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Introducing the Driving Business in Africa Private Virtual Networking Series

Business in Africa

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Introducing Driving Business in Africa Virtual Networking Events Series

By: Shira Petrack

At Empower Africa, we believe that increasing business and trade on the continent is the only path to sustainable economic growth. We also believe that connecting, communicating, and collaborating with trusted individuals and companies is key to commercial success and private sector expansion. 

That’s why Events and Trade Missions are one of the three pillars of our company. (The other two are our Consulting and Project Facilitation Services and the Empower Africa Business Network.) We bring together top business executives, entrepreneurs, investors, government officials, and NGO representatives who believe that the continent’s long term prosperity depends on increasing trade and business. At our events, attendees can discuss specific opportunities, share best practices, and gain expertise on certain sub-sectors and industries. 

Despite being a young company, we have built a wide and global network of trusted and valuable contacts. After hosting several well-attended international in-person events in North America, Europe, and Africa, we were ready to expand our events offerings. Then Covid-19 forced international travel to a standstill, and we needed to rethink our strategy. 

Thankfully, we soon realized that we had received an incredible opportunity. Our network spans across the globe, and the busy schedule of many of our contacts makes attending in-person events a challenge. And while in-person events have certain undeniable advantages, virtual events offer some unique benefits

On October 28th, we hosted our first virtual Driving Business in Africa Virtual Event covering the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCTA). The event consisted of a panel discussion sandwiched between two hour-long networking sessions. Virtual tables seating two to eight people were arranged across four different themed floors. Attendees could hop from table to table and from level to level from the comfort of their home or office. 

Although we had a strong track record with our in-person gatherings, we were a bit nervous that our guests would not be as keen to attend a virtual event. We should not have been. Guests tuned in from eighteen different countries, representing fourteen diverse industries. Our exclusive event was invite-only, and 41% of the 77 guests were C-suite executives. In the end, we got such great feedback that we decided to turn the Driving Business in Africa Virtual Networking Event into a monthly occurrence!

To keep these events as valuable as possible for all participants, we are only inviting guests from our guest list. However, we are always looking to expand our network, so we have opened applications to join our guest list. Please click here for more information.

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4 Reasons to Attend a Virtual Networking Event

Virtual Networking Event

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4 Reasons to Attend Virtual Networking Events

By: Shira Petrack

If you are trying to start a new business, grow an existing company, or find new clients and business partners, you need to be meeting people and getting your name out there. Unfortunately, in this age of Covid-19, attending an in-person networking event poses a significant health risk. Even with safety protocols in place, traveling to and from the event leads to unnecessary exposure. 

Given the perils associated with hosting in-person events during a pandemic, many major conferences have chosen to go virtual. Several startups are working to reinvent remote events and re-create the magic of large in-person gatherings online.  

Experts predict that virtual events are here to stay. Some even think that once the Coronavirus is behind us, “hybrid” events – events with both an in-person and online component – will become the norm. After attending more virtual events than in-person ones throughout 2020, it has now become clear that virtual events offer a unique set of benefits. 

If you have yet to attend a virtual networking event, you probably have some reservations. You may be thinking – How will I find the people I want to meet? What if my child/partner/cat interrupts me and ruins the critical first impression? Won’t it be incredibly awkward to talk to a total stranger on video without being able to read his or her body language? 

To encourage you to take the leap, we are sharing the top 4 reasons to try out this new networking avenue: 

1. It’s Convenient  

All you need to join a virtual networking event is a working internet connection and a laptop. Some platforms even allow you to join from your phone! You don’t need to figure out transportation, waste time getting to and from the venue, or worry about who will pick the kids up if the event is running late. 

Virtual events allow you to tune in for the session’s exact duration and on your terms. If something happens outside the event that needs your attention, you can just pop out of the event – no need to walk for ages in a bustling exhibit hall to find a quiet spot to talk on the phone. And when you’ve solved your problem, you can easily pop back in without worrying about making an awkward entrance. 

2. It’s Cost-Effective 

This point is related to #1 – virtual networking events are almost always cheaper to attend than live ones. First, the ticket cost often costs less since the event organizer does not need to rent out a convention hall, pay for catering, or rent service or operational staff. You also save on gas, car rentals, and flights. Lastly, you get back the work hours that would otherwise go to travel, which can be quite significant to entrepreneurs and SMEs operating on lean budgets! And if you arrive at the event only to realize that it’s not what you thought – you can always cut your losses and go back to your work, which would never be possible if you were physically in the happening. 

