors Paul Clyde and Fred Olayele. Clyde is President of the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan while Olayele is a professor at the Carleton University.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance is becoming a critical tool through which to access capital. Leading the session on ESG’s will be the Johannesburg-based policy and governance organization, Good Governance Africa, led by its CEO Mr Chris Maroleng.

Often, cultural and language competences are neglected by businesses operating in Africa with the consequence of costly misunderstandings and misperceptions. In a workshop-style session sponsored by Howard University’s Center for African Studies and School of Business, the importance of these issues as avenues for overcoming entry and operational barriers will be unpacked with a view to infusing language and culture into business strategies and practices . The session will be moderated by Dr Wheeler Winstead, Assistant Director, Center for African Studies, Howard University.

A major session of the conference will revolve around the understanding of the role of U.S. government agencies in facilitating the investment and operation of U.S. businesses in Africa. Equally important will be the session on research and case studies on excelling Africa-U.S. businesses in Africa with partner schools of business leading the way.Professor Jean Wells from the Howard Business School will contribute thoughts on diaspora-inclined research and case studies while Professor Paul Clyde will provide case study models used at the University of Michigan.Examples of case of case study development will be brought into the discussion by Wits University’s Centre for Case Studies.

A limited number of slots are left for those interested in attending the awards ceremony and the conference. For further information, visit https://usbusinessinafricaawards.com/, and for media information, contact Prince Mudau (prince.mudau@wits.ac.za); Enoch Sithole (enock.sithole@wits.ac.za), Amukelani Matsilele (Amukelani.matsilele@wits.ac.za).

The author is Deputy Director at the African Centre for the Study of the US and Secretary to the U.S. Business in Africa Awards, bob.wekesa@wits.ac.za

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