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!



Angelina Diyuoh Minski

Agnes Allotey

Osei Kwaku Agyekum

Peter Anuum

Charlotte Asiedu

Ekow Mensah

Dr. Esi Ansah



Ibrahima Talla

Ibrahima Fall

Papa Ngor Bob

DIOP Birama Laba

Fatima Simone

Kalyan Emandi



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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Accra and London, 15th March 2021: Activa International Insurance Company Ghana Limited (AIIG) and Invest in Africa (IIA) Ghana have signed a cooperation agreement to widen access to protection schemes for multiple SMEs. With direct access to IIA Ghana’s membership network with over 2,000 cross sector businesses, AIIG aims to provide an innovative and effective model to enhance knowledge of risk management and commercial protection solutions. This is in line with IIA’s objective of ensuring the survival and continued development of Africa’s SMEs, maintaining its status as a key driver of economic growth and job creation.

At 2.8%, sub-Saharan Africa’s insurance penetration sits considerably below the world average of 6.8% highlighting the continent’s need to catch up. While motor insurance is the largest contributor to non-life insurance – driven by compulsory regulatory requirements – accident insurance, health insurance, and property insurance have all shown impressive growth in recent years.

The partnership represents an innovative strategic approach to accelerating insurance penetration, as well as promoting insurance growth in Africa through targeting unique customer segments.  AIIG’s Activ’Lady Program, launched in October 2019 in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, specifically targets female entrepreneurs with customised business protection packages, as well as offering other value-add opportunities such as networking, access to client bases and skills acquisition through training.

The advancement of female-led business is a priority in the scope of IIA’s work; further strengthened by its COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience programme being delivered with funding from the Mastercard Foundation. The programme will support Activ’Lady customers with access to online masterclasses, peer-to-peer sessions, a repository of practical guides and interventions enhancing their access to finance.   


Benjamin Yamoah, Managing Director of AIIG said: “Available data shows most SMEs in Africa are owned or led by women, it is therefore important that women in business are supported to grow and expand their businesses for both economic and social development and this partnership will help create a platform that will make female entrepreneurs more resilient to personal and business shocks.

Carol Annang, Country Director IIA Ghana added, “SMEs are key drivers of African economies, accounting for more than 90% of businesses and employing about 60% of workers. We are committed to building a commercial ecosystem which supports their sustained survival and success, leveraging the power of effective partnerships to build on synergies and expand on reach.”



About Activa Ghana

AIIG is the 8th largest general insurance company by premium income and also the founder of the Globus Network: a grouping of over 48 well-positioned and dynamic insurance companies in over 54 African countries which allow multinational, global and local clients to enjoy expert and world-class insurance services. A member of the Ghana Club 100, Activa International Insurance Company Limited is rated in the A category by Messrs Global Credit Rating (GCR). The Company was adjudged Insurance Company of the year 2018 by the Ghana Business Awards and also by the Ghana Accountancy and Finance Awards after thorough reviews of it’s Financials and other activities within the years 2017 and 2018. AIIG was also adjudged insurance company of the year 2017 and 2018 consecutively, by the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG) at its 2018 awards ceremony in Accra among other prestigious awards.  

About Invest in Africa (IIA)

Invest in Africa (IIA) is a private sector-led initiative focused on growing local businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa to deliver positive economic impacts and create jobs, benefitting all stakeholders including governments and multi-national corporations who want to use their local buying power as a force for good. Launched in Ghana in 2012, IIA now operates in five African countries, with local offices in Ghana, Senegal, Kenya and Mauritania. IIA operates the African Partner Pool (APP), a network of SMEs to which it delivers a programme of business support designed to deliver economic growth and job creation. To date, IIA Ghana has enabled access to $2.1m of finance, provided 1200+ SMEs with business, technical and entrepreneurship training; and supported with the creation of 39,000 jobs.

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This International Women's Day, we're celebrating female-led businesses in Ghana, while also exploring how to address the key challenges facing them, which include limited to access to finance, inadequate skills and training targeted at building the capacities of female entrepreneurs.  

IIA's Recovery and Resilience programme, run in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation supports businesses and young entrepreneurs to build immediate and long-term resilience through online learning resources, providing guidance on accessing markets and finance, and fostering greater inclusion of young people, particularly young women.


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Invest in Africa (IIA), a private sector-led initiative focused on growing local businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa to deliver positive economic impacts and create jobs, has appointed Carol Annang as its Country Director in Ghana. Based in Accra, Carol will be working closely with strategic partners and the local IIA team to continue the company’s focus on supporting local businesses, strengthening brand equity, and attracting other strategic partners in priority sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, extractives and ICT. She will also focus on delivering more youth and female led business interventions and building expertise in renewable energies and agriculture-based projects,

“Having first launched IIA in Ghana in 2012, the country remains one of our most important markets,” said William Pollen, Invest in Africa’s Director. “IIA Ghana is focused on job creation and improving the business environment for both investors and local SMEs. Our priority is to increase the linkages between large international and domestic companies and smaller local business and enhance access to skills, markets and finance.

“Carol’s appointment reinforces the strength of IIA’s Ghana knowledge and expertise, demonstrated by the success of IIA’s Business Advisory and Support Programme in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, and second consecutive year win of the CIMG Not-for-Profit of the Year Award. Her impressive background coupled with her deep understanding of the local business landscape makes her a fantastic addition to IIA as we seek to continue making a positive impact on local African economies. We are delighted to welcome her to the team.”

Carol’s experience involves leading numerous financial and impact-focused businesses across Ghana. She sits on several boards including fintech startup Kudigo, the Ghana branch of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the Executive Leadership Academy (ExLA), a youth leadership training organisation working to shape the next generation of African leaders, with a focus on empowering young African women to take leadership and governance roles. In her previous role, she held the position of Managing Director of Secure Pensions Trust Limited, a pension trustee company.

Commenting on her appointment, Carol Annang said, “I was drawn to Invest in Africa because of the company’s clear dedication to improving the growth prospects of African businesses by leveraging its strong network. I’m looking forward to working with the Ghana team in particular as it builds on its strengths of the last few years and continues to make a significant impact on the local economy.”

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