3. You Can Meet a Broader Range of People 

By definition, all the attendees at in-person events are individuals who could be in the same physical place at the same specific time. This means that many potentially relevant connections miss out due to geographic or scheduling pressures that constrain their travel. Besides, many people won’t travel internationally for smaller networking events, even though the more intimate setting might be particularly conducive for forging connections. 

For instance, at Empower Africa, we recently held a 77 person event with attendees tuning in from over 18 countries, which lasted just three hours! While we think it was extremely informative and valuable, most people would not board an international flight for a three-hour networking event. Because this was virtual, however, a much broader range of people attended, which made the networking that much more valuable. 

4. It May Actually be Easier to Make Connections

How often have you gone to an in-person networking event only to hang out at the refreshment table or aimlessly walk the exhibit hall instead of meeting other attendees with the potential to turn into valuable contacts? Meeting new people can be challenging – but even introverts need connections to grow their business. 

Virtual networking events can break the ice by creating a sense of intimacy that can sometimes be lacking at more bustling, in-person events. The software we use for our virtual networking events at Empower Africa allows you to pop in and out of tables with limited seating, where you can chat directly with the other attendees “seated” at your virtual table. Whereas at an in-person event, you can sit at someone’s table while you both awkwardly stare at your phone, a virtual event can break the ice for you by propelling you into a virtual chat room with the stranger “seated” next to you. And if you find that you don’t have much in common, you can always pop over to another table!

Give Virtual Networking a Chance!

At this point, pretty much all networking events that have not been canceled have moved online. With winter coming and Covid-19 spiking in many major cities, the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Next time you’re debating whether it’s worth spending time and money to engage in remote networking, remember – virtual networking events can save you time and money while allowing you to connect directly and conveniently with potential connections from across the globe! 

To apply to join the guest list to Empower Africa’s Driving Business in Africa Virtual Networking Events Series, click here

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d.light, a company providing essential household products and financing to low-income communities, has announced a project to equip Ugandan refugee camps with solar home systems.
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E-Waste Management In East Africa: An Interview With Wastezon Founder Ghislain Irakoze

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E-Waste Management in East Africa: An Interview with Wastezon Founder Ghislain Irakoze

Ghislain Irakoze Speaks at the Innovate 4 Climate Event in Singapore

By: Leah Ngari

Have you ever wondered where your electronic waste goes? Where is your old TV set, the laptop battery that you replaced recently and had to throw away, the various cell phones you owned over the years and discarded when a newer model came out? What happens to the numerous electronics that remain unbought on the shelves as newer, better ones are released daily? Where do all these devices end up? 

In 2019 alone, a record of 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste was reported, but only 17.4% was officially collected and recycled. That means that most of our old electronic devices are lying around in a landfill somewhere. Neglecting proper e-waste disposal doesn’t just pose a risk to human and environmental health. It also represents a wasted business opportunity. 

We recently caught up with Ghislain Irakoze, a 20-year-old university student at the African Leadership University in Kigali, Rwanda and founder of Wastezon, a social enterprise in the e-waste management field, to find out more about this industry.

The E-waste Problem

Ghislain explains that the precious metals that lie around in scrapyards and garbage heaps could be recycled to create valuable pieces. Improper electronics disposal means that billions worth of precious metals like copper and platinum are discarded or burned even though the supply of these precious metals is not infinite.

 “The world is undergoing a resource extinction,” he declares. The possible unavailability of these metals in the future creates an urgency to reuse or repurpose the metals that still exist today.

The hazardous chemicals in some of these electronic items also can’t be ignored. For instance, lead in computer and television screens and mercury in older generation water heaters pose a significant risk to people’s health when released into the air. Once released into the air, toxins from e-waste contribute to global warming. They contain greenhouse gases that deplete the ozone layer, creating even more health risks to humans and wildlife across the globe. The chemicals also destroy the land they are in when they mix with the soils, which happens when old electronic devices are dumped into landfills.

The Birth Of Wastezon

Ghislain wanted to make the world a better place. Seeing the damage caused by the haphazard disposal of electronic waste and perceiving the untapped business opportunity, Ghislain decided to start a business. 

Ghislain founded Wastezon with a friend with the goal of creating a greener and more sustainable world. They decided to build a centralized platform that could connect households discarding their broken, unusable electronics with recycling companies that were spending considerable time, effort, and money to find raw materials for their products. 

Wastezon’s app makes it easier for the recycling companies to trace, sort, and collect electronic waste. At the same time, households earn an income from disposing of items that they would throw away anyways. Users also get the satisfaction of reducing their carbon footprint and knowing that their electronic waste will be handled safely.

