School of Oriental and African Studies played host to the 2nd Annual African Women In Business Conference – Women Of Influence last Friday, 13 July.

The day kicked off at 12noon with guests and speakers registering for the event and enjoying a light lunch and an opportunity to network with like-minded, entrepreneurial others.

Following lunch and networking, ladies filed into the lecture hall ready to be inspired by some inspirational ladies on stage. The first speaker, introduced by the host popular TV broadcaster & columnist Savahna Nightingale, was Baroness Oona King MP.

Savahna Nightingale

Baroness Oona King MP

Baroness King commenced her speech with a thought-provoking quote by Ethiopian Abe Gubegna:

Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.

Baroness King recounted her experiences as a woman and a mother of 3 working in the House of Commons as well as her time spent in Rwanda. While her experience in a school classroom in Rwanda looking at the preserved bodies of dead children, most with one leg missing (which she found out was to stop them from running while their parents were killed) was chilling, her hilarious account of having to rush a press release while ‘up to her ears in shit – literally’ as one of her children was suffering projectile diarrhea made working mums in the room smile knowing smiles.

Baroness King concluded by relating the fable to women in business: “If you are a black woman in business and you have children you better learn to run faster than the fastest lion!”

The next speaker Elsie Owusu OBE who introduced herself as an ‘African auntie’ was equally inspring – she did not offer any chilling accounts from wartorn countries or familiar stories of child rearing but her many architecture projects from London to Lagos to Accra and her most recent venture to provide ‘trade, not aid’ to Ghanaian miners and jewellery makers were truly inspiring.

Elsie Owusu OBE

Nyasha Gwatidzo

Nyasha Gwatidzo, founder of Banya and Vana Trust, the third speaker gave delegates her favourite tips on how to succeed in business. Perhaps one of the best was the poignant question, “Go for your passion. What makes you get up in the morning?” Equally empowering were the words “Cut loose from negative influences. Never give in, stay the course.”

Another stellar name was none other than Viola Ncube, founder of iRock and president of GHS (Global Hospitality Services) who not only shared tips on how to succeed in business as one of the handful of African women in the corporate world but spoke about the inspirational social enterprise helping mentor young ethnic minority women to succeed in business.

Viola Ncube

Other speakers included Carol Nyazika a personal branding specialist, Justina Mutale the founder & CEO of Positive Runway, and  international make up artist Eryca Freemantle closed the conference with a tribute to her mother.

Justina Mutale, Viola Ncube, Eryca Freemantle

Speakers and organisers


Following the cocktail hour which provided more networking opportunities, the attendees left the venue with inspiration or at least food for thought. Here at FAB we are already looking forward to next year’s event.

Makeba Boateng

Karine Laudort-Idonije and Washington Kapapiro

Lesly Dube

Bidemi Alabi and Washington Kapapiro of AAOE

Mutsa Mandizha, Viola Ncube, Haja Bally, Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo

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