The National Black MBA Association explores future business in West Africa.
Of all the takeaways from last year’s annual conference of the National Black MBA Association, a connection made at an entrepreneurism workshop proved to be particularly valuable for a number of members, and for the organization itself.
A former mayor of Accra, the capital of Ghana, was attending the event along with a delegation of Ghanaian business professionals. “His experience was so favorable that he said, ‘I really want you to bring your organization [to Ghana]. I’ll find sponsors on my end to defray some of the costs,’” recalls NBMBAA president and CEO Jesse Tyson.
“He made a compelling argument, and in doing our own due diligence, we found that Ghana’s economy is growing and modernizing, and it’s medium-size, so it’s not overwhelming. It’s growing in sectors that we see and understand here: telecom, tech, infrastructure, and housing development. It looks like the U.S., just on a smaller scale. It felt like a sweet spot for our first international mission,” says Tyson.
This past February, 65 members spent five days there exploring investment opportunities and learning about Ghanaian business practices, culture, and traditions. They met members of parliament, heard presentations from business leaders, and toured the Niche Cocoa Industry LTD factory, owned by a long-time NBMBAA member.
The association’s charge is not just to educate members, but also to help them find actual business prospects. In Ghana, much of the opportunity lies in helping to scale local businesses so they can export their products or in investing directly so they can grow to the next level locally. One example that mission participants saw of this was at a tree farm, which needs an investor to help increase its capacity so that it can feed timber into the hungry housing construction market.
Many participants have told Tyson that they intend to pursue investment deals in the country, and NBMBAA is planning more missions, either to Ghana or to other African nations with similar economies. “The real question,” he says, “is can we as an association respond fast enough to manage their appetite?”