And in just two years of operation, Wastezon has been able to transact over 480 tonnes of electronic waste. “This is equivalent to 2600 metric tonnes of carbon emissions diverted,” Ghislain informs us proudly. 

What started as an idea between friends has turned into an impactful social enterprise, creating employment for other young individuals in Rwanda and expanding beyond the country’s borders. Wastezon now provides electronic waste to certified recyclers in Kenya and Tanzania and is working on bringing the app to end-user households in these countries.

What’s Next For Wastezon And Waste Management

Ghislain’s vision of a waste-free world doesn’t end with electronic waste. Wastezon is already developing its next product, the Smart Bin, which will use the internet of things (IoT) to sort garbage automatically into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. According to Ghislain, this will allow Wastezon to quickly and efficiently recycle the organic waste produced by homes and institutions and turn it into compost and fertilizers. Schools, institutions, and even individuals in private homes will soon be able to use this new product, reducing their work of sorting waste. 

At only 20 years old, Ghislain would like his story to motivate other young Africans to build businesses that solve pressing problems. As he tells us, “I hope this will inspire more entrepreneurs to get into waste management and that more people will get interested in sustainable living.”

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Did you know that over 525 million people used the internet in Africa in 2019? If current growth trends continue, almost 75% of Africans are expected to come online by 2030.
The Financial Times has released its list of the top 20 fastest growing companies in Africa for 2024.
MTN Rwanda is taking a groundbreaking step towards environmental responsibility with the launch of the nation’s first-ever paper-based, biodegradable SIM cards, dubbed “bioSIMs.”
d.light, a company providing essential household products and financing to low-income communities, has announced a project to equip Ugandan refugee camps with solar home systems.
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How Rwanda Tourism Sector Is Adapting To Covid-19

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How Rwanda Tourism Sector Is Adapting To Covid-19

By: Elenah Kimaru

Tourism is a crucial economic sector contributing to the GDP of different African countries. In 2018, the tourism sector in Rwanda contributed 14.9% of the country’s GDP. The country experienced its highest annual growth in tourism revenue in 2019, with over 1.63 million visitors visiting the country and $498m in earnings.

Tourism In The Time Of Coronavirus

So much has changed since 2019. As countries went on lockdown and international flights grounded to stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, the tourism sector became one of the hardest-hit sectors worldwide. Tour operators, hotel owners, suppliers of food, transport, and souvenirs have experienced significant losses due to COVID-19. Before the pandemic, Africa’s tourism industry was the second-fastest growing in the world. Now, the future remains unknown for many of the 24.6 million people employed in tourism jobs across the continent.

Rwanda, where the pandemic has led to a -0.2% contraction of GDP, is no exception. According to Rwanda’s Minister of Finance Uzziel Ndagijimana, the tourism industry missed out on about $10 million in March and April alone.

Rwanda Reopening

Rwanda reopened for domestic tourists and chartered international flights on June 17th. Since August, international visitors arriving on commercial flights are once more welcome in the country, provided that they follow the safety protocol. The safety measures include a requirement for two negative Covid-19 test results, one up to five days before departure and one upon arrival in Rwanda. Tourists are expected to quarantine in their hotel until they receive the results, which could take up to 24 hours. Certain popular tourist activities specify additional precautions. For instance, visitors wishing to explore one of Rwanda’s three national parks must register in advance and obtain a negative Covid test 72 hours before their visit.  

So, What Does the Rwandan Tourism Sector Offer?

Rwanda is known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” and Lonely Planet has called Rwanda “scenically stunning.” Majestic Virunga volcanoes on the country’s northwest borders offer some great hiking; some peaks, such as the snow-capped summit of Mount Karisimbi, exceed 4500 meters. 

The area’s bamboo forests house some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Thanks to the efforts of famed primatologist Dian Fossey, tourists can visit these majestic animals in their natural habitat. Now is the time to see the mountain gorillas: To encourage gorilla trekking during these uncertain times, the government has slashed gorilla permits by 60%-80%

Nyungwe National Park, in the southwest of the country, offers some of the best trails to the best breathtaking landscapes in Rwanda. The Akagera National Park, which generates $2.5 million annually and is 90% self-financing, is Central Africa’s largest protected wetland. In 2019 alone, the park attracted 50,000 visitors, half of which were Rwandan Nationals. Lake Kivu, the 18th deepest lake on the planet, is surrounded by beautiful hiking and biking trails. Visitors can also kayak in Lake Kivu’s waters or relax on its beautiful beaches

Kigali, Rwanda’s Capital

BBC Travel has called Kigali “the most inviting city in Africa.” It is also often hailed as the continent’s greenest and cleanest city and one of the safest cities on the continent. Plastic bags are banned, and on the last Saturday of every month, residents come together for a massive cleanup operation. More than 90% of households in Kigali now have access to toilets and to clean water. Community service is mandatory for citizens aged 18-65. With a young and vibrant population, great dining, and thriving art, fashion, and tech scenes, Kigali is an exciting place to visit and get inspired.

