Pauline Koelbl-MujawamariyaDuring the days of America’s westward expansion, those seeking riches were urged to go west. In the 21st Century the best advice may be to head in the other direction: go east, to Africa.

“A lot of people know Africa as a poor continent. Actually, it’s not true … Africa is a rich continent” in resources and opportunity, Pauline Koelbl-Mujawamariya said, co-founder of Professional Women of African Heritage. “We can debate about why Africa happens to have a lot of poor people living there. There’s a difference between being a poor continent and having poor people.”

Koelbl-Mujawamariya who recently spoke with a Broad College GBL 460: International Business Law and Sustainability class, said it is important to keep in mind “that Africa is so rich, is a young continent and has all of the ingredients” to be the next rising economic powerhouse — like China and India before it — giving the next generation of business leaders a chance to make a difference.

“If you want to engage in Africa there are so many new opportunities. The narrative is changing … it’s about Africa being treated as a true partner,” she said. “Unlike here, there are many things that still need to be created, so if you are creative and innovative you have a good place to play, increasing your chances to be impactful but also to make money.”

Paulette Stenzel, professor in the Department of Finance, said she hoped Koelbl-Mujawamariya’s visit would give Stenzel’s students “an understanding about Africa, an understanding about the importance of the continent, the realization that they know so very little about it.”

“Africa is an area of the world we have so ignored and yet as our guest speaker said, it’s filled with natural resources. We have discounted the perspective of people there, our fellow human beings, who are very much part of our world community,” Stenzel said. “As we tackle the world’s problems, whether they are climate change or the extinction of habitats, extinction of species, we have to consider all of the continents, not just developed continents like Europe and North America.”

Africa will provide not only opportunity but competition for tomorrow’s business people. Turning rivals into partners will benefit all.

“Anyone who’s graduating today and going out to create their own job or find a job in a corporation won’t necessarily be competing only with local people. They’ll be competing with people of talent globally,” Koelbl-Mujawamariya said. “Going into this corporate world having an open mind where they know that some competitors coming from Africa actually could bring this (global) perspective to them. It brings them an asset.”

“There are so many things happening outside of the U.S., and it can only enrich you if you try to understand what’s happening outside (of America) because when you are more competitive you bring more to the table,” Koelbl-Mujawamariya said. “Diversity and inclusiveness is the new game when it comes to business.”

Koelbl-Mujawamariya’s full presentation can be watched on YouTube.