NEWS

London and Accra, 5 July 2021: Invest In Africa (IIA), an enterprise focused on growing local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Sub-Saharan Africa to deliver positive economic impacts and create jobs, has partnered with Vodafone Ghana to support local businesses by enhancing their digital capabilities. The partnership will provide local SMEs with tailor-made digital solutions to enable them to adapt to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, continue interacting with customers online and grow their businesses.

 

Some of the customised ICT solutions to be provided by IIA and Vodafone to SMEs in Ghana include: Red Trader – a simple web and mobile application designed for traders to manage their inventory, track and receive payments; and Your-Business-Online – a proposition designed for SMEs to increase their market reach via tailored digital marketing offerings such as website design, e-commerce integration and social media marketing, among others. These and other specialised solutions will fuel local innovation, support digital financial inclusion and stimulate business and economic growth.  

 

Established in 2012, IIA operates locally in five countries across the continent (Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Zambia, and Mauritania), supporting SMEs through providing training and enhancing access to finance, as well as supporting job creation and local economies. The initiative will be rolled out in Ghana from 1st April for an initial period of two years and will be available to interested local SMEs regardless of size or sector.

 

Carol Annang, IIA’s Ghana Country Director commented on the news, “This partnership represents the coming together of two leading organisations both committed to Africa’s long term sustainable growth. Our purpose at IIA is to act as catalysts for SME growth and competitiveness, and a key part of this is uniting large corporations who want to use their local buying power as a force for good with local African businesses, with a view to attracting investment, creating jobs, building capacity and diversifying the economies in which we operate.”

IIA’s CEO, William Pollen also asserted, “As Africa faces its first recession in more than 25 years and the pandemic accelerating job disruption, it is more important than ever to support SMEs, which account for an estimated 80% of economic activity and act as the primary employer in sub-Saharan Africa. The digital acceleration we are seeing due to Covid-19 is an opportunity for businesses to adapt, learn new skills and thrive in the new digital economy. This is the key objective of our partnership with Vodafone in Ghana, and we hope to be able to extend this initiative to support SMEs across sub-Saharan Africa in the near future.”

Also remarking on the IIA-Vodafone partnership, Tawa Bolarin, Director of Vodafone Business said, “The partnership between Vodafone Business and IIA is a big win for local businesses because both institutions share a joint commitment to transforming businesses via innovative digital solutions. We have a deep-seated passion to see local businesses succeed and now more than ever; in a business landscape impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative for home-grown businesses, and particularly SMEs to be able to operate seamlessly and efficiently using cutting-edge digital solutions to propel market reach, profitability and business growth. These are indeed exciting times for us and the entrepreneurial community in Ghana.”

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The turmoil in northern Mozambique has thrown a spotlight on the sustainability and ESG efforts of international oil companies (IOCs) in Africa. Historically they have not had the most constructive relationships with governments and native communities.

Often the emphasis on developing or integrating local companies and people into the supply chains or operations of these large extractive projects can be wrapped up in temporary CSR missions and not built into the longer-term frameworks of national development agendas or company vision statements.

In doing so, this improves the understanding of their operating environments, lowering their costs of procurement and building capacity and capabilities of enterprises and individuals. And crucially, this improves the economic prospects of the host country, reinvesting in human capital and improving the social economy.

Increasingly this is being implemented as the industry takes on more responsibility and some of these concerns are addressed by local content regulation – which aims to increase opportunities of local businesses in these value chains. However, this is only the starting point.

Before projects are established, it is essential that IOCs and the public sector establish clear metrics, promoting participation of locals, to monitor and evaluate against over the project duration.

This is where the guidance of experienced partners like Invest in Africa, who have cut their teeth in these industries, have a clear vision of what local sustainability means and how best to implement considered ESG strategies.

Read more of Invest in Africa Director William Pollen’s thoughts in his thought leadership piece for Environmental Finance here: https://www.environmental-finance.com/content/analysis/big-oil-needs-big-change-to-its-sustainability-approach-in-africa.html   

 

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Nouakchott, 17 June 2021 | Banque Mauritanienne pour le Commerce International (BMCI), a leading local lender committed to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the Mauritania division of Invest in Africa (IIA), a non-profit initiative focused on growing local businesses in Africa, have signed a partnership agreement to extend access to finance to SMEs in Mauritania working closely with the extractives industry.

