KLI Contest Focuses On Africa Business

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[Business News]



The African story isn’t all upheaval and conflict even though those dominate International news headlines.


With strong commodity, fuel and mineral prices over the last few years, several African countries have seen robust income growth from exports.


Yet many African countries lack enabling environments for launching, incubating and growing new businesses. There are many opportunities for entrepreneurs that can identify the right markets to develop thriving businesses on the continent—that’s a message that Knox Lawrence International, LLC (KLI), a New York-based private equity firm wants to promote through its annual business plan contest.


The theme of the 2007 Inaugural Africa MBA Business Plan Competition was “Microfinance Applications in Sub-Saharan Africa,” and a four-person MBA team from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business edged out finalists from two other top programs –the Columbia Business School and the University of California’s Berkeley Haas School of Business — for the $10,000 top prize from KLI.


The idea isn’t only to generate more interest in doing business on the continent but to also identify feasible projects that can actually be financed by investors, the organizers say.


The Michigan team’s plan focused on the cultivation of Jatropha in Mozambique. Jatropha, touted in the industry as a hearty, drought resistant plant, has significant potential as an alternative energy source – otherwise known as bio-diesel.  


“This effort demonstrates our commitment to supporting entrepreneurship and business activity in the African market,” says Kenneth Globerman, a KLI Vice President and competition chair. “I look forward to using this success as a springboard into 2008’s Competition, making it even better than this past year.”


The Berkeley team went home with the $3,000 second prize while Columbia earned the $2,000 prize.


Nana Baffour, a KLI managing principal, says Africa is the “next frontier for high growth emerging market investments.” His colleague, Johnson Kachidza, KLI managing principal adds: “We believe innovative ideas will go a long way towards solving some of society's burning questions.”


KLI began its competition earlier in 2007 by targeting students who were in their second year in MBA programs at leading U.S. Business Schools and who were interested in Entrepreneurship, Emerging Markets, and Microfinance. Student teams from many schools submitted plans.


KLI intends to hold the competition annually.  Each year, the theme of the competition will consistently be Africa-focused, and it also will serve as a platform for the winners to implement their plan upon graduation.


Knox Lawrence International, LLC is a New York-based private equity firm focused on acquiring and growing middle market non-core subsidiaries of Fortune 500 and other large companies in sectors that are undergoing significant transitions, such as the utility sector.  Knox Lawrence focuses its investment activities in the following sectors: IT Services, Business Process Outsourcing and Energy Services.


This year’s announcement of the winners was made at New York University’s Stern School of Business Berkley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.



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