This past weekend I had the privilege of participating on a panel discussion at the fourth annual African Diaspora Investment Symposium (ADIS) in Mountain View, CA. Most people have probably seen similar panel discussions but perhaps have not participated in one. I have done a handful of these discussions in the past but until last weekend they were all related to high tech. For example, early in my career, I was on a “10 Gigabit Ethernet Experts” panel when I served on the board of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance.
The panel was titled, “Investment Climate in Africa: Current and Future Outlook“, with a moderator and three panelists that presented a diverse set of viewpoints. The moderator had considerable investment experience with African startups, one panelist had decades of experience advising African clients, and another was a native Liberian (West African country) who had served for 8 years in the Liberian government and has considerable US corporate experience. And finally, there was me. I was invited to participate because I run US-Africa Housing Finance (USAHF), an investment fund that provides an innovative finance solution for African diaspora buyers to purchase homes in West Africa.
Pre-planning for the panel was minimal which in my experience is quite normal. I have been on panels where the pre-planning consisted of a 10-minute huddle just before we were to go on stage. By contrast, for this panel we had a one-hour conference call a couple of weeks before so each of us could introduce ourselves and present areas we could credibly discuss. In addition, each of us submitted three questions to the moderator which we would be prepared to answer. The moderator could then begin the discussion with one of these prepared questions or sprinkle them in as the discussion progressed.
I represented the entrepreneurial voice on the panel, as I had a direct and current experience which I could relate to the audience. The premise of USAHF is also reasonably unique and thus tends to grab people’s attention, because they have likely not heard of such a venture before in the African context. For this reason, I think the moderator chose to kickoff with me describing USAHF, followed by a series of questions which consumed the first 14 minutes of the panel. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had taken up nearly 25% of the one-hour discussion before anyone else even got a chance to talk! If you want to see and hear me “drone on” about USAHF for 14 mins, click on the video below —