Signs Of Recovery Since Reopening:

Since Rwanda reopened to tourists, the sector has shown signs of recovery. While many international visitors remain wary of flying, domestic tourists have been stepping in to fill the gap. Increased domestic tourism may even revive a discontinued revenue-sharing scheme. Following this scheme, the government will distribute part of revenues generated from tourism activities to communities living around the national parks. Many of these community members managed businesses catering to tourists and have been heavily affected by the months-long tourism standstill.

Make Rwanda Your Next Vacation Destination

Rwanda’s scenic nature contains beautiful national parks and rare mountain gorillas. Kigali’s beautiful, bustling boulevards and delicious food and coffee can satisfy even the pickiest urban traveler. Despite the challenges experienced as a result of COVID-19, Rwanda’s government is putting efforts to ensure that the sector is revived and prioritizes visitors’ safety wishing to enjoy what the country has to offer.

Do you have Rwanda on your bucket list of travel destinations? Are you looking for a top destination for your next travel plans? Check out Rwanda for your next vacation and start planning early!

 

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Did you know that over 525 million people used the internet in Africa in 2019? If current growth trends continue, almost 75% of Africans are expected to come online by 2030.
The Financial Times has released its list of the top 20 fastest growing companies in Africa for 2024.
MTN Rwanda is taking a groundbreaking step towards environmental responsibility with the launch of the nation’s first-ever paper-based, biodegradable SIM cards, dubbed “bioSIMs.”
d.light, a company providing essential household products and financing to low-income communities, has announced a project to equip Ugandan refugee camps with solar home systems.
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The 5 Business Models of African Tech Hubs

The 5 Business Models of African Tech Hubs

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The 5 Business Models of African Tech Hubs

By: Leah Ngari

Entrepreneurs in Africa often struggle to find capital or source expertise required to develop their idea into a thriving business. Tech hubs seek to fix these issues by providing co-working spaces, accelerator programs, and mentorship opportunities. As a result, tech-based startups can get the funding, training, and connections they need to transition from concept to implementation. Currently, over 600 tech hubs currently operate across Africa, fostering flourishing communities and robust networks that allow entrepreneurs to realize their vision and propel their business to the next level. 

Why are Tech Hubs Important? 

Tech hubs can help African entrepreneurs overcome the specific challenges they face in establishing successful tech companies on the continent. Africa’s connectivity gap can frustrate many innovators who rely on a stable internet connection for their work. The shortage of seed-stage funding can make it difficult for new founders to make the investments necessary to get their company off the ground. Lastly, the digital skill gap on the continent can inhibit innovators from sourcing the expertise needed to build a winning team. 

The Five Different Business Models for Tech Hubs 

There are many different types of tech hubs on the continent. Some hubs, such as Nigeria’s CcHub, focus on the local startup ecosystem, contributing to the tech industry’s growth in their country of operation. Other hubs, like pan-African MEST, consist of a network of hubs that facilitate communication and collaboration across the continent. According to the International Trade Center‘s report Supporting Startups: Tech Hubs in Africa, these are the five business models for tech hubs on the continent.

1) The Grantee

Tech hubs that intentionally choose to work with public organizations, foundations, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments of large multinational companies fall into the “grantee” model. Grantee tech hubs generally offer their services free of charge. They may provide mentoring, business connections, specialized training, networking opportunities, media attention, access to markets and capital, and technical tools and resources.

2) The Networker 

Networker tech hubs strive to create an ecosystem that gives entrepreneurs access to the network they need to grow their company. These hubs generally give their entrepreneurs access to a physical co-working space that enables connections to develop organically. Successful networker hubs manage to build an ecosystem of freelance talent, peer entrepreneurs, companies, investors, and other business development services. 

