It’s the year that no futurist or economist could have predicted, one inhabited by a virus that would (and still) impact livelihoods, businesses, economies and our way of living. The negative socio-economic rippling effect of COVID-19 has been felt across all vectors, and in a similar light, has inspired entrepreneurial and innovative activity that’s yielded products and partnerships that have impacted and pivoted the world as we know it. On the 14th of October, I announced such a partnership, a SAGE Partnership to benefit small businesses across South Africa.
In the midst of the pandemic, and after weeks of anxiously contemplating whether to take the plunge and spending a week of building a facilitated learning platform, I launched www.innovtel.org which houses courses, e-books and InnovTel and Teach webinars on impact innovation. Birthed through our first partnership with a global leading aviation company in providing advisory and mentorship on impact innovation, InnovTel (Pty) Ltd (an impact design studio that facilitates impact innovation and shared value through design, advisory and project management) was registered a company was born.
You’re probably thinking, what a crazy time to launch! Me too, at first. I also thought, what a relevant time to engage on impact and tools that can innovatively impact the way in which we practice and understand impact. A necessary opportunity to map out what impact means for your business, and what tools to use when listening to the potential impact and growth that can be achieved.
Recently, through InnovTel and Teach, which is one of the products of www.innovtel.org , we engaged with an entrepreneur on how she is building her multi-million venture, and one of the core principles of this impact was finances. She simply said to build your business as though you are building a legacy baby and it was her accountant who gave her this sage advice.
Being a small business owner, I knew that I could waste no time in tracking the finances of my business, and in my relationship with data and intelligence, Excel was my chosen tool of choice for my business, coupled with my relationship with my banker in understanding the trajectory that I wanted to take my business in. However, I knew I needed more to optimise my operations, and my partnership with SAGE could not have been more timeous, especially since I didn’t have an accountant on my business speed dial.
SAGE, a multinational enterprise software company, and I, will be engaging in #SAGEAdvice harnessing insights and expertise, and sharing how #SageForSmallBiz tools and capabilities for SMEs can optimize business operations through digitization. Over the next few months, we’ll be unpacking what this exactly means, and how things like automated processes, getting the right tools for your business finances, choosing the right business program partners, what impact is and how getting these process right and much more can contribute to the growth and success of your business.
For now, here’s a little gift from SAGE, an e-book guide with 10 tips to transform your productivity and how changing something as simple and important as your accounting admin can have a huge impact on your business.
In February, I had honoured the invitation of moderating the Investor Forum at the annual Timeless Women’s Conference in Kigali, Rwanda which is one of the leading women empowerment conferences in Africa, and truly a Pan-African experience. Garnished with high-level speakers such as former First Ladies, Members of Parliament, Executives and Impact -driven Entrepreneurs, it was a convening that invited an opportunity to measure and see how Africans and those in the diaspora can do so in engaging discussions, and through that, create shared value.
Traveling to Rwanda for the first time, it certainly lived up to the expectation of it being one of the technology capitals of Africa. The moment I landed at Kigali International Airport, I was met with the warmest of service at the counters and my visa processed on arrival without any hassles. Before I knew it, it was time to get on stage at the two-day event, and moderate the investor forum which highlighted about Investing in Africa through themes including and not limited to Policy and Regulation, FDI and DFI, SMMEs, Digitization and Inclusive Capital Deployment. If anything to come out of the session, it’s that capital and innovation can’t solely be reliant on the private sector, government has to not only be visible in and during elections, but throughout the year, and so its work.
“Intra-Africa trade has been historically low. Intra-African exports were 16.6%
of total exports in 2017, compared with 68% in Europe and 59% in Asia,
pointing to untapped potential.” – World Economic Forum
“According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), under the African
Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), intra-African trade is likely to
increase by 52.3% by 2020.”– United Nations
Taking the above statistics into considerations, the engaged conference and traveling to one of Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Hotspots and one of the five fastest-growing economies on the continent, inspired me to analyse and share the concept of CSV through the diaspore lens, and through the channel of lessons learnt through my few days in Rwanda.
An academic concept coined by Harvard Business School Professors Michael Porter and Mark R. Kramer and was introduced in 2011 in the Harvard Business Review article ‘Creating Shared Value.’, this concepts looks at the core of wealth creation through shared value. CSV asks the question of how do you capitalise the very capitalism to trade, scale and share in profits and social impact by not trading off the one for the other?
