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Investors and Startups turn their Heads Towards Africa at the OurCrowd Summit

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Investors and Startups turn their Heads Towards Africa at the OurCrowd Summit

On Thursday, Feb 13, 2020, Empower Africa was a proud sponsor of The 2020 OurCrowd Global Investors’ Summit, one of the largest tech conferences in Israel. The Summit brought together thousands of investors and tech entrepreneurs from around the world for a day of learning and networking. African delegates included angel investors from Kenya, VC partners from South Africa, students from Uganda and Tanzania, businessmen from Nigeria, a host of Israeli companies already operating in Africa, and government officials from Ethiopia and Botswana.

We were delighted to hear CEO John Medved speak from the main stage and highlight the commercial opportunities in Africa today. Medved urged investors and tech companies to increase their attention on the continent and to utilize their innovative technologies to drive impact.

The networking opportunities for the Empower Africa team were plentiful. At the invite-only Gala Dinner, held the night before the Summit, Empower Africa’s executive team represented the company to a wide range of investors, business leaders and members of the OurCrowd community.

As sponsors for the event, Empower Africa held a booth at the summit to promote investment in Africa. The booth was constantly busy with hundreds of Summit participants who were seeking to learn how to invest and do business on the continent. Julius Tsheko, the Project Manager for the Botswana Investment and Trade Center (BITC), spent most of the event at the Empower Africa booth, answering questions and engaging with a wide range of businessmen and investors. Julius expressed his deep appreciation to Empower Africa for facilitating introductions to Israeli technology companies interested in expanding their operations into Botswana.

For those less familiar with Africa’s private sector, Empower Africa held a quiz that invited participants to learn more about the business landscape of Africa and win an all expenses paid business trip on our next major visit to the continent. Questions such as “what is the fastest growing source of spending in African markets today?” had some stumped (by the way, it’s consumer spending) which led to fascinating dialogue with our team members. The contest is open until April 2nd and can be entered here.

One key takeaway from the event was the need to make use of the new technologies produced today to empower emerging markets and actualize the human potential that exists in these locations. This is in line with the growing trend of creating impact businesses- business that does well by doing good.

An important value we saw demonstrated at the OurCrowd Summit was that of collaboration. Politics were set aside and people from all regions showed up in Jerusalem to network and celebrate the technology community’s innovations and accomplishments.

The event was well produced, rich with insightful content, and an excellent platform for interacting with fascinating people. Most importantly, for us as a team, we left the event optimistic that the Israeli tech ecosystem will have a vital role in driving sustainable economic development in Africa.

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Uk Africa Summit Week in London – Driving Business in Africa Event at the Arts Club

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Uk Africa Summit Week in London - Driving Business in Africa Event at the Arts Club

Curious to know what an Empower Africa event is like? Watch the video below.

Foreign investment can be very rewarding – but it can also be challenging. Understanding the business landscape in a country you wish to invest in is key to successful foreign investment. And to understand the business landscape, you need to have the right network.

At Empower Africa, we understand the importance of bringing the different stakeholders to the table, involving them in the decision-making process, and facilitating networking opportunities.

The recent “Driving Business in Africa” cocktail reception at the Arts Club in London is a prime example of Empower Africa’s network building tools. The reception, held during the week of the January 2020 UK-Africa Business Summit, brought together some seventy investors, businessmen, government officials, and non-profit representatives to share ideas and spark conversations on driving business in Africa. The different speakers who graced the event sparked thought-provoking conversations on the benefits of investing in Africa.

A special highlight of the evening was a speech given by Presidential Advisor on Economic and Financial Policy in Sierra Leone Mr. Joe Demby. Demby endorsed Empower Africa’s activity in Sierra Leone and its mission of empowering Africa through private sector development. Demby also spoke of the role that human capital development needs to play in sustainable national economic growth. Demby discussed President Bio’s commitment to human capital development in Sierra Leone and recalled a conversation he had had with the President on the topic eight years prior, before President Bio assumed office. Finally, Demby invited those in attendance to invest in Sierra Leone.

The evening also featured speeches by Shai Bernstein, V.P. of Business Development and Operations at Empower Africa; Zandile Nkwanyana, President of the Africa Business Club at London Business School; Sharon Bar-Li, Deputy Head of Mission at the Israel Embassy in the UK; Ron Crean, Vice President of Commercial Business at Windward; and Mr. Douglas Hansen, Founder and Chairman of Future Planet Capital.

The uniting theme that stood out from all the speakers was the value that can be created when diverse groups come together.