3) The Consultant

Most tech hubs interviewed for the report fell into this category. Tech hubs operating on the consultant model try to secure multiple revenue streams by offering their consulting services to public and private organizations. Consultant tech hubs aim to become profitable as quickly as possible while supporting entrepreneurs at little to no cost. These consulting services can be in the form of 

  • Providing digital solutions services
  • Granting access to data for government and development organizations
  • Giving training sessions on innovations 
  • Helping large corporations set up their startup accelerators 
  • Advising organizations, foundations, and multinational companies’ CSR programs on collaborating with entrepreneurs and startups to create jobs, foster inclusiveness, etc 

4) The Agent 

Agent tech hubs are usually acceleration-oriented. They focus on startups that are ready for funding by connecting them with investors. These hubs seek to generate revenue from exits, success fees, and fund management fees. Unfortunately, this model is challenging to develop in immature entrepreneurial ecosystems. As a result, the only surveyed hubs to generate revenue from exits were located in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, which are all classified as mature ecosystems. 

5) The Builder

Unlike other incubators or VCs, the builder tech hubs’ main goal is to build startups from the ground up. Builder tech hubs function as startup studios that aim to generate revenue by creating multiple successful startups. They have the infrastructure necessary to support emerging startups by making available the technical tools, management, and multi-disciplinary team necessary to build a business. Instead of accepting applications from pre-existing companies or innovative entrepreneurs, these hubs supply business ideas and attract high-skilled, experienced people eager to implement them. 

Financial Viability 

According to the report, the consultant model and the builder model are the most financially viable, followed by the agent model, the grantee, and finally, the networker. 

The Future of Tech Hubs in Africa 

In recent years, tech hubs have become influential startup creators and tech community builders in Africa, contributing to the startup ecosystem’s growth on the continent. To keep playing this role, tech hubs must also thrive financially. The five business models listed above can help investors looking to fund the next big African accelerator choose a business model that can realize their vision while achieving financial sustainability.

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Did you know that over 525 million people used the internet in Africa in 2019? If current growth trends continue, almost 75% of Africans are expected to come online by 2030.
The Financial Times has released its list of the top 20 fastest growing companies in Africa for 2024.
MTN Rwanda is taking a groundbreaking step towards environmental responsibility with the launch of the nation’s first-ever paper-based, biodegradable SIM cards, dubbed “bioSIMs.”
d.light, a company providing essential household products and financing to low-income communities, has announced a project to equip Ugandan refugee camps with solar home systems.
Posted on Leave a comment

Diving Business in Africa – Virtual Networking and Panel Discussion on AfCFTA

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Driving Business in Africa - Virtual Networking and Panel Discussion on AfCFTA

October 28, 2020

Virtual Event

This media gallery will take you on the journey of an attendee registering and attending our virtual Driving Business in Africa event. We know that networking in the time of Covid-19 presents unique challenges, and we believe that attending our virtual networking event is a great solution for executives looking to identify potential business connections and forge valuable partnerships.

Attendee registering to the platform and setting up his profile details.

Welcome to the virtual event! When Participants log into the platform at the designated time, they are welcomed with a message from Empower Africa’s Founder & CEO, Ezi Rapaport. They can click below the video to become familiar with using the platform.

After watching the welcome video and getting familiar with the platform, the attendees can enter the event.

Participants enter the lobby and can navigate the floor plan by clicking on the different floors. Attendees sit at a table by clicking on an empty seat. Once an attendee sits at a table and opens his or her microphone and camera, the attendee can chat freely with the other attendees at the table.

Chat with participants on the general chat, the table chat or the private chat.

Lights! Camera! Action! The panel discussion is about to start.

Ms. Janet Levy Pahima, Partner at Herzog Fox & Neeman’s International Department, giving a presentation during the panel discussion.

During the presentation, attendees can submit their questions in the Q&A tab.

Attendees can be invited onstage to ask questions during the open discussion part of the presentation. In this image, Shira Aliza Petrack, Panel Moderator, Emery Rubagenga, Founder of Ishango Consulting, and event attendee Mark Karugarama engage in a face-to-face virtual interaction.

Image showcasing the live chat functionality.

CEO of Empower Africa Ezi Rapaport presents a music video produced in the Empower Africa supported music studio in Kono, Sierra Leone.

Shira Aliza Petrack, Panel Moderator, Emery Rubagenga, Founder of Ishango Consulting, Ezi Rapaort, founder and CEO of Empower Africa and Ms. Janet Pahima, Partner of Herzog Fox & Neeman’s International Department engaging in a face-to-face virtual interaction during the event.

Emile Niyonzima, Managing Director at Globl Group, Jesse Shiff, Marketing Director at Empower Africa, and Daneil Berchenkamp, Media Producer at ARC1 fostering networking opportunities while video chatting.