CSV has been proposed to be achieved in THREE ways, and that is by Reconceiving products and markets, Redefining productivity in the value chain and Enabling local cluster development. Let’s take a look at how we can enable. Nurture and catalyse the principle of CSV and dive into examples and proposals of such an effort:
- Reconceiving Products and Markets
The first of the three keys of CSV in unlocked in creating new products and services or markets that will serve the socio-economic needs identified. This is the opportunity for intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs to activate value through the channel of new product innovation, and/or integrate them in products and markets that already exist.
Market-creating innovation (innovation that doesn’t rely on post infrastructure society and the financial markets it’ll create) that will help close the infrastructure financing gap in the range of US$68-US$108 billion. We need to propel further access into education for this opportunity and retain young people as per Whitney Houston (I believe the children are our future) – we need to let them lead the way. We need to center the youth in these dialogues, we encourage that.
Examples of such innovations are crowdfunding platforms as open innovation tools for co-creation, startups changing the course of African innovation and a COVID-19 investor matchup tool for startups (piloting). These examples continue to call upon the power of collaboration, creating new products (new or incremental) and a desire for a new market.
- Redefining Productivity in the Value Chain
Creating new products is great, but how do we ensure that efficiency is created, monitored and evaluated on par with the excellence that the product is created with? The value chain in Africa disrupted by one of few mechanisms, that of which includes the role of government in actualising the full potential of its nations. Looking at channels to access, use and manage resources, energy, suppliers, logistics innovatively and to full potential, and more productively is a unique opportunity as it is a challenge. African leadership is more than unfortunately regarded for the moral decay in leadership. Africa needs to become deliberate about the type of leadership that the continent requires to continue to open the runway for investment. Transformational leaders who are thinking generationally.
The difference in policy and regulations is that sometimes the policy frameworks doesn’t gel as well as with the outcome of the policy. We need to ensure that the AfCFTA and its compliance will bear the fruit that the projections of impact are highlighting. Government must lead prioritize in creating an enabling environment where better policies and regulations can be established for not only the multinationals but the SMMEs – creating Startup Acts and executing AfCFTA (now delayed due to COVID-19).
- Enabling Local Network and Development
Over the course of the years, we’ve witnessed and some participated in the FDI and particularly the investment in education, youth and technology as we’ve seen with Andela, Africa Netpreneur Prize (with Alibaba and Jack Ma), the expansion of Facebook Developer Circles across African cities and Mark Zuckerburg’s visit to Nigeria – this trend is one of clear opportunity that has potential to alleviate many social ills of our society. Improving the local operating environment through skills development and development training will invite coding academies like GirlCode, startup competitions like Seedstars World, incubating organisations like Foundervine and government-led innovations like Kigali Innovation City and its collaborators to pave the way. This is nothing new for Africa, and the through the interconnectedness and shared passion across the diaspora, CSV can be leveraged for its economic benefits to serve.
Ready to Create and Impact Value?
When we refer to the industrial revolutions and mention the empires that changed the course of history, that of the African Renaissance is often eclipsed. In his book Tech Adjacent, engages on the pioneering continent that Africa was and still is when it comes to technology, research and development and innovation. This leads us to the statistics provided earlier on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, and the need to develop mechanisms that something like 4IR can bring to radicalize economic value and growth.
So what will it take to tap into this value and create it? The secret sauce is Africa is in the continent’s true diversity, resources, youth, (cross sector) collaboration, intra-African trade, community and innovation.
Investing in Africa and the diaspora is a paradigmatic moment for the continent and is inviting various stakeholders including DFIs and independent investors from across the globe. AFCTA is the heart of investment confidence at present in interstate trade and development talks. Partnerships and collaboration are prime in executing the policy frameworks and projects, and conferences like these hotbeds for creating such opportunities.
Although the science of CSV is that it pays for itself and is Daviding the Goliath of capitalism, capital resource allocation is the root of why the scales are not balanced, and how Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has come to pass. Also, in areas and communities where capital and its resources are needed for economic activity, a priority needs to place beyond championing the gift of food parcels. Africa and the diaspora can, are and will maximise the profit of nations and their organisations and continue to connect the thread and networks to inclusively innovate and develop for economic and development purposes.
