Our History

Launched in 2004, the Africa Economic Forum (AEF), formerly the African Economic Forum, is the largest Africa-focused event at Columbia University, and is a student-led collaboration between Columbia Business School, the Law School and School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). 


Over the years, AEF has been an occasion for top business executives, thought leaders and politicians to discuss key topics affecting the continent, while providing a rich learning and networking experience for both speakers and attendees alike. 


Several prominent African leaders have flocked to its New York campus in the past seventeen years, from Heads of States, Central Bank Governors, CEOs of the continent’s largest firms to philanthropists, groundbreaking entrepreneurs and some of the region’s greatest innovators. 


AEF has been designed to provide a platform for meaningful engagement and thought-provoking discussions among students, faculty, professionals and members of the Columbia community. 


The last seventeen years have been nothing short of exceptional, and the organizing committee endeavors each year to uphold the vision that underpins the event: one of creativity, commitment to an interdisciplinary approach, and belief in having African voices showcasing African narratives. 


Since the Forum’s founding, AEF has played host to a broad range of expert speakers, including:

  • Amina J. Mohammed – UN Deputy Secretary-General

  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – Director-General of the World Trade Organization

  • H.E. Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia – Vice President, Republic of Ghana

  • Arikana Chihombori-Quao – Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United States of America

  • Dambisa Moyo – Economist and Author of Dead Aid

  • Raila Odinga – Former Prime Minister of Kenya

  • Arnold Ekpe – CEO, Ecobank

  • Tony Elumelu – Chairman, United Bank for Africa

  • Lamido Sanusi – Former Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria

  • Arunma Oteh – Director-General, Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria

  • Shantayanan Devarajan – Chief Economist, World Bank

  • Fola Adeola – Co-Founder, Guaranty Trust Bank

  • Jian-Ye Wang – Chief Economist, China EXIM Bank

  • Alex Otti – Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank

  • Mostafa Terrab – Chairman and CEO, Groupe OCP