Erika Amoako-Agyei is passionate about Africa. She consults corporations wishing to expand to the continent and encourages college students to consider careers there.
As executive director and founder of Africa Intercultural Consulting, Amoako-Agyei often lives out of a suitcase. Her job may take her to Houston, where she advises oil companies with a presence in Africa, and then, perhaps, to an academic setting, such as the Sam M. Walton College of Business, where she recently taught a class titled Conducting Business in Africa.
For the business course, which included both graduate and undergraduate students, she used the same model that she applies in the corporate world. She discussed the importance of building relationships in Africa and, as the main assignment, had students come up with socially responsible business plans for African nations that are sustainable and “uplift the community.”
They looked at the issues the continent faces, such as the need for preventative health care, jobs and skills training for a population mostly under the age of 25 and the need for improved infrastructure, running water and better roads. Amoako-Agyei hopes this inspires students to consider a career involving Africa, “or when they work for a company, to keep Africa in mind as a viable investment destination,” she says.
“Sub-Saharan Africa is still the second fastest growing region in the world, growing at a rate of about 6.5 percent, but the masses of people have yet to feel the growth and experience the prosperity,” she says. “The continent certainly has its share of problems, but there are real stories of a growing middle class.”
Based in Glendale, Arizona, with many family members still in Ghana, Amoako-Agyei visits Africa often and has lived and worked professionally in six African countries while working in various management and consulting roles, including several years with the IBM Corporation. Her work has been the subject of feature stories by Money and Western Africa magazines as well as National Public Radio.
While in Africa, Amoako-Agyei noticed much environmental damage caused by oil companies and the need to improve how resources are extracted. “We can have all the resources in the ground, but if we don’t have the expertise to extract them, we’re worth nothing,” she says.
The observation led her to consult with oil and mining industries, and others as well, in promoting cross-cultural management, communications, teaming and socially responsible business practices. “I like to steer companies that will benefit the masses,” she says.
Amoako-Agyei says she came to the University of Arkansas to teach at the invitation of Dr. David Douglas, Walton College information systems professor, whom she met through a Ph.D. program aimed at getting more minorities involved with the sciences. She describes her visits to the Walton College as “fascinating” and sees a role where the University of Arkansas’ presence could be felt in Africa.
It’s quite likely that Amoako-Agyei will be walking down the hallways of the Walton College in the near future. She says she plans to return as she continues to promote an exchange between Africa and the University of Arkansas. “My passion comes from my love for Africa,” she says.