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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.
In a rapidly evolving world, regulatory bodies often have trouble keeping up with the pace of business and technology innovation – especially when it comes to fintech. To allow for innovation while protecting potential customers, governments across the globe – and across Africa – have designed “regulatory sandboxes.”
Empower Africa hosted a virtual Event entitled “Driving Business in Africa Virtual Event – The Power of Energy”. Here are the recordings of the sessions.
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First Ever UK-Africa Investment Summit Held in London

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First Ever UK-Africa Investment Summit Held in London

On January 20th, government officials and business leaders from the UK and twenty-one African nations came together for the first ever UK-Africa Investment Summit. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the summit acknowledging Africa’s considerable business potential and presenting the UK’s intention of becoming Africa’s “investment partner of choice.” Johnson emphasized that we live in a competitive globalized world, and that the UK’s flourishing economy and robust private sector can play a critical role in fostering mutually beneficial investments and commercial relationships in Africa. “Africa is the future,” Johnson declared. “And the UK has a huge and active role to play in that future.”

Another key highlight of the event was the commitment by the CDC (the UK Government’s development finance institution) to invest a further £2 billion by 2022 in Africa and the SDGs.

Empower Africa’s Vice President of Business Development and Operations Shai Bernstein attended the Summit to discuss Empower Africa’s mission of promoting sustainable economic development in Africa with key relevant stakeholders. Shai’s highlights included meeting and networking with influential people such as the Presidential Advisor on Economic and Financial Policy in Sierra Leone Joe Demby; President of the Africa Business Club at London Business School Zandile Nkwanyana; Deputy Head of Mission at the Israel Embassy in the UK Sharon Bar-Li; Vice President of Commercial Business at Windward Ron Crean; and, Founder, and Chairman of Future Planet Capital Douglas Hansen.

“Africa is the future,” Johnson declared. “And the UK has a huge and active role to play in that future.”

Several prominent African entrepreneurs attended the Summit and took to the stage to share their plans for a modern and connected Africa. Kenyan Ciiru Waweru Waithaka, CEO & Founder FunKidz, a successful startup that makes functional children’s furniture, insisted that Africa’s energetic and innovative youth just needed to be given the opportunity to build a strong private sector, and that “manufacturing SMEs are the answer to questions on economic sustainability in Africa.”

Expanding commercial engagements in Africa is good not just for Africa – it will also boost the global economy and allow the rest of the world to benefit from African innovations. For example, Charles Ofori Antipem from Ghana, Co-Founder Dext Technologies, has invented the “Science Set” – a mini portable lab making it easy for young students to perform basic experiments and get excited about science. The Science Sets are currently being tested by 500 schools in the UK, and Antipem has already secured requests from 24 other countries worldwide. Charles urged investors to invest in young entrepreneurs taking the leap: “ Africans are going to transform the continent and the world with their ideas, solutions, and companies.”

One of the themes during the Summit was Africans’ role as witnessed through the success of Mpesa in Kenya. Africa’s economy is moving at a substantial pace with talks and action about sustainability such as the Republic of Seychelles’ world’s first blue bond and Kenya’s sovereign green bonds.

While investors identified the main growth sectors in Africa as infrastructure, job creation, power, and manufacturing, African entrepreneurs called on the need to build and implement strategies to include sustainable growth. Participants did not shy away from identifying existing challenges, such as restricted access to technical support and financial services, that can prevent vulnerable groups like women and youth from utilizing existing opportunities.

Monica Musonda, CEO of Java Foods, and Tatu Gatere, Co-Founder & COO of BuildHer, discussed their experiences as female entrepreneurs in Africa. Lawyer turned entrepreneur Musonda, who founded Zambia-based Java Foods in an effort to tackle malnutrition through the private sector, stressed that the continent will never achieve its full economic potential if women are not given an equal seat at the table. Gatere, who founded BuildHer in Kenya to teach women construction skills, urged policymakers to tackle challenges that keep women from establishing and maintaining businesses, since women “are often the pioneers of community. If you help women you have a trickle-down effect on children and families.”

During the Summit, the UK took the opportunity to announce a £80 million infrastructure partnership between the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and the African Development Bank.

The summit concluded with a reminder that prosperity cannot be created through government alone. Commercial partnerships and a linkage to global markets will ultimately create economic development in Africa that is more stable and has more room to grow.

