Originally posted on Huffington Post.
One year ago this week, I left a comfortable senior position at the investment bank, Goldman Sachs, to follow a dream. I re-launched Africa.com, the website that I had kept shuttered for a decade. I made the announcement on the pages of my own website, but amplified my voice by posting the announcement on the Huffington Post as well.
Today, I feel like shouting: Women Online Rock!
Last month, I cheered when Arianna Huffington and former Black Entertainment Television co-founder Sheila Johnson announced plans to collaborate on a new “channel” aimed at the African-American audience, HuffPost GlobalBlack. I especially applaud the focus on “global” black content, given the importance of Africa as an increasingly significant economic and cultural force in the 21st century.
But this week, I am even more thrilled to learn that Arianna has parlayed her passion and $1 million investment into a $315 million sale to AOL, and that this true online visionary will control the editorial content of the newly created Huffington Post Media Group.
The Huffington Post deal symbolizes several things. First, it means the marketplace places genuine value in an online media property that has only recently become profitable. Second, it validates that there can be a bright future for online advertising, despite the fact that traditional content providers — newspapers and magazines — are facing larger than ever financial pressure. And thirdly, this is a tremendous shot in the arm for feminism, for online content and an online community curated by — and potentially even for — a female sensibility.
Social media experts are touting their belief that women’s power will increase in the current Age of Information. AOL’s decision to bet heavily on one woman, Arianna Huffington, validates my decision to bet heavily on Africa.com.
During the past 12 months, my goal for Africa.com has remained consistent: to change the way the world engages with Africa and to be the platform for that change. I have commuted back and forth from the United States to the African continent, meeting with scores of business and political leaders. Today, I am even more convinced that this is the right time to help my adopted home, South Africa, and the other 52 countries seize the future and use the most popular medium of today, the internet, to get their messages across.
Africa.com’s growth has been phenomenal.
• Last month, we scored over three million pageviews from almost one million users, the majority from the United States and Europe
• Africa.com has climbed to the second spot on Google for the search term “Africa,” second only to Wikipedia.
• We have developed quality content including blogs from the former president of Nigeria, several U.S. ambassadors to various African countries, and content partnerships with thought leaders like McKinsey & Co. and the Council on Foreign Relations.
• We published the first ever, comprehensive guide to museums in all 53 African countries
The Africa.com story rivals the explosion of interest in the continent overall. I had expected some of this growth. When we launched a year ago, I knew that the FIFA World Cup and the Time/Fortune/CNN Global Forum would generate global interest in South Africa. But those events in June 2010 were just the opening salvo.
During the third week in September 2010, a number of positive events occurred.
In New York, the United Nations General Assembly met, bringing heads of state from around the world together. Also in New York, the Millennium Development Goals were reviewed. Across town, the Clinton Global Initiative unveiled 300 new commitments, and in the presence of President Obama and philanthropist Bill Gates, former President Bill Clinton described how $63 billion has improved the lives of nearly 300 million people in more than 170 countries.
In the hubbub, four other announcements were little noticed:
1. Coca Cola announced plans to double its investment in Africa to $12 billion over the next ten years. At the Clinton Global Initiative, CEO Muhtar Kent touted his company’s investment in further production and distribution throughout the continent. And he noted that Coca-Cola is Africa’s largest employer.
2. Wal-Mart announced plans to buy into Massmart, an African retailer with 290 stores, at a $4 billion valuation.
3. IBM and the Indian telcom giant, BhartiAirtel, announced an estimated $2 billion deal to transform Africa’s mobile communications market by deploying cutting edge technology that allows users to access the internet by simply talking over an existing telephone.
4. And during the same week, Harvard University’s endowment revealed that South Africa is the fourth largest market in its exchange traded fund (ETF) portfolio allocation, with over $70 million invested.
A year ago, I said that launching Africa.com was “a huge risk, but love is always risky.” Any good adventure story is marked by suspense and excitement, but so far, my Africa.com story has been filled only with rewards.