One of the highlights of the African Leadership Group’s annual Afrik Impact celebration is the Business and Economic Summit, where participants can learn of business opportunities and assistance available locally, as well as opportunities in Africa.
This year’s summit took place on Wednesday, August 11, and featured two panels and a keynote address.
The event also broke some meaningful news, especially for residents of Aurora.
Omar Montgomery, president of Aurora Chapter of the NAACP announced at the summit the establishment of an economic development center in Aurora. The new center will contain a business incubator, a wellness area, and offices people can reserve and use. “It is a fabulous space for the community and absolutely free of charge,” Montgomery said to enthusiastic applause.
Solomon Muwanga, chair of ALG’s Business and Economic Opportunity Committee put the summit in the context of ALG’s overall goals.
“Our objective and our mission is to put members of our community in a position where they can identify business and economic opportunities win markets, and also create jobs for themselves and the community,” Muwanga said. “The ultimate goal is to economically better our community as contributing members of the state of Colorado, and we do so in three major ways. We hold quarterly workshops and events such as this. We participate and partner in leadership programs with other communities. We also are tasked with identifying partnerships and sponsorship opportunities with different organizations.”
The first panel focused on business planning and current events in Colorado. Bill Tucker, a Certified Public Accountant with Hanson & Co. gave an overview of the vital functions CPAs perform and why businesses benefit from having CPAs as logistical and thought partners.
Wendy Lea, CEO of a new organization called Energize Colorado, said her aim is to help entrepreneurs succeed by “catalyzing change in a very difficult time.” Energize Colorado created to help people out of what she called “the hairball we’ve been in for the past 16th months (of Covid-19).” But, she stressed, her organization does not limit itself to Covid response, but rather focuses on “a long play for the state’s business sector.” Resilience is key, she said.
Keynote speaker Eric Osei-Assibey, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Ghana, shifted the focus to Africa, and why entrepreneurs in Colorado should turn their attention to that continent.
“Africa presents enormous opportunities for businesses here in Colorado,” he said. Healthcare, infrastructure and education challenges endemic to the continent present unprecedented business growth opportunities, he said.
The second panel also featured two presenters. First up was Megan Peiffer Director of the Global Trade Activator Immigrant Program at the World Trade Center of Denver. Her program provides personalized support to immigrants who want to start an import-export business or grow one. It provides training on import-export, business development, legal structuring, and financial plan development. It also offers mentor and coaching programs. Membership costs $100 per year, with scholarships available.
The second speaker, via Zoom from Paris, was Alioune Ndiaye, an essayist and lecturer on African political economy and international relations. Ndiaye said he attended the first Afrik Impact in 2015, when it was a one-day event. He said the growth of the event and of ALG has been a heartening sign about Colorado’s openness and inclusion. “There are really bright days ahead for ALG and the whole community,” he said.
Ndiaye focused his presentation on answering a fundamental question: Why are there missed business opportunities between the U.S. and Africa? While Americans often view Africa as unstable and risky, it has, in fact, experienced steady economic growth over the past decade. African GDP growth is higher than the world average, and there is a great spirit of social innovation especially among youth and women.
This is also a rapidly growing middle class market, he said. Yet there is significantly more trade with China and India than with the U.S. This can and should change, he said.