27 March 2012

Charlotte Africa Business Week 2012:April 24-28, Charlotte, NC, USA

Written by: Editorial Staff on March 18, 2012.on March 21, 2012.

The Charlotte Africa Business Week (CABW) 2012 is the first ever initiative of this kind to connect Charlotte with business opportunities in Africa. CABW partners are the Global Business Roundtable (GBR); Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), an umbrella chamber of commerce organization for chambers across Africa and based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Afribiz, a division of Conceptualee, Inc.; and University of North Carolina Charlotte’s (UNCC’s) Africana Studies Department. Ecobank is the anchor sponsor.

Charlotte’s competitive strengths in Banking, Finance, and Investment, Energy, Healthcare, Education, Technology, as well as the State of North Carolina’s additional strengths in these areas and agriculture, match many of the needs of the fast growing African continent with a population over 1 billion and annual GDP of over $1 trillion. In several countries in Africa, the middle class is growing faster and has greater purchasing power than the middle class in China or India. Also, seven of the fastest growing economies (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Congo) in the world for the next five years are in Africa, according to The Economist. The Economist expects the Africa region to overtake the Asia region in growth within five years.

CABW 2012 will bring together not only the private sector in Charlotte and across Africa, but also those in the academic and social sectors. It will also create a basis for energizing the African diaspora in the area to work more collectively to create bridges between Africa and the United States.

The week’ schedule includes:

Tuesday, April 24 – A one-day workshop, “Going Global in Africa,” designed for local SMEs, entrepreneurs, faculty, and students about practical strategies and tactics for doing business in Africa will be held. The workshop is being hosted by the University of North Carolina Charlotte Africana Studies department.

Wednesday, April 25 –The Global Business Roundtable USA and Global Fund for Christ launch dinner is scheduled for this day.

Thursday, April 26 – Key industry and society meetings (closed to public) covering areas, such as banking/finance, energy, healthcare, and urban planning, will be held. The day will also include business-to-business meetings between Charlotte and African firms.

Friday, April 27 – The one-day conference, “Doing Business in Fast-Growing Africa: A Focus on Regional Markets and Economic Hubs,” will be held for the general public.

Saturday, April 28 – The one-day workshop, “Building Sustainable Prosperity in Africa,” for ministries, NGOs, and kingdom entrepreneurs to develop sustainable programs in Africa while embedding economic development into African communities they serve.

For further information, call Darlene Tolbert at 704.819.3333 or email at darlene.tolbert@conceptualee.com.

Partners and Organizers:

Senegal host to first Startup Weekend in Francophone Africa

By Bertil van Vugt on March 27, 2012

During the presidential elections of last weekend the world was looking at Senegal and many observers were surprised when Wade handed over the power to opposition candidate Sall. Soon after the celebration of this ‘victory for democracy’ it will be time for the first Startup Weekend in Francophone Africa as Senegal’s capital city Dakar will host the worldwide event from 30 March to 1 April. VC4Africa spoke to Yann Le Beux, one of the organizers.

How will the outcome of Sunday’s election influence starting entrepreneurs?

“This peaceful and loyal second round of elections which saw the arrival of a new president is another proof of the historical political stability of Senegal. It is also great news for foreign investors and businesses here. The new president Makcy Sall announced an ambitious program for IT and entrepreneurship and we hope he will keep this position. Several actors like our incubator CTIC Dakar, the ICT Business Association (OPTIC) and the Senegalese Accelerated Growth Initiative (SCA) are constantly pushing the government for a stronger support to entrepreneurs. The presence of officials at the first StartupWeekend Dakar is for instance a good thing but should only a first stone.”

Why is there a need for a Startup weekend in Senegal?

“Firstly to put Dakar and its active tech scene into the international startup community. Secondly to create a highly engaging and business oriented event for developers and entrepreneurs. Thirdly to make people from different background and sectors work together on concrete business ideas and start long term collaborations. And last but not least to prove decision makers, corporations and investors that motivated people can develop prototypes of meaningful IT solutions in a short time and at no cost and thus, that well supported IT startups can have a tremendous impact on the country’s economy.”

Can you describe the startup scene in Senegal and Dakar in particular?

“The Senegalese startup scene has been really booming in the past year or two and Dakar is clearly becoming a leading tech hub for West Africa. The first reason for this recent activity is certainly the quality of the network and the mobile phones’ penetration, Senegal having one of the best telecom and internet infrastructures on the continent.

