Atlantic Council and DAI showcased the strong business case for investment in African markets 

WASHINGTON, DECEMBER 15, 2023 – The Atlantic Council and global development company DAI convened experts and entrepreneurs for “AfriNEXT: a celebration of African creativity and innovation,” a daylong conference bringing together representatives from diverse industries to spotlight the important innovations underway in Africa—as well as collaborative solutions to some of the continent’s most pressing challenges. 

Through a mix of plenary sessions, keynotes, and panel discussions, AfriNEXT encouraged a conversation between a wide range of voices from the private sector, entrepreneurs, civil society, and creatives in addition to multilateral and governmental institutions. Industry leaders used their respective expertise to expand the discussion of development policy, thriving innovation, and the overall portrayal of the African economy. 

“We believe that Africa is the new frontier,” said Ambassador Rama Yade, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. “It is an opportune moment to refocus the narrative around Africa and emphasize the opportunities of working on the world’s youngest, most entrepreneurial continent, while sharing perspectives on what lies ahead.” 

The Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, in partnership with experts from across the Council, led AfriNEXT’s programming. Woven throughout were core themes that speak to the forces driving change across Africa, including the role of youth, rapidly evolving digital transformation, and climate change. Programming emphasized how Africa’s successes matter to the broader global community, and examined the implications of technological innovation, the continent’s bourgeoning creative industries, and the rising role of young small business owners, among other issues. 

Among the many highlights, Ahmed Al Qabany, senior climate change specialist with the World Bank, moderated a conversation on the 2023 United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP28) and an Africa-focused climate action and development agenda with Heather K. Lanigan, US Trade and Development Agency regional director for Sub-Saharan Africa, and Kaushik Ray, head of global strategy with Trinity International LLP. In the immediate aftermath of COP28, the conversation reflected on a path forward on the African continent for both the private and public sectors for renewable energy and cooperation with regional partners, among other topics. 

In a panel on advancing women’s leadership in Africa, experts Rebecca Harrison, chief executive officer and co-founder of African Management Institute; Anita Erskine, chief executive officer of Erskine Global Communications; and Betty Beenzu Chilonde, founder of Bulongo Incubator for Creative Skills, explored how women on the continent are leading in their communities at the grassroots level, as well as in the entrepreneurial space, and how to elevate those positions moving forward. 

In addition to the live programming, the conference also featured an offstage artist exhibit that highlighted the creativity and talent of Africa. Gayaha Links, a Rwandan handicraft company that emphasizes women’s economic empowerment through fair trade, provided Rwandan baskets featured onstage and in the artist exhibit. African Art Beats, a Washington, DC gallery of contemporary art featuring artists from Africa and the diaspora, provided several pieces to the artist exhibit. Tesslo, a fashion brand founded by Tessy Oliseh-Amaize in 2005 and based in Washington, D.C., provided three contemporary Africa-influenced clothing designs on display in the exhibit. 

Watch the full event here. For more information on the agenda and speakers, please visit the event page here.     

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