Johannesburg Set for the Inaugural U.S. Business in Africa Awards and Conference

After nearly three years of conceptualization and planning, the African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, South Africa is set to unveil the inaugural U.S. Business in Africa Awards this week.

The key activities are an awards ceremony at the Sandton Hilton Hotel on October 28, followed by a full day conference on the theme of “U.S. Businesses Doing Well by Doing Good in Africa” at the Wits Business School on October 29.

Moderated by U.S. Business in Africa Awards program director, Michael Sudarkasa, who is also the CEO of African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership, the gala dinner will see to six U.S. businesses being awarded and recognized for the excellence in Africa across financial, economic, social and governance performance. Guests include, Vincent (Vinny) Spera, U.S. Consul General in Johannesburg; Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice Chancellor, Wits University; Ayodele Odusola, Resident Representative, United Nations Development Programme, South Africa; Dr Mima Nedelcovych, Co-chair, U.S. Business in Africa Awards, Chairman, AfricaGlobal Schaffer and founder of the Corporate Council on Africa; and Bhekinkosi Moyo, USBAA Governing Board Co-chair, Director Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment.

Prize presentations

Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze awards will be presented to the winning business by, among others, Adam Clayton Powell III, representing, the Marshall Business School, University of Southern California; Maurice Radebe, Director, and Head, Wits Business School; Moeletsi Mbeki, co-chair of the Centre’s advisory board; Nyimpini Mabunda, CEO, General Electric Southern Africa, and Chair of the U.S.-South Africa Business Council; Cynthia Griffin, Minister Counselor U.S. Commercial Service, Sub Saharan Africa; and Michelle Constant, CEO, American Chamber of Commerce, South Africa. The head of the awards’ judging panel will be on hand to explain how the businesses garnered points to emerge as winners. The finalist companies which stand a chance to win the various prize categories are, in no order of evaluation: Massmart, Alistair, Kimberly Clark, Flutterwave, Coca Cola, Fayus, and Honeywell.

Continental trade, AGOA and the UN

The conference on October 29, will be moderated by Milford Soko, professor of international business at the Wits School of Business. Kicking off the deliberations will be a session on the linkages between the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Various statistics show that Africa’s contribution to global trade is negligible. Against this background, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) provide an opportunity to enhance Africa’s participation in global trade. The session will discuss how the U.S. government and U.S. businesses support Africa in implementing these mega policies? Moderated by Mima Nedelcovych, this session will see to “big idea” presentations byGeorge Auma Kararach, Lead Economist, African Development Bank; Ayodele Odusola, Resident Representative, United Nations Development Programme, South Africa, and Michael Sudarkasa, CEO, Governing Board Member, USBAA, CEO, African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership. Winning U.S. businesses will provide perspectives on how their investments and operations help move Africa and the U.S. towards productive economic engagements.

Opportunities in Africa and the U.S.

The second session will focus on the opportunities for U.S. Businesses in Africa. The session devolves from the fact thatAfrica is acknowledged a s a new frontier for investments, endowed with rich mineral and natural resources and human capital. Chaired by Michele Ruiters, a senior lecturer at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, the session includes presentations by Paul Clyde, President of the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan and Ezekiel Odiogo, Head of Private Sector Investment at the African Development Bank. Winning U.S. businesses that have mustered opportunities and those looking to mine the potential will provide tangible trade and investment examples. Flipping the coin, Adam Clayton Powell of University of Southern California’s Business School and Nelima Sitati Munene, representing the Minnesota Africa United will discuss opportunities for African business in the U.S.

Environmental, Social and Governance

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance is becoming a critical tool through which to access capital. ESG may yet prove to be a market-disciplining tool that incentivises firms to internalise the cost of traditional negative externalities and minimise risks that have too often been overlooked in the extractives industries and beyond. The session will be moderated Joyce Cacho, Independent Board Director/NED, Sunrise Banks will  have as speakers,Chris Maroleng, Chief Executive Officer, Good Governance Africa, and Paul Mukoki, a financial manager at Wits University, and Ms Zingisa Motloba, CEO Alchemy. U.S. businesses that won awards based on the stellar ESG performance will provide perspectives on what it takes to be a well-governed firm.

Language and culture

Cultural and Language Competences for U.S. business in Africa is often a neglected input in the suit of entry and sustenance strategies. Yet, businesses that fail to recognize the fundamental importance of culture set themselves up for many difficulties. In this workshop-style session, Wheeler Winstead, Assistant Director, Center for African Studies, Howard University will lay the ground for greater infusion of culture into business. The session includes Bob Wekesa, deputy director at the African Centre for the Study of the U.S. andPhilip Molefe, Board Chair, Market Theatre (Johannesburg), Member of the Visitors Board at Howard University. This session will also include winning businesses who have demonstrated cultural alignment in their business operations.

Looking ahead

The conference will conclude with the launch of a corporate ambassadorship and case study project as key components of the U.S. Business in Africa Awards. The session will be moderated by Bhekinkosi Moyo, Director, Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment at Wits University. The roadmap for case studies on excelling businesses will be presented by Paul Clyde, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan; Jean Wells, Associate Professor, Howard University, School of Business, Department of Accounting & Business Law; Claire Beswick, Case Centre Manager, Wits Business School. The corporate ambassadorship program leading to the 2023 edition of the U.S. Business in Africa Awards will be presented by Bob Wekesa and Allen Mutono, the former focusing on various public engagement activities, the latter laying out a golf tournament series.

Individuals interested in participating in these activities can reach out to Prince Mudau via prince.mudau@wits.ac.za

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