May 27

Oxford Africa Conference reinforces Africa rising narrative

Africa is the second fastest growing region in the world. There are 465 companies in Africa each generating over $1billion in revenue per year. Technology is breaking down borders on the continent. There are numerous innovative tech start-ups offering pioneering solutions to healthcare, education, and business challenges.

These are just some of the insights from the Oxford Africa Conference held on 22 & 23 May of which Homecoming Revolution was the proud partner.

Organised by the long-established Oxford Africa Society in joint collaboration with the Oxford Africa Business Network, the conference is one of the largest and most globally recognised African conferences of its type.

This year’s conference focused on Africa as “A Continent on the Move: People, Politics and Business across borders”.

It tackled issues such as how businesses can succeed across borders; what the future of regional political integration in Africa looks like; the future of African migration, talent and entrepreneurship and what being an “African” means in times of increasing mobility and digitalisation.

Speakers included Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, Tony Elumelu, Chairman Heirs Holdings Vera Songwe, Country Director for Senegal, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, and Mauritania, World Bank, Acha Leke, Director McKinsey & Company, Taiye Selassie, Author, Photographer, and Filmmaker and Ashish Thakkar, CEO Mara Group.

Many of the conference’s delegates, speakers and panellists  returned to Africa after studying and working overseas. During a panel discussion entitled “Female diaspora -The meaning of learning abroad and coming back”, Frances Mensah-Williams (Chief Executive of Interims for Development Ltd. & Publisher of ReConnectAfrica) and Sneha Shah (MD Africa for Thomson Reuters) both talked passionately about the fantastic opportunities expats have to make a difference when returning to the continent, as well as the lifestyle benefits one can enjoy.

Williams suggested professionals keen on moving back should “consider their skills and research how they can be used”. Shah, who moved to Johannesburg from the USA, said she wanted to move to South Africa so that her children “could play outside and experience different social interactions and cultures”.

Shah’s final message was that Africans abroad can play a great role selling Africa all over the world and if they are considering returning, they should go for it, and jump on a plane!


Africa as a region offers the highest rate of return on investments, which explains why a record $4 billion was raised by private equity investors in 2014, up from $1.2 billion in 2013, according to Acha Leke.

With half of the world’s arable land, the continent will play a vital role feeding a rapidly growing global population, whilst its mineral wealth will literally provide the building blocks for future growth and development. Considering the incredible natural beauty and biodiversity across Africa, tourism also looks likely to continue building upon the impressive growth of recent years.

It is vital though to address skills shortages and develop infrastructure in order to ensure Africa continues to rise.

Several speakers, including President Mahama of Ghana, spoke of the need to increase regional trade. In Europe a staggering 70% of trade is regional in nature, whereas in Africa the figure currently stands at only 11%. This indicates how much work is still required to develop regional partnerships within Africa. The potential is huge.

Stronger relationships with neighbouring countries would undoubtedly lead to faster development and economic growth. What is more, many African companies are importing products and services at a high cost from far flung countries, when in some cases these are already available on the continent. Again, it is infrastructure, transport and communications that need to be developed, in order to build relationships and increase regional trade.

UK-based journalist Graham Du Plessis attended the conference on behalf of Homecoming Revolution.