Monday, March 7, 2016

Rahama Wright Kicks Off Doing Business in Africa Series

Rahama Wright, CEO of Shea Yeleen and current appointee to the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, came to Yale Law School on February 29, 2016 to kick off the “Doing Business in Africa” speaker series. The conversation was organized by the Yale Africa Law and Policy Association in conjunction with the Doing Business in Africa: Law & Policy reading group.

Wright talked to a group of law and business students about her path from State Department intern to becoming founder and CEO of Shea Yeleen International, a company producing high-quality, unrefined shea butter products from Ghana sold in U.S. retailers such as Whole Foods Market. Wright highlighted the challenges American businesses like Shea Yeleen face when operating in African countries. She spoke about the legal and regulatory hurdles she faced in establishing both the non-profit and for profit arms of Shea Yeleen and obtaining financing to grow the business. Touching on one of the themes of the speaker series, Wright shed light on the positive impact that trade agreements between the United States and African countries have had on her business’s efforts. In particular, she stressed the ease of accessing benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Despite her company’s success, including being selected as a national leader by O, Oprah Magazine, Wright stressed the greatest value of her work: its impact on the women shea producers in Ghana. As a result of the company’s efforts, “the women are earning eight times the amount they previously earned,” she said, allowing them to put money towards “food, education for their families, savings, and disposable income for other purchases.” Wright concluded the discussion by soliciting suggestions on how the U.S. government can make working on business and investment issues in Africa more appealing for law students eager to support business and policy in African countries.

The Doing Business in Africa speaker series is a semester-long series that exposes the broader law school community to topical issues affecting the practice of law, policy, and business in Africa. The series will bring speakers from the U.S. government, African governments, the private sector, and academia to explore issues surrounding business in Africa. The Africa Law and Policy Association (ALPA) is a student group designed to foster academic and practical engagement with policy and legal issues related to Africa. In addition to hosting speakers, ALPA organizes law student dialogues, connects students to professional opportunities, and coordinates events with other organization throughout Yale University.