Highlights: The International CEO’s Economic Summit (ICES), Brussels

Organised by the Founder, M’Hamed Cherif of Invest in Africa Now, the International CEO’s Economic Summit (ICES) held on the 10th and 11th of July 2019 brought together thought leaders and executives to reflect on the opportunities, challenges, and solutions for the economic development of Africa through international collaborations and partnerships.

Once again, it was a privilege to be among so many inspiring international speakers, sharing solutions to business challenges, learning from the specialist sector experts, and building networks gathered for the ICES in Brussels.

For overview of the summit, I suggest you watch this short video produced by Bel’Afrika TV BAM-TV Kodjo Degbey, a WebTV platform to promote Afro-European cultures, business in Belgium.

Here are some of the highlights from the two-day ICES Brussels:

Ken Poonoosamy, Deputy CEO, Economic Development Board, Mauritius (EDB Mauritius)

  • The Economic Development Board (EDB) in Mauritiusis at the forefront of promoting Mauritius as a reputable and effective trade and investment platform for the African continent, leveraging on the geostrategic position of Mauritius to drive investment into the continent.
  • He said, given the promise of Africa—it has approximately 30% of the earth’s remaining mineral resources, nearly 60% (over 200 million hectares) of the world available arable land and 13% of the world population—the Government is implementing pro-African policies to improve the investment climate and market access conditions to make Mauritius a relevant platform for Africa.
  • In his capacity as Deputy CEO of EDB, he shared a paper showing the ways Mauritius is positioning itself as a regional hub for professional services: financial services, arbitration, education, creative industries, healthcare, ICT, and business services. Read EDB’s Africa Strategy here.

Jean Jacques Ngono, Managing Partner, Finergreen Africa

  • I especially enjoyed Jean Jacques Ngono’s presentation about Finergreen and on raising and investing funds in the renewables sector. While they do not invest directly, as a consulting firm with global reach, they are able to support companies to get investor ready for international expansion and market penetration.
  • Jean Jacques Ngono leads their Africa practice from Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire and possesses a deep knowledge of the African renewables sector. To African emerging and growth entrepreneurs in the renewable energy sectors, I advise you to track Finergreen to understand their products and services because they are in the forefront of fostering the energy transition and promoting green investments. With offices in Paris, France and Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, they have financed over 362 projects and closed transactions valued at 179 million Euros in renewable energy.

Temidayo Adebayo, Managing Partner, BAYI Capital

  • I loved Temidayo Adebayo’s passion and entrepreneurial drive for SME growth in Africa. BAYI Capital’s mission is to bring structured and guided investments into what they call ‘informal entrepreneurs’ and to aid them in becoming ‘high growth entrepreneurs’BAYI Capital is a Pan-African growth equity firm targeting impact-oriented SMEs linked to the informal market.
  • Temidayo is on the path to selling BAYI Capital to potential investors in Europe looking to make returns and an impact on the continent.  His team shared their frustrations of getting the DFIs to see the opportunities.
  • The above mentioned point was echoed by Gavin Maxwell of Coolfin Partnerships, another summit participant when he responded to a LinkedIn article by Victoria Madedor, also speaker at ICES:   “Victoria has demonstrated yet again the consequences of DFI funds frustrating motivated young professionals in Africa, I believe we can transcend these collateral bottlenecks with innovative regulated digital funds that bypass the slow high cost funds and deliver enterprise capital to Victoria’s projects. The food and fuel trade channels in Africa alongside a post Brexit Europe will revalue both supply chains and assets in Africa…well done Victoria, keep up the great work and support the new age of digital credit for SME industry.”  

Victoria Madedor, Head Agribusiness & FMCG, BOI Investment and Trust Company, Nigeria.

  • A mother of four, you could not meet a more level-headed entrepreneur with a passion for Agribusiness in Nigerian, than Victoria Madedor. I invite you to watch her short interview from ICES and read her article Remodelling Credit Guarantee Schemes for Micro and Small-scale Agribusinesses (MSA) in Nigeria on her LinkedIn where she shares her challenges of attracting capital for Nigeria growing SMEs in the agricultural sector.
  • Based on my work with the Tony Elumelu Foundation, I shared the many challenges and obstacles facing Africa’s young agribusiness entrepreneurs. From the 2015 to 2019 programme cycles, the largest volume of applications and eventual selection of African entrepreneurs have been from the agriculture sector
  • In 2016, the Foundation produced ‘Unleashing Africa’s Agricultural Entrepreneurs: Improving the Enabling Environment for Agriculture’ to highlight the challenges affecting agribusiness entrepreneurs which include access to finance, markets, inputs, training in farm operation management and farming techniques, fractured value chains, high cost of machinery and equipment, government investment in processing, broadening access to farmers’ grants, loans, seed subsidies, access to land, market research information, tax incentives, training, and technical assistance services.
  • Among the many solutions, we worked with AFD, a French development agency, to create a guarantee scheme for SMEs in Nigeria.  
  • We all agreed that a major challenge of the agribusiness is the mindset of the international development and global philanthropic communities who have viewed the agriculture sector a key point of intervention through aid and subsidies, targeting primarily poor, rural, subsistence farmers.
  • While this support is welcome, to change Africa’s path to development, this approach needs to change from viewing farming as merely an aid programme to capitalizing on agriculture as a lucrative business.

Veronique Boudaud, CEO, Digitize2Grow

  • Veronique Boudaud shared an insightful presentation on digital ecosystem builders which include entrepreneurs, investors, shapers, activists, consumers, knowledge feeders, the disenfranchised and the excluded! Ownership is not important anymore she said, sharing is. Transparency is key as is failure because failure is your last lesson.
  • She examined how digital ecosystems are changing how we work and the value we bring. “Shape your brain for the future”, she challenged the audience encouraging us to move from past habits. Moving from hierarchical to interconnected systems; transacting to contributing; shifting from single role to multiple roles and evolving from controlled to organic systems. She also encouraged innovation and good governance.
  • AgTech, FinTech, DeepTech, EduTech, HealthTech, RetailTech, HRTech are all vital to the digital economy and African entrepreneurs must innovate and develop patents across these sectors.
  • Citing CINOME Report, an index on digital ecosystems, she ventured that countries should be ranked by digital ecosystems as part of the doing business indexes.
  • I highly recommend reading her book titled Think Digital Ecosystems! 9 Questions to Build the Future of Your Business’. Her book will help you:
  • Gain a better understanding of the digital world to design innovative strategies for your company, department and functional roles
  • Share innovative views and data on the digital ecosystem to demonstrate that you are widely knowledgeable
  • Gain a perspective on the digital ecosystems that will make you question what you read, listen to and watch which will in turn grow your own personal views and empower you in the digital world.
  • Impart you will knowledge and empower you to begin mapping the digital ecosystem of your own enterprise, so you can grow your business. Thinking “digital ecosystem” will make you view your future world differently… and much, MUCH more!

Danish Faruqui, Partner, Global Education Practice

  • Danish presented a TED talk on the trends and opportunities in the African private education sector for investors based on the Africa Ascendant: Mega Trends and Themes in Private Education Investment report produced by L.E.K Consulting. Throughout the month of August, we will be examining a three-part series on their findings.