African leaders representing a variety of fields from countries including Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya and Senegal convened in Cambridge for the ‘Africa Together’ conference today.
This year’s theme ‘Re-imagining Africa’ focuses on ways of challenging long-held narratives and perceptions that have stifled the imagination and action of Africans while also celebrating those empowering others and making waves on the continent.
Invest in women
The women in leadership panel shared how empowering women can help drive Africa forward. Madame Bineta Diop (pictured above), African Union special envoy for women, peace and security, Theo Sowa , CEO of African Women’s Development Fund, Dr Agnes Kalibata all agreed that rather than just talking about empowering women there is a need to invest and drive African economies. “If you want to see outcomes for women in Africa you need to invest in womens organisations” added Sowa.
Lord Hastings, global head of corporate citizenship KPMG explained how prospects for investment are mixed in Africa but entrepreneurship was key. In South Africa growth has slowed due to lack of confidence in government and mining. In contrast in the last week Kenya has launched Vision 2030, the national blueprint for development, the project involves the construction of a new transport corridor to Ethiopia and Southern Sudan which can drive employment and have a multiplier effect.
Remittances and entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs need cash to start ventures and cash is flowing back into Africa through the diaspora. Remittances into Africa last year were estimated at $51 billion, so opportunities could be endless if these were utilised in a meaningful way towards entrepreneurship and investing in start-ups shared Lord Hastings.
Entrepreneurship is already thriving, Sela Motshwane founder of Touch of Africa shared how with an initial grant and no real money she started her business showcasing African fashions. Using her strong initiative, Motshwane began the business by emailing her network asking for help and even contacted Virgin Atlantic to get free flights to help her get started.
Other organisations are also trying to help grow investment and training for start-ups. She Leads Africa, founded by Yasmin Belo-Osagie help women entrepreneurs between 18-35 who want to build pan-African businesses. Paul Payne explained how “The Key is E” invests in African entrepreneurs and small businesses through a social investment fund.
The common thread is that technology is driving innovation in Africa and in the media industry it’s no different explained Lanre Akinola from the Bloomberg Media Initiative. “The barriers to entry are gone in media, technology is the answer.”