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In a rapidly evolving world, regulatory bodies often have trouble keeping up with the pace of business and technology innovation – especially when it comes to fintech. To allow for innovation while protecting potential customers, governments across the globe – and across Africa – have designed “regulatory sandboxes.”
Empower Africa hosted a virtual Event entitled “Driving Business in Africa Virtual Event – The Power of Energy”. Here are the recordings of the sessions.
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Driving Business in Africa: An event for investors hosted by Empower Africa at the Harvard Club NYC

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Driving Business in Africa: An event for investors hosted by Empower Africa at the Harvard Club NYC

Watch the video summary below

Apx. reading time: 4 minutes

Empower Africa hosted a “Driving Business in Africa” Investors’ Breakfast and round table discussion at the Harvard Club of New York City during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) week in NYC. The breakfast, which took place on September 27th 2019, gave attendees a chance to hear about the investment and business landscape in Sierra Leone from senior government officials shaping the country’s economic future. The event was attended by representatives of international companies operating in the agriculture, tourism, energy, and finance sectors.

Shai Bernstein, Vice President of Business Development and Operations, opened the breakfast by introducing Empower Africa and its mission of driving sustainable economic development in Africa by facilitating private sector growth. The audience learned about the upcoming Empower Africa Business Network platform that will connect stakeholders with grassroots companies, international businesses, and various governmental agencies invested in growing Africa’s private sector. The network will streamline access to critical information, communication and the facilitation of major development and private sector projects.

Ezi Rapaport, Founder and CEO of Empower Africa, discussed his personal connection to Sierra Leone which led to the founding of Empower Africa. Ezi recalled first hearing about Sierra Leone as a child, when his father flew to the country during the Civil War on a World Food Program helicopter. Since then, Ezi had learned more about the challenges faced by the region, including the very low levels of foreign trade and investment and the underdeveloped private sector on the continent. As a result, Ezi created Empower Africa which acts to facilitate investment and deal making in Africa.

Ezi also commended the Sierra Leone senior leadership for its integrity and vision of bringing economic growth to the country through human capital development, and highlighted the window of opportunity for change opened by the current government. Ezi urged the international business community to increase its attention towards the continent, in general and Sierra Leone in particular.

After Ezi, Florizelle (Florie) Liser, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), discussed the importance of increasing US and international trade with Africa. Florie described how many African economies are still today exporting mostly raw resources and importing finished products, instead of adding value to the raw materials on the continent and exporting the finished products to the rest of the world. In the name of the CCA, Florie encouraged investors to do business with Africa and help create the operations needed to process African raw materials in Africa, thus creating jobs and contributing to sustainable and real economic growth.

Following the introductory speeches, senior Sierra Leone officials shared their vision for the economic future of the country. The attendees got a chance to hear about the government’s initiatives to boost private trade and investment to the country directly from the people shaping the country’s economic policy.

Sierra Leone’s Chief Minister, the Honorable Prof. David John Francis spoke first. Professor Francis, who returned to serve in President Bio’s administration after holding the UNESCO Chair in African Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Bradford, discussed the shift in national priorities underway in Sierra Leone, and the current administration’s commitment to increasing private trade and investment in Sierra Leone in order to promote human capital development.

For many decades Sierra Leone’s natural reserves of multiple strategic commodities did not bring benefit to the people of Sierra Leone. Now, however, the government is committed to harnessing Sierra Leone’s natural resources to develop Sierra Leoneans’ human capital. Professor Francis described the first national airborne geological survey undertaken by the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources. The Survey is underway, and when completed the government will know the quantity of Sierra Leone’s strategic commodities that can be used as collateral to obtain loans that could fund infrastructure and other high priority projects. Prof. Francis encouraged the attendees to invest in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Abubakarr Augustine Kaikai, Special Envoy for Trade and Investment for the Republic of Sierra Leone declared that “our arms are wide open to strategic partnerships.” He discussed the President’s Medium Term National Development Plan and the Office of the President’s Infrastructure Initiative, highlight President Bio’s new direction for Sierra Leone.

Chairman of Presidential Infrastructure Initiatives Dr. John Edward Tambi presented some of the governments’ infrastructure initiatives, highlighting the government’s Lungi bridge project. At present, Freetown can only be reached by boat from Freetown International Airport. The current Sierra Leone government is launching a major construction project to build a seven kilometer bridge over the Lungi estuary in order to connect the airport to the capital by land. The Lungi bridge project also sends a symbolic message that the government is investing resources in making Sierra Leone more attractive to international visitors and investors.

Our next Investors’ Event, in coordination with the Sierra Leone Government, will take place in London from January 16-22, 2020. More information will be updated closer to the event on our events page