Another asset of the Senegalese ecosystem lies in the regionally recognized academic institutions like the Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique, UCAD, ESMT and many others institutions that attract the best talents from all francophone Africa. The highly connected and entrepreneurial Diaspora that has been through world-class universities and companies in Europe and the US also plays a crucial role in the environment. A lot of them actually came back to found their own venture. Dakar is the West-African base for most of the major IT corporations like Google, Microsoft, HP, IBM, Nokia and Samsung that are all actively involved in the ecosystem.

Lastly, the past two years have seen the emergence of dynamic initiatives driven by the private sector to boost entrepreneurship like the incubator and accelerator CTIC Dakar, the coworking space Jokkolabs, or the Mobile Senegal group. Dakar also has very active BarCamp, Android and Open-Source communities.

The startup scene is mostly concentrated in Dakar but we recently saw a dynamic ecosystem emerging also around Saint-Louis thanks to the University UGB and the coworking space Bantalabs. These are all great assets for an entrepreneurship ecosystem, but Senegal is still lacking of risk-investors at the seed stage even if some international VCs like Investisseurs et Partenaires, Aureos Capital or Cauris are around and made some later stages investments. We are still lobbying the government towards the creation of a national IT seed fund and for a law giving a fixed quota of the public markets to local SMEs.”
IT is often regarded as a sector on its own and due to a lack of cross-linkages, IT solutions struggle to impact sectors where they could have an enormous leverage for the Senegalese economy. We then decided to focus the event on this two sectors first but others events will target m-health, m-finance and other key areas. However, it’s important to point out that the event remains open to any great idea from any sector.”

What can visitors of the StartupWeekend Dakar expect?

“They can expect concrete networking opportunities with other talented developers and entrepreneurs. They will also have the chance to share with seasoned entrepreneurs part of our mentors and jury like Cheikh Tidiane Mbaye, CEO of Orange-Sonatel (1 billions € revenues in 2011), Tidjane Deme, Director of Google Francophone Africa, Chams Diagne, Director of Viadeo Africa and the founders of some of the most successful IT companies in the region: Antoine Ngom of GSIE, Abdoulaye Mbaye of Neurotech and Omar Cissé of 2SI and now director of CTIC Dakar.

The participants will also have the opportunity to boost their project and get a lot of media attention. The national TV channel RST1 will for instance follow and broadcast the entire weekend. Of course, winning teams will received some reward from our partners like a 3 months incubation program at CTIC Dakar, working spots at Jokkolabs, access to Bizpark and a SME manager training from Microsoft, and others…”

You work for CTIC Dakar, please describe the organization and your role?

“CTIC Dakar is the first incubator and accelerator of Senegal for high-potential IT and mobile entrepreneurs. We are a non-profit and our vision is to become one of the leading hubs in West Africa for the training, the growth and the funding of high-potential entrepreneurs. Originated by the private sector and the World Bank InfoDev program, CTIC is also supported by corporations like Orange-Sonatel and international donors. After less than one year of activity, we incubate nine companies of 5 to 20 employees each and we accelerated more than 15 startups projects through our different programs.

We organize events for the tech community, private business networking and seminars for IT entrepreneurs and we are now building strong links with universities. I joined the management team few months ago as a Catalyst. My role is to work with entrepreneurs on their strategy and business models, coordinate the team of consultants and mentors and to work on innovative funding scheme for tech startups. On the incubator side, I help building international partnerships, design new programs and develop our long term strategy along with our Director Omar Cissé.”

What are examples of recent successful startups in Senegal? And who should we watch in the coming year?

“We can mention ‘People Input‘, which recently received an award as the best West-African web and social media agency. Created 7 years ago, the network solution provider ‘Neurotech‘ also had an amazing growth and now boosts a nice +€3m revenue. There is then ‘GSIE‘, ‘2SI or Chaka‘ computers that all have more than 5 years of continual growth in the field.

On the newcomers’ side, I think of ‘Nelam Services‘, a great startup team which provides high-value African content on different platforms and notably creators of Agendakar.com; ‘M-Loumas‘, a promising startup that provides a mobile app connecting producers and vendors in rural daily markets; ‘Signupcard.com‘ that provides a platform to create personalized online video business cards and ‘SenMobile‘, which develops various mobile apps and recently won the Ericsson’s App for Africa challenge.

As far I am concerned, I think we should really watch and develop local content mobile apps, crowd sourcing and funding platforms, private social networks for businesses, group texting and gaming applications, notably via Facebook.”

How can people contact you?

“Via email Yann.lebeux [at] cticdakar.com, Phone +221 33 889 9360, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and via our website www.cticdakar.com.”

