Our best estimates state that Africa is the last untapped frontier, as does the news coming from all around Africa. Attendees of the just concluded Africa Economic Forum mulled over how Africa can strengthen trade and investment, grapple with the demands for rapid ICT integration and other current issues facing Africa. The Forum (#cuaef) at Columbia University brought together students, academics, industry experts, and other representatives from across the continent, and the world. If the lively banter, earnest debate and the display of innovative approaches to working in Africa is anything to go by, we have the tools to do this for Africa.

This past Friday and Saturday (3/25-3/26), students and professionals from Africa and abroad attended the Columbia University with the theme “Roaring Giant: Africa’s Economic Ascent”. The keynotes were delivered by Dambisa Moyo, J. Kofi Bucknor, Danny Jordaan, Shantayanan Devarajan, Fola Adeola and Charles W. Brumskine.

The conference was opened by a prologue from Dr. Dambisa Moyo, economist and author of Dead Aid who urged the international community to stop the tide of money to stop promoting corruption and dependence particularly in African countries. This introduction was followed by the Afternoon Keynote, Shanta Devarajan of the World Bank, whose remarks gave a status report of the flow of capital through African economies and showed that the Bank is monitoring usage of the funds, and where leakage may be occurring. During the Q&A at this session, we met one of the panelists, transportation entrepreneur Asif Abdulla. who sparked a lively debate on the real cost of transporting goods in East Africa, where his company, Primefuels operates.

On day two of the conference, renewed interest in Africa was poignantly captured via Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. His moving tribute to the organization of the first ever World Cup in Africa, including the journey to selection of South Africa as the venue reminded the audience what a critical juncture the continent has reached. Charles Brumskine, Esq., Senator from Liberia addressed the noon gathering, highlighting key political issues affecting Liberia and Africa as a whole.

Later, J. Kofi Bucknor reminded the audience of the lifelong journey of seeking to grow opportunities in Africa, through his experiences since he left the University. Bucknor, was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award for his efforts that embodied the theme of the conference.

Africans and friends of Africa alike attended panels such as healthcare innovations, democracy and governance, India-Africa and France-Africa relations, entrepreneurship among others. The panelists reaffirmed the tremendous political, social and economic changes that Africa has experienced and how individuals and organizations can, and will continue to invest energy and resources in the continent in future.

The entertainment featured a Fashion Show and a Gala event. On Friday evening we were treated to a rare show of African designs from Kua Designs, Bot i Lam, Kenema and Co., Biribelle, Nkya, Kayobi Clothing (known for the “Make FUFU Not War” line, Koshie O. Designs. Saturday’s Gala featured a special dance at the AEF 2011 Gala, featuring ‘FELA! on Broadway’ lead vocalist Saycon Sengbloh.