Oxford Africa Conference


Oxford Africa Conference


The Oxford Africa Conference is Europe’s largest, student-driven interdisciplinary conference on Africa matters. The conference brings together heads of state, policymakers, business leaders, academics, artists, students, and professionals to critically discuss African discourse. In its seventh year running, the conference provides a vibrant platform for new thinking around a global Africa across all disciplines – politics, society, business, technology, and academia; connecting intergenerational leaders from around the world to shape an integrated and innovative perspective on Africa’s future.

The 2016 Oxford Africa Conference

From the 20th– 21st of May 2016, for nearly 400 speakers, delegates, sponsors, partners, and innovators from the continent, the Oxford Africa Conference provided two days of spirited conversation, networking opportunities, and deep engagement with various African narratives on governance, youth leadership, business, and sociocultural issues.

The discussions took place in some of Oxford’s most iconic venues, including the world’s oldest debating union, the Oxford Union, were youth leadership in Africa was discussed by representatives from the Higherlife Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) alumni, and Oxford students of African descent.

Key messages were delivered by the likes of Obiageli Ezekwesili who emphasized the importance of holding African governments accountable. We heard from Elsie Kanza, the World Economic Forum Africa Lead, enlightening the audience about the relationship and tradeoffs between democracy and economic growth.

At Oxford’s new and iconic Blavatnik School of Government, Anas Anas, a journalist, lawyer, and anti corruption activist spoke about democratic accountability; while Arnold Ekpe discussed the interdependence of business and investment, and its importance to Africa’s growth. Mckinsey director, Safradou Yeboah spoke about the abundance of opportunities for those looking to solve Africa’s greatest problems and deliver real value. There was also robust debate around mother tongue instructions in African schools and the benefits of establishing a reading culture amongst young people to promote better learning outcomes.

The Impact

Among the delegates were 15 studentfrom across the UK sponsored by the Higherlife Foundation,and hosted in Oxford by members of the Oxford University Africa Society.

The 15 students had the opportunity to network and engage with prominent leaders from government, business, civil society, and the arts. The conference was broadcast to 50 different locations on the continent through live streaming, and thanks to the Higherlife Foundation’s sponsorship, created multiple, simultaneous conversations on these and other important issues beyond Oxford’s campus.

The Innovation Fair

The Innovation Fair brought 11 early-stage social enterprises from across the continent that were selected based on the positive impact they were delivering in their communities. Innovation fair participants included the following sectors;education, social justice, public health, water access, renewable energy, and women’s empowerment startups.

The young people leading these startups were flown to Oxford for four days for entrepreneurship workshops, increased global exposure for their ideas, and the opportunity to compete for £2,000 to further their impact. Mark Neild, chairman of Grow Movement, an award winning charity that coaches African entrepreneurs to grow profits and create employment, and David Kayondo, founder of Goldswans, a start-up boutique firm specializing in advisory, investment and enterprise work, facilitated the entrepreneurship workshops and helped the innovators prepare their pitches.

At the end of the conference, the winning enterprise was Soular, the startup that produces the Soular Backpack, enabling children in energy-deficient rural areas in Africa to study efficiently through the night without the use, cost, and health effects of carcinogenic kerosene lamps. SalimaVisram, the young Kenyan woman behind Soular, has since been profiled by Forbes and ABC News, and has garnered support to start production of the backpack in Kenya from internationally acclaimed actors such as LupitaNyong’o.

The Mentorship Program

A key outcome from the conference was the announcement of the Higherlife Foundation and Oxford University Africa Society mentorship initiative. The mentorship initiative is a tool to equip young leaders under Higherlife Foundation’s support with the knowledge and skills to become global citizens who will impact their communities and nations. As young people working in various setups throughout the world, there are others that have gone before them and their experiences are valuable in transforming the mind-set of young people, particularly those coming from high risk or marginalised communities. Higherlife Foundation has demonstrated its commitment to mentoring young people through the Young & Dynamic (Y&D) platform.Through this partnership, Higherlife Foundation will scale up the efforts to extend its reach and quality of the mentorship.

The Oxford University Africa Society has since provided speakers on Saturdays for the Y&Dplatform covering the following topics: leading in social enterprise, identifying and navigating opportunities for postgraduate study, the role of STEM education, robotics and engineering for Africa’s future, gender and feminism, legal education, and public health. Many of these sessions have invited incisive comments and questions from our mentors’ student audience and this is something thathopefully continues. A calendar is in place and is being developed until the end of May, 2017, while the one-on-one and group mentoring phase of the program is finalised.


The Higherlife Foundation's continued support of the conference and its partnership with the Africa Society are pivotal to our success and our ability to extend our impact beyond Oxford's campus. We have accomplished quite a lot since establishing the partnership with the foundation...

- RutendoChigora
President, Oxford University Africa Society
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Tsitsi Masiyiwa’s work has been featured in a number of international blogs and publications.

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