GroFin expands pool of SME funding to $323 million, enters three new countries

GroFin, the multinational pioneer of growth finance working to create real impact through the support of small and medium businesses, has announced a growth in funds under management from $260 million to $323 million. These funds are invested in supporting entrepreneurs and business people to start or grow a business. The company also announced that it will be launching three new offices in 2012 in Zambia, Jordan and a regional office serving the UAE.

Since launching in 2004, GroFin has established a reputation of being a leading provider of finance and business support to entrepreneurs and business owners in Africa and the Middle East.

Guido Boysen – CEO GroFin Africa adds “We are thrilled to announce an increase in the funds we have available, as well as our entry into three new markets rich with potential. We have a strong foundation in place, a proven and scalable model and a firm commitment to make a lasting impact in the growth of the SME sector.”

GroFin’s choice to invest in entrepreneurs and businesses that are locally owned and managed in the markets in which it operates, is rooted in the vision that these businesses hold the potential to create sustainable economic and social impact. However while this sector of the market is theoretically best able to empower and mobilise societies, the majority of these businesses fail to survive past their early years of operation.

Mohamed Toki – CEO GroFin MENA explains “Many so-called SMEs find themselves in the ‘missing middle’ where they do not have the collateral required for traditional secured lending and are too small for private equity but too large for micro-finance. Entrepreneurs and businesses in this sector are underserviced with few capable partners offering the combination of risk finance, experienced business support, and market linkages required to succeed. Recognising both the challenge and the opportunity GroFin was formed to successfully service this sector”.

GroFin’s unique viability based model is recognised as a pioneering model globally in the provision of risk based finance. The success of the GroFin business model has been recognised by the UN Development Programme, who in 2010 recognised GroFin for its contribution to developing local businesses, and in so doing promoting the Millennium Development Goals. The business also won the Africa Investor Awards consecutively for two years. The GroFin model is furthermore widely used as a benchmark and role model for growth finance to SMEs.

About GroFin

GroFin is an award winning multi-national fund manager and growth financier focused on sustainable investment in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector. Operating in the growth finance market our vision is to see committed entrepreneurs and local business people who have viable businesses or ideas able to access the funding and support they require to succeed and in doing so drive economic and social empowerment in their societies.

Established in 2004, GroFin is able to leverage significant management experience, expertise and operational capacity developed across our 14 offices in 13 countries into fully integrated and customised local market solutions. With an investment portfolio of 300 transactions and a proven track record of managing approximately US$300 million across seven funds we are a pioneering and global leader in our sector.

For more information contact PR and Communications Officer: Amy Heydenrych

Phone: +27 12 998 8200.

GroFin website: www.grofin.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/grofin

Ethiopia: from hunger and despair to business opportunities

Entrepreneur Addis Alemayehou firmly believes in his country’s strengths

Addis Alemayehou: "Ethiopia is a different country now"

“A lot has changed for the good in Ethiopia. Although the famine of the eighties is long ago, many still have an unbalanced image of Ethiopia.” Meet Addis Alemayehou, an entrepreneur in Ethiopia, who firmly believes in the economic potential of his country. Ethiopia will be hosting the World Economic Forum Africa in May and Addis’ will be co-organizing an ‘Invest in Ethiopia’ forum for the participants coming to the event.

Addis, now 41 years old, left his country with his parents at the age of 7; he was raised in Kenya and Canada but returned to his country ten years ago. Addis is member of the board of the ICTET, the ICT association of Ethiopia, but he is probably best known for his work in the advertising and communication sector. Two years ago the managing partner of the Addis Ababa ad and PR agency 251 Communications started the first English-language radio station of Ethiopia, AFRO FM, covering African business news.

There is definitely a lot to report on in Ethiopia. “It has been 26 years since the world was shocked by the pictures of hunger and despair. It is a different country now and I would love to help change the image of Ethiopia; one of the fastest growing countries in the world today. This year, our economy is growing almost as fast as India’s and China’s. We have had double digit growth for six years now!”

Growth numbers

An entrepreneurial spirit in the local business community fuels Ethiopia’s growth numbers. “We are now the second largest flower producer – next to Kenya – of Africa, exporting a growing number of our products to Europe. There is a tremendous amount of investment going on right now. Heineken just invested $ 175 million in Ethiopia and Diageo brought in another $ 230 million. There are a lot of investment opportunities in other sectors.”