The partnership, which marks the first agreement between IIA Mauritania and a domestic lender, aims to accelerate participation of local SMEs in the oil and gas supply chain. IIA can leverage existing experience from work with British Petroleum (BP) in Grand Tortue Ahmehim (GTA), spanning Senegal and Mauritania. The agreement makes BMCI IIA’s fourth banking partner in the GTA project, with three other partners in Senegal.

Improved access to finance will address a range of commercial constraints they currently face. This involves limited availability of cheap capital and difficulties in accessing domestic and international lending markets. The partnership will also ensure SMEs receive funding advice and training.

Commenting on the partnership agreement, BMCI CEO, Moulay Abbas, expressed his delight at working with IIA, “BMCI’s team is looking forward to a successful partnership with IIA and are happy to provide our services to promote the development of African businesses.”

IIA Mauritania country Director Bocar-Alpha Ba noted, “This is a crucial period of economic development for Mauritania and SMEs need to be afforded opportunities to grow. In partnering with BMCI, whose commitment to SME development aligns with ours, we are optimistic about the future for local businesses to sustain and thrive.”

This comes as the Mauritanian government has pledged its commitment to the sustainable development of the country’s extractives industry, notably through supporting Mauritanian enterprises to become active suppliers to international oil companies. IIA is preparing local SMEs to maximise upcoming opportunities, pledging a series of webinars and workshops on improving access to skills, markets and finance, complementing strong local commitment of public and private bodies.

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Congratulations to the graduating cohort of the 6th Certified Productivity coaching programme! The 15 graduates, sponsored by Invest in Africa (IIA), were recognised for the achievements, obtaining the status of International Coaching Federation (ICF) accredited coaches, during an online ceremony on Tuesday, 18th May.

The ceremony convened high level guests, including representatives from the African Development Bank as well as Ecobank. They applauded the accomplishments of this year’s graduating class, as did some of their predecessors, including Chief Operating Officer of Invest in Africa’s Kenya chapter, Terry Kinyua. She encouraged the graduates to make the most of their new titles and learnings to the benefit of thousands across the continent. 

The programme, delivered by The Coaching Hub, is designed to provide the necessary tools to offer professional coaching services to help clients optimise organisational productivity and effectiveness, while giving individuals, teams and organizations the focus and motivation required to achieve tangible results. This is especially important as businesses are severely stretched for resources and navigate the turbulent commercial landscape created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 15 certified coaches, five of whom are Invest in Africa staff, will use their knew found knowledge and coaching techniques to enhance SME resilience in this distressed business environment, and beyond. The Certified Productivity Coach programme is designed to deliver tangible results, irrespective of organisation size and sector.

In response to the challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Invest in Africa launched the Recovery and Resilience Programme, with the support of the Mastercard Foundation. Amongst the primary interventions was SME coaching but with few ICF certified coaches in Ghana, Senegal, and Mauritania, IIA sponsored 15 coaches, including Mauritania’s only ICF accredited coach, Bocar Alpha Ba, IIA’s Mauritania country director.

William Pollen, IIA Director, explained during the ceremony that, “IIA will be rolling out a coaching support programme to better provide wider opportunity for creating awareness and increasing the productivity of the businesses we support.

“IIA aims to create a network of coaches, especially in Ghana and Senegal to maximise access to small and medium enterprises amid the pandemic to become resilient and build back better.”

The impact of effective coaching has been evident to beneficiaries of IIA’s Recovery and Resilience programme, two of whom received expert advice from certified coached and managed to transform their businesses. One of the recipients, on the brink of shutting up shop, turned his enterprise around, attracted investment and expanded operations.

The commitment from the graduating cohort to helping SMEs reverse their fortunes and maintain strong growth trajectories was tangible and encouraging, emphasising the importance of solidarity during and beyond this unprecedented period. According to class president Kalyan Emandi the energising coaching sessions always ‘evoked something positive’ in themselves.

The feeling of togetherness and was married with the importance of acknowledging individuality and the distinctions in culture across our diverse continent, by keynote speaker Winnie Nzamu. Winnie, who left her lucrative career in banking to take up coaching reiterated that “coaching is an honour and responsibility.”

Congratulations again to the certified Productivity Coaches!

 

Ghana

Angelina Diyuoh Minski

Agnes Allotey

Osei Kwaku Agyekum

Peter Anuum

Charlotte Asiedu

Ekow Mensah

Dr. Esi Ansah

 

Senegal

Ibrahima Talla

Ibrahima Fall

Papa Ngor Bob

DIOP Birama Laba

Fatima Simone

Kalyan Emandi

 

Mauritania

Bocar Alpha BA

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The prospect of graduating for many young students should create excitement and anxiety, in equal measure, for what the future holds. In Kenya those scales tip more towards trepidation. There seems to be more certainty to what life after university has in store, and sadly, unemployment is increasingly common for young graduates.

