Penn State Smeal MBA student organizes inaugural forum on African business

The inaugural Smeal Africa Business Forum, led by first-year Penn State Smeal MBA student Judith Egbas, was held in the Business Building Atrium on the University Park campus last month to educate attendees on the growing business opportunities in African countries.

“I wanted to create an event where people could learn about African business,” said Egbas, who hails from Nigeria. “I came up with the idea after attending the Diwali event, which is an opportunity for MBA students to learn more about Indian culture.”

About 70 people from across the University attended the forum, which included a keynote talk from Caterpillar’s Bill Lane ’75 Accounting, a panel discussion, and networking, dinner and entertainment.

Caterpillar has a strong presence in Africa, according to Egbas, and is developing its strategy there. Lane serves as the company’s Washington director for governmental affairs. He is also co-president of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and co-chair of the U.S. Andean Free Trade Coalition.

“What people often forget about Africa is that there is a huge number of cultures and languages, and businesses have to be able to tailor their goods and their marketing to each of those segments.”

-- Judith Egbas, class of 2015, Penn State Smeal MBA Program

Lane’s keynote talk, along with the following panel discussion, touched on both the opportunities and risks in the expanding African market.

Some of the opportunities, Egbas explained, include the increase in literacy across the continent as well as the ubiquity of technology.

“There has been a lot of investment into African business as well,” said Egbas. “A lot of educated Africans are going back to Africa to invest in businesses there.”

In addition, the continent includes several of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Egbas says, however, that it’s important for people to remember that Africa includes a wide swath of cultures across the continent.

“What people often forget about Africa is that there is a huge number of cultures and languages, and businesses have to be able to tailor their goods and their marketing to each of those segments,” said Egbas.

Some of the biggest growth industries in Africa right now, says Egbas, include telecommunications and technology, including a move toward more mobile phones and internet infrastructure; mining; oil and gas; and agriculture.

Egbas hopes to continue the Smeal Africa Business Forum next year.

Egbas partnered with the Black Graduate Students Association and the Forum on Black Affairs to provide the programming for the Smeal Africa Business Forum. The event’s sponsors included the African Studies Program, Caterpillar, Penn State Global Programs, the College of Arts and Architecture’s Office of Multicultural Programs, the Office for Educational Equity and Smeal’s Diversity Enhancement Programs.

About the Penn State Smeal MBA Program
The internationally ranked residential Penn State Smeal MBA Program positions students from around the world for their future careers. The two-year program, based on the University Park campus, begins with a focus on business fundamentals. Through summer internships with top companies and concentration opportunities in areas such as finance, marketing, and supply chain management, students then personalize their Smeal MBA experiences to align with their career aspirations. Learn more at

About Diversity Enhancement at Smeal
The Smeal College of Business is committed to encouraging a sense of community that welcomes, celebrates, and promotes diversity among all of its members. Through a number of services and opportunities, the college works with incoming, current, and international students to enrich the academic experience and to connect them with our many corporate partners. For more information on diversity enhancement efforts at Smeal, visit

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Last Updated May 14, 2014