What sectors look promising? “I would say agriculture is number one. This is a huge, green country, with lots of opportunities. Two would be manufacturing, because the 86 million inhabitants are rapidly becoming consumers; we have a fast-growing middle class that has real spending power. Three would be tourism: this country has seven Unesco World Heritage Sites! It is an old country that has been around for 3,000 years and that has never been colonised! Number four and five on the investment list are the IT and energy sectors, because there is a lot happening in these areas now. Ethiopia is like a plane waiting to take off: either you get on it or don´t.”


Of course, there is work to be done. “We do need to get rid of some of the red tape. We do need to work on logistics and infrastructure; fortunately, the government has a strong focus on building roads, domestically and regional, to better connect Ethiopia to the world. I call this ‘work in progress’. To businessmen I would say: come now and don’t wait until Ethiopia is finished.”

New Report Finds Agriculture Promotes African Economic Growth

A new report says African agriculture can contribute to sustained global economic growth. But it says there must first be greater investment in farming, markets and social development.

The Montpellier Panel, made up of European agricultural experts, is calling for “growth with resilience” in Africa.

“If you look at African countries now you’ll see that large numbers of them are growing very well. The average growth rate for the whole of Africa is about six percent. But there are many that are growing faster. And a key component of that growth is agricultural development. So that is all very good,” said Sir Gordon Conway, panel chair and professor of international development at Imperial College London.

On the other hand, Conway said, there are threats to that development.

“There are some terrible pests and diseases that destroy crops virtually overnight in Africa. There are all the problems arising from global warming. There are likelihoods of increased drought, of rising temperatures and of course extreme events of major flooding or heat waves. And all of these mean that the growth by itself is not going to be enough,” he said.


The Montpellier Panel is recommending a three-part strategy: resilient markets, resilient agriculture and resilient people.

“What Africa ought to look at is the potential for growth with resilience. Resilience being the capacity to cope with these threats of many kinds. And we also argue that the resilience has to be built in right from the outset. It’s not something you can just sort of tag on at the end. So the future lies really with having these two components welded together – growth and resilience,” said Conway.

He added resilient markets reduce food price volatility, attract more investors and encourage greater productivity for smallholder farmers. Resilient agriculture, he says, requires partnerships involving governments, the private sector and NGOs to reduce land and water degradation and increase climate smart farming techniques.

“You’ve got to have good, enabling environments that allow new technologies to be adopted. But most important, you need technologies that will give you the resilience and the production at the same time. Some of these can come from agro-ecology. Things like mixed cropping or micro-dosing or so on. Or they can come from new crop breeds, which will give you tolerance if not resistance to drought and flooding and so on,” he said.

The Montpellier Panel describes resilient people as those “able to provide stable incomes, adequate nutrition and good health in the face of recurrent stresses and shocks.”

“You need better nutrition, particularly for young children in Africa. Something like 50 percent of the children in Africa, in many countries, are stunted. And if they get better nutrition then they’re more resilient to diseases,” he said.

The recommendations, said Conway, will take political will to implement, both from donor governments and the African leadership. He says a growing number of African leaders are investing in agricultural. He describes Ghana as a shining example of how investments spur economic growth.

Cameroon’s hydroelectric plans

27 March 2012 - Negotiations have begun between Cameroon’s ministry of water and energy and Joule Africa of the UK as well as German company Lahmeyer. This relates to the potential construction of an up to 500 MW hydroelectric dam in Menchum in northeast Cameroon. The consortium is preparing to launch an assessment of what is called the Kpep project's estimated costs.

22 March 2012

Africans inherited corruption

Most well-intentioned corruption-busting remedies in Africa fail because the root causes are often poorly understood. Post-independence African countries inherited deeply corrupt institutions, laws and values from colonial and apartheid governments.

Instead of changing these for the better, African ruling parties and leaders entrenched these deeply compromised governance systems.

In most African colonies, the colonial elite centralised political, economic and civic power, reserving top jobs in the public and private sector, and education only to fellow colonials. In the colony, the institutions that should traditionally serve as watchdogs against corruption – the judiciary, police, security services and laws – selectively served only the elite. These institutions were more often subservient to the all-powerful colonial administrator or governor.

The colonial private sector, producing in most cases for export to the imperial market, was usually deeply dependent on the colonial government for licences, contracts and subsidies and rarely held the colonial government accountable.

With few exceptions, the colonial media were equally bridled.

At independence the African colonial elite were now often replaced by another narrow elite, this time the independence movement aristocracy – the dominant independence leader and dominant “struggle” families, or the dominant ethnic group or political faction.