Invest In Africa’s Kenya team, spearheaded by IT Lead, David Ajowi, embarked on a mission to enhance opportunities for Kenya’s youth. With 65% of the young people out of work, they developed the IIA Technology Innovation Internship Program – that starts with a hackathon.

The program seeks to identify talent and enable young graduates and university students to harness their talent through the industry linkages and provide a platform from which they can gain experience through job exposure and become drivers of change.

During the hackathon applicants were invited to develop ideas and solutions to digitise processes within small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to make them more efficient, saving on resources and improving customer experience.

The idea was designed to simultaneously address two major economic constraints – youth unemployment and survival of SMEs, severely affected by the pandemic. Submissions from the hackathon would contribute to the sustainability of these businesses while leveraging the underutilised digital expertise of the nation’s youth.

“Submissions to the hackathon included a range of innovative, creative and unique solutions to multiple business challenges faced by SMEs across the country. The hackathon judges were very impressed and encouraged to see the capabilities of participants,” said David Ajowi.

After an in-depth judging process, the overall winner of the hackathon was announced: Gloria Simiyu won with her idea that addressed a serious societal challenge with a simple tech-led business solution. As the hospitality industry witnessed a considerable downturn in client numbers during the pandemic, they were left with excesses of leftover food.

The business expense combined with the opportunity cost of the wasted food inspired Gloria to share help the less fortunate in society. Some of the food was distributed through collaborations with charities and some sold to those unable to purchase in person through a mobile application.

“I am ecstatic to have won this hackathon and grateful for the opportunity to showcase my project,” explained Gloria, who is well attuned to the lack of opportunities for Kenya’s young techies. That is why she believes tremendous tech talent remains ‘undiscovered’ across the country.

She will work with the IIA team to further develop her idea and believes with their guidance it will be a success. Gloria will also be able to lean on newly acquired knowledge from the complementary web development course she was gifted as winner of the hackathon.

In second place, Samson Muchai and his colleagues developed Cleansafi, an Android application designed to expose laundromats in Nairobi to a wider market, boosting their revenue streams and enabling growth; benefitting their clients with improved service and their suppliers with larger orders.

The brilliance and range of ideas presented exhibits the plethora of tech talent in the country and we are determined it has a platform to shine. Look out on our channels for the next hackathon!

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Do we have a skewed view of what sustainability means in Africa? A one dimensional approach hinders development and economic prospects. Here is Episode 4 of Gaia Says No – Africa, hosted by future Net Zero, to answer those questions.

Joining IIA's Director, William Pollen are Kondjeni Ntinda from the Namibia Energy and Invest in Africa's own Charlotte Asiedu, with future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose directing the conversation.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

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Picking apart Africa’s energy transition, the progress needed to be made, numerous decisions to consider and the need for supportive policy to accelerate efforts – here is Episode 3 of Gaia Says No – Africa, hosted by future Net Zero.

Joining IIA's Director, William Pollen are Dr Amy Jadesimi, Managing Director of LADOL Free Zone in Lagos, Stanley Nyoni, Sustainability and Leadership Advisor, with future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose directing the conversation.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

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Delving further into Africa's journey to achieving sustainable business practices and Net Zero, the podcast assesses the range of challenges the continent faces and how innovative business solutions and robust policy can overcome them.

Joining IIA's Director, William Pollen are Reshma Shah, CEO of Intestrat and Partner at Kina Advisory Ltd and Stanley Nyoni, Sustainability and Leadership Advisor, with future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose directing the conversation.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

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What role can Africa play in the road to Net Zero? What does sustainability mean to African businesses? Find out the answers to these questions and more in our new podcast series with future Net Zero: Gaia Says No – Africa.

Episode one features IIA’s Director William Pollen and special guests Rosalind Kainyah, Managing Director of Kina Advisory and Reshma Shah, CEO of Intestrat and Partner at Kina Advisory Ltd, hosted by future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

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AfCFTA gives glimpse of new African destiny

An increasingly insular post-Covid world economy has created the opportunity for Africa to lead the global trade agenda. Economies on the continent must seize it with both hands, writes director of Invest In Africa, William Pollen.

Africa’s debt-laden economies bore the brunt of the global economic fallout from the pandemic, while the continent grappled with its first recession in twenty-five years. Sub-Saharan Africa’s pleas for debt relief were met with scepticism by richer nations, as 30m people on the continent slid into extreme poverty last year.

