IMPULSE TO INSPIRE
WRITTEN BY Luka Caratsch
I am always amazed by the incredible quantity of seminars, conferences and other events organized strictly by students at the University of St. Gallen. On any given rainy and foggy day, you will have the opportunity to join interesting talks, partake into captivating workshops or even simply enjoy a great party organized by one of the many associations present on campus. This level of engagement from our students is something that I truly cherish and that should be recognized and praised. This is partly why I’d like to talk a little bit more about one of those events; The Africa Summit, which will take place right before our own conference, within the next month. Another reason why I’d like bring up this Summit is because IGNITE has a strong relationship with the organisers and we are truly inspired by the message they are trying to spread.
Last year, during our own conference, we had the pleasure of being helped by many students of this university. One of those students, Christina Bovey, decided to pursue one of her dreams and to organize this Africa Summit. She joined the IGNITE crew during our last conference because she believed that Purpose-Driven Business is an idea that companies should strive for and she was very good at inspiring other students and getting them interested in what we were proposing, she also built a strong relation with some of our speakers and showed them that she was genuinely interested in what they were trying to convey. Apparently, she was also very motivated by the whole idea of trying to move people and to inspire them.
I had the chance of getting to talk to her to get some more insights on how the idea of organizing such a conference started and the purpose that drove her to do it:
How did you get the idea of talking about Africa?
Last summer I had the chance to visit Africa for the first time. Like everyone, before going there, was very much subject to the usual misconceptions about this continent and did not really know what to expect. However, during my stay there, I realized that there was actually a huge potential and that within a few years, this part of the world will be the place to be for businesses.
What happened then?
When I came back to Switzerland and to the University, it was the time of the Asia Days and I realized it was something that could also be done for Africa. Later on, I was talking with Gabriel (co-founder of IGNITE) about the success of their conference and I told him about my awesome experience in the African continent and my willingness to show people what I saw, to break the misconceived beliefs and stereotypes people still have about this amazing place.
What did this conversation bring to you and how did you get started?
He encouraged me to do the Africa Summit reminding me that IGNITE at the beginning was just an idea in the ether that has now materialized. He brought me in touch with Thomas Romelli which is a member of AIESEC St. Gallen and was gathering people interested in the African continent to organize this conference. We had the same goal and the same will to change people’s perspectives about the African continent. Particularly, we shared the intention of focusing on the incredible progress and many success stories that have been made over there, rather than on the challenges that they are facing.
What would you like to achieve with this conference?
First of all, we simply want to bring together all the people that want to know more about this continent, people that are genuinely curious about Africa. And then we also would like to show all the potential this part of the world has to offer. We want to break the common stereotypes which paints Africa as being simply poor, it is much more than that.
Since we are holding this event in a business-centred University, we also want to show that is possible to achieve great success and to do purposeful and sustainable business over there. Overall, we want to expose the fact that the African continent has a lot to offer to the world and that it shouldn’t be forgotten nor put aside.
I think that by now you understand what the theme of this conference will be and I can assure you that some of the speakers they managed to bring to Switzerland are really inspirational.
For instance, Desta Kebede, who graduated from the University of St. Gallen in 2015, founded a coffee cultivation and export business; the DDK Group Ltd. What is so special about his company is that he doesn’t simply aim at making profits or caring about the health of his finances, one of its main goals is to create great working conditions for its farmers in Ethiopia. A work environment where they have the opportunity to develop themselves. Adding to that, part of his yearly profits are directly going towards building schools and other essential infrastructures in Africa. Adding to that, he’s actually also supplying us with a lot of coffee for our IGNITE conference, so we are kind of obligated to like him!
All in all, this Africa Summit is yet another great example of what students and people in general can achieve with a little bit of motivation and a great purpose.
Go and register at their event on their website: http://www.africa-summit.ch/
Explaining consumption patterns, Mr. Loescher commented:
People are slow learners. I find it right and logic to do my bit. You don’t have to be an extremist, just dedicate some time to do the right thing. Change a little bit the trend of how you live. If you don’t do it, who will? Even environmentalists who know what should be done, don’t do it when it affects their purse. My motivation is not mere profit, so I put the effort in it and employ people to do it, although most businesses wouldn’t.
We would sell the same amount of beer if we didn’t treat the by-products. But it is logical: everything we have has been taken from the earth so we give back to the earth. The work you have to do is to change people, make them aware of environmental considerations. Some do it for marketing purposes, we do it simply because we think it’s normal. We don’t do marketing with that. We just offer a new specialty, with fibers that are really clean. But not as if it were a moral imperative to buy our new product. In addition when It comes to the beers or the chips people won’t by them because of their story. The products must sell on their own. This is why we do not mix our vision with the marketing".
When we asked him whether he was interested in coming to St.Gallen, Mr Loscher’s answer was direct:
“It wouldn’t make sense if what I told you did not change your consumption patterns. Come back in six months and tell me if you still buy the same products in your supermarkets!”