IE Africa Club, the prestigious IE Business School’s student body organization representing African students, hosted its 6th Africa Day Conference on May the 25th in Madrid. In this interview with the club’s president, Victor Muo, he tells us more about the club and why Africa Day is very important.
- How does the Club promote African culture in Spain?
The Africa Club organizes different types of events at IE that are focused on promoting African culture. One of our most significant event is the Africa Day Conference. This event gives us the chance to highlight the achievements and opportunities in Africa. We also take part at IE Global Village, an annual event where the School’s diversity is celebrated through food and performances from various countries. This year, seven African countries participated with food from Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania. It was a very colourful event with students dressed in their traditional attire. We also brought Djembe drummers and dancers to perform on behalf of Africa and they did a fantastic job in thrilling the crowd.
In addition, we host various parties on campus that showcase African culture in a fun and entertaining way. We hosted an African party to celebrate the Independence Day of three African countries and an African Food Competition to portray the rich quality of African food. Furthermore, we host conferences for African dignitaries who visit Madrid, the most recent one being the Minister of Health for Zanzibar.
- There is quite a disconnect between the realities on ground in Africa, and what western media portrays of the continent, how do you think the club can work with media platforms to change the narrative?
I totally agree that we are unfairly represented by the western media and I touched on this during my opening remarks at the Africa Day Conference. The truth is we should not expect that to change, rather we Africans must take it upon ourselves to promote our image in a positive light. This is the reason behind choosing Digital Africa as the theme for this year’s Conference. We wanted to change the way people think about Africa and highlight the digital revolution in Africa, which is one of the biggest positives coming out of the continent.
The Club is always looking to partner with media platforms to promote the African agenda, which is why we partnered with Africa-OnTheRise.com, winner of the World Summit Awards for Digital Innovation and Best Blog in Africa at the 2016 African Blogger Awards. We will continue to invite media platforms to our events to give Africa more favourable international exposure.
- The club has organized the Africa Day Conference 6 times now, what was different about the one you just conducted?
The Africa Day Conference has always been a big event at IE, with notable speakers, dignitaries, and students from other business schools in attendance. Every year, the event keeps getting better and this year we took it to another level.
Firstly, we hosted the event for the first time on the 25th of May, which is Africa Day globally. This helped us to create awareness of this important date when the African Union (AU) was formed, as many people are not aware of this celebration. Secondly, almost all our speakers live and work in Africa and are part of the digital revolution on the continent. This was a bit different from previous events where most of the speakers live in Europe but their work focuses on Africa.
We also got some famous speakers who have received international recognition. Our keynote speaker, Austin Okere, Founder of Computer Warehouse Group Plc, is a member of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Innovation and Intrapreneurship. Another speaker, Tonje Bakang, Founder of Afrostream, was recently recognized as one of the top 100 most influential People of African Descent under 40 by the UN.
Finally, we received good support from our sponsors and partners in making the event a huge success. For example, one of our sponsors, Uber, offered discounts to the public for their trips to and from the event.
- How does the Africa Day Conference in Madrid impact the young Africans on the continent? How is it relevant for them?
The Africa Day Conference was streamed live over the internet giving people all around the world the opportunity to watch it. This should impact young Africans as they learn and benefit from the rich discussions we had with our speakers. Hopefully, in the next edition, we will also allow them to ask questions at the conference through social media.
The conference should also boost confidence in African youth as the event was organized by young African students at one of the best business schools in the world. Watching the conference should also give young Africans pride in their African identity and affirm their belief that the African narrative is changing, both at home and on the global stage.
- What can be done to make Africa Day much more engaging and impactful, especially for those back on the continent who do not really see a reason to commemorate the day?
It is important that we commemorate Africa Day to recognize the efforts of our founding fathers who fought hard for freedom from European colonial powers and came together to form the AU. Today, only 6 out of the 54 countries in Africa celebrate Africa Day as a public holiday. People love public holidays and making Africa Day a public holiday in more African countries will create more awareness of the day and give people a chance to reflect on the continent’s achievements. We should also teach our children the importance of the day so that history is not lost on them.
- What is the most significant thing about Africa Day that you would like every African to recognize and embrace dearly?
Simply that Africa is rising and our time is now. The potential of the digital revolution to transform the continent is massive. Africa is already leading the way in Fintech and M-PESA has become a reference point for mobile payments around the world. Also, 4 of the 10 fastest growing countries in the world are in Africa. We should be proud of our achievements so far knowing where we are coming from, and look to the future with high hopes.
- As President of the IE Africa Club in Madrid, what is the biggest challenge you have to deal with, and how are you able to overcome it?
The biggest challenge I face is having to balance the demands of studying for my MBA program and running the Africa Club. The MBA program at IE Business School runs for 11 months, making it very rigorous. Organizing the activities of the Africa Club is like a full-time job as there are many tasks and stakeholders involved. Combining both worlds makes for a very challenging, albeit highly rewarding experience.
There are a few things that enable me to overcome this challenge. I work with a fantastic team of coordinators at the Club who are all dedicated to promoting the African agenda. Our team spirit is very high making it easier for things to get done on time. We are always proactive and do not leave things to “African time”.
Being in this role also requires strong time management skills to prioritize tasks as it can get overwhelming at times. It also requires good foresight to be able to anticipate what could go wrong with the events that are being planned.
Finally, after a long period of working hard, I enjoy taking breaks by travelling around Spain or neighbouring countries. This allows me to refresh and come back stronger to take the Club to greater heights.