Yet as richer economies retreat into isolationism, they have failed to coordinate a collective response to the pandemic that considers the needs of poorer nations with less advanced healthcare systems.

Public debt in sub-Saharan Africa has ballooned to 66% of gross domestic product, while debt service payments average 32% of annual revenue, IMF data from 2020 indicates.

But there are reasons to be more optimistic in 2021 and beyond.

Firstly, the birth of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was a timely reminder of where the continent’s priorities lie. Secondly, the drive for greater sustainability – turbocharged by the pandemic – gives Africa a chance to redefine sustainability in an African context and turn it into a competitive advantage.

The AfCFTA- A New Dawn?

Against a backdrop of a record GDP per capita contraction, the continent is feeling the pinch of dwindling export revenues and declining foreign direct investment (FDI). Uncertainty and economic tremors are heightening investor anxiety, who faced with the fight or flight option, have fled with $700bn from developing countries.

Multinationals have reduced, delayed or in some cases cancelled investment into Africa altogether, instead preferring to invest into safer ‘home’ markets.

Africa’s risk profile is in part shaped by the terms dictated by the global north. Though the AfCFTA may not achieve complete emancipation, it gives Africa more influence over its economic ambitions.

Only Africa can realise the substantial opportunities the AfCFTA offers, such as creating homegrown investment, domestic economic expansion, and jobs for its young, ambitious and entrepreneurial populations.

As other countries turn inward, trade over the next decade and a half will boost Africa’s income by $450bn and contribute $76bn to the world economy, underlining its importance to the global trade agenda.

At a bare minimum, better cohesion among Africa’s 55 countries is imperative to driving sustained growth, while leveraging the full potential of a region with a combined GDP of $3.4trn can be a powerful accelerator.

At present, only around 16.6% of goods traded by African countries remain on the continent’s shores.

The AfCFTA will stimulate progress towards a continental customs union, eliminating 90% of trade barriers, facilitating free movement, easing access to markets and trimming red tape, to boost intra-African trade by 50%.  

Effective execution of the agreement will lift an estimated 30 million on the continent out of extreme poverty, as well as develop more supportive, sustainable social systems.

As Covid-19 exposes the fragilities of women’s economic positions across the continent, the AfCFTA will bolster their financial independence. Beyond that, the continent’s burgeoning aspirational youth, increasingly disenfranchised by earning a livelihood in the rural, primary sector will be afforded more opportunities as production and trade benefit from a more efficient value chain.

One of the largest impacts the AfCFTA can imprint on the continent is realising greater value from its wealth of natural resources. Despite having 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, Africa is a net food importer, just as the world’s tenth largest oil producer, Nigeria, relies on other countries for its fuel.

Raw materials account for the majority of exports with around 70% of value addition happening off African shores. Technological development, demographic shifts and changing lifestyle trends all support this movement.

As the continent works towards successful implementation of the AfCFTA, it should build an inclusive continental economy on existing foundations, that lifts up small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs account for an estimated 80% of all businesses and even more job opportunities across the continent, making them vital to empowering marginalised members of the community.

The importance of SME success has been highlighted by initiatives led by the likes of the AfDB and Afrexim Bank, to strengthen the implementation framework in their favour. Their efforts will be supported by the first woman and African at the helm of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Sustainability – an opportunity within AfCFTA?

Sustainability brings with it commercial advantage, allowing SMEs to be more competitive at home and abroad. However, sustainability in the African business context is largely misunderstood, both domestically and overseas, and often imposed ‘top down‘ as a cost of doing business with big corporates or multinationals.

However, Covid has accelerated the relevance of sustainability to all businesses, big and small, foreign, and domestic.

The importance of governance, environmental impact and relationships with consumers, staff and local communities have all been highlighted by the pandemic.

Paralysed global supply chains further highlighted the value of onshoring, or having local suppliers. When combined with the opportunities the AfCFTA brings, now is a unique moment for African SMEs to redefine what sustainability means to them and then go after it, increasing their competitiveness and market share.

This is not about protectionism or barriers, but the opposite. At a time when global institutions are looking increasingly insular and regional trading blocs are failing to function, the AfCFTA is an opportunity for Africa to lead the global trade agenda.

African countries must not allow it to be dictated by multinationals whose shareholders usually reside outside the continent. It must be their own success story: an African solution to the global challenge of sustainability.

William Pollen is the director of Invest in Africa, a non-profit with the vision to create prospering African economies.

Originally published on African Business, 12 March 2021

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