Upon the invitation of the German Corporation and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), last week I was in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of a delegation of pan-African ecosystem enablers to represent Cape Town, South Africa at the Seedstars World Africa Regional Summit 2019. The full week spanned across cocktail evenings and dinners, intense boot camps and 1-1 sessions with mentors and investors for nearly 50 technology startups and the highly anticipated summit with an audience of 300+ comprising of 26 Sub-Saharan African countries.
To kick off the regional summit at an evening cocktail, I was joined on stage by Anicha Abdul who is the Managing Director of EP Management and Consulting (Mozambique) and the Program Manager for Empow'Her Côte d'Ivoire, Chloe Roncajolo, moderated by Seedstar’s Fanny Dauchez to be part of an incredible panel called "Generation SHE" to engage on gender equality across the ecosystem. This discussion inspired a series of conversations, and actions which included men and women who actioned for gender parity during another panel discussion, not to discuss gender equity within the ecosystem, but to contribute to the solutions driven workshop based on their expertise. And throughout the course of the week, Seedstars seems to have been intentional about this role of not only diversity, but that of inclusion too.
Equity Scale is Transferable if Intentional
Highlighting the role and participation of women across the border in the technology, startup and investor community was a focus for the global organisation. This was made visible in the rising number of senior persons in leadership held at Seedstars across the Africa region, the 40% of female attendance and the articulate (and strategic) history making of having an all female jury panel for the pitching competition made up on 10 women-led businesses amongst the 24 that pitched.
Shifting the equity scale and accelerating gender parity requires continuous action, surgical focus and enabling conversations that are in inclusive spaces to inspire the actionable change to design the necessary frameworks to thrive.
Africans need to become Connected
By now, it should be no secret that Africa is not a country, however it shouldn’t diminish the need for Africans to become interconnected. This week, what enlightened me the most, was how eager everyone was to connect with each other and expand their networks to benefit the 300+ people in attendance; if this is what the African Trade Agreement has in store for the continent, then hope there is. However, with the provision of the opportunities of trading and investment opportunities, comes the vile reminder of the fact that Africans still require visas to travel to over 50% of other African countries, restricting the continent-spread movement and making it more expensive to travel. And, as a result, we had a few startups who unfortunately weren’t able to be present at the summit to pitch their entities and had to opt for a video-recorded pitch. Even with the launches of milestones such as the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Single African Air Transport Market, the state of a truly connected Africa is not changing significantly over the years.
The President of the African Development Bank Group, Akinwumi A. Adesina articulated it quite well when he said that regional integration and trade based upon the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital should be and is at the core of the business of the African Development Bank, because it recognises the opportunities in the economy that these agreements have in place, this in the 3rd edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index Report 2018 published by the African Development Bank and the Africa Union Commission.
There is no shortage of Scalable Solutions
Powered by the African Development Bank Group, with my fellow mentors, we had the opportunity to contribute to these high impact and high growth startups from across Africa in various sectors at the Investor Forum ranging from business development to investor readiness advisory. It was an opportunity, and one of the many sessions (including rigorous bootcamps) delivered by respective experts and investors to prepare the 24 Seedstars local winners to advance to the final stage of the competition, the Seedstars World Final stage in Lausanne, Switzerland to win up to $500k in investments. In the end, only 10 startups from the Sub-Sahara Africa region were able to make it: Exuus (Rwanda), mVocia (Ghana), Pezesha (Kenya), Teheca (Uganda), OKO Finance (Mali), Afrikamart (Senegal), Nadji Bi (The Gambia), Vectra (South Africa), Roque Online (Angola) and Crop2Cash (Nigeria). Although not every startup was able to be chosen, the capital (monetary, intellectual, social etc.) that was injected this past week speaks to the true value that both Africans and non-Africans, investors and ecosystem enablers, government and private sector sees in the potential of scaling solutions across African markets.
Diversity is a great conversation starter, and the right direction in the role that inclusion has to play in investing in an Africa that is ready and geared for the global takeover, because the world is ready to if we’re not up to the task. Inviting more women to become a part of decision making processes, pitching at startup competitions, inviting government and policy makers to make intra-African trade less taxing and more open and engaging in these conversations is a step that Seedstars, and the week that was last week showcased that not only the organisation, but the stakeholders involved are promoting and working towards.