African independence movements are often highly centralised or strongly dominated by one leader and his political, ethnic or regional faction. The dominant structural make-up of these movements means that they can seamlessly fit into a similar centralised political culture of the colonial government.

At independence, the indigenous communities of most African countries were relatively poor, unskilled and without any significant holdings in the private sector.

Very few grassroots cadres of independence movements had professional careers outside the struggle. They have to be given jobs after the struggle. This situation is fertile for corruption.

The newly acquired state bureaucracy, military, judiciary, nationalised private sector were often seen as the “spoils” of victory of the independence struggle. The whole process often becomes corrupted with struggle aristocracies dishing out patronage – jobs, government tenders and newly nationalised private companies – to their political allies, ethnic group or region.

Giving jobs to members of the same faction, ethnic group or region means the idea of merit-based appointments is thrown out of the window. This means that even if the newly empowered independence movement launched economic development programmes to transform the colonial economy, such reforms are hardly ever going to have any impact given that unqualified cronies are managing key public institutions.

Jobless cadres are also forced to seek out the patronage of leaders who have control over the distribution of the “spoils”.

In most cases, cadres critical of the dominant leaders or policies are likely to be excluded from work in the public and private sectors.

Very few African countries at independence had a significant private sector. Those that had a large private sector more often than not saw it nationalised.

Partly for these reasons, the private sector in post-independence African countries is usually docile is unlikely to demand accountability from the government.

In some instances the liberation movement government embarks on a policy of creating a “capitalist class” or new “indigenous” business owners, black economic empowerment (BEE) or indigenisation programmes.

In many such instances political capital forms the basis of these attempts at creating indigenous capitalists: political leaders either get stakes in newly privatised public companies, or get state tenders to supply services for the government, or get slices of private companies owned by former colonials, minority groups or foreign companies.

Those who benefit from BEE, indigenisation or privatisation programmes will not hold African governments accountable.

Before independence, the small colonial elite often lived lives of conspicuous consumption – expensive mansions, exclusive shopping trips in the mother country capital, lavish parties. A culture of hard work was often absent.

Sadly, many of the post-independence African elite – both the political and economic empowerment class – took the colonial elite’s conspicuous consumption standard as the standard of “success”.

Not surprisingly, some of the poor also want to emulate this “bling” lifestyle – and may not see any problem with leaders living like this, if they themselves remain poor.

During struggles for liberation, progressive civil groups usually join the liberation as part of an anti-colonial alliance. At independence most liberation movements argued that civil society had now played its historic role and should be “demobilised”, or some are often incorporated as “desks” or “leagues” of the now governing party.

During the struggle, independence movements were by their nature secretive. They often had to act in secrecy and subterfuge to foil the secret or security police of the colonial or white-minority governments. Sadly, in power, most govern with obsessive secrecy, which encourages corruption.

Liberation and independence leaders were often put on a pedestal by supporters. This often continues after independence – and allows the leader to get away with corruption.

The colonial system of legal unfairness necessarily forced many among the oppressed to find ways to escape the (unjust) laws and rules. Unless independence in the post-colonial period set clear examples of following the rule of law, the masses will continue such practices

In some African countries, the main opposition parties are either associated with the colonial or the minority governments, or had opposed independence.

But opposition parties that eventually come to power in Africa have often offered few alternatives to the corrupt regimes of independence movements.

Most African ruling parties and leaders lack the political will to genuinely tackle corruption. This will have to change.

Sadly, enforcement and compliance in African public sectors has often been very low – opening up the system for corruption. The corruption-fighting capacity of existing institutions dealing with corruption must also be strengthened.

African ruling parties must punish bad behaviour of their leaders and members, legally, socially and politically, and reward good behaviour. Only if that is done publicly will the government restore the moral authority to deal credibly with transgressions from ordinary citizens. This will help to compel ordinary citizens to follow the rules.

African ruling parties must bring in a new calibre of leadership at all levels – competent, honest and decent. A system of merit must be brought into the internal party elections.

Africans need to actively encourage new kinds of leaders, with a new value system – not solely based on struggle credentials.

The solution is more exposure of corruption by the media. Right now, the perception across Africa is that whistle-blowers are more likely to be prosecuted than the corrupt individuals.

African public officials often dismissed international organisations’ corruption reports on Africa, saying these reports are infused by Western bias, which overlook corruption in Western countries and focus only developing countries.

Of course this is true to some extent. However, that should be a separate debate and should not downplay the real serious issue of corruption at home.

Blaming the legacy of colonialism and apartheid – although certainly with us – has become an easy answer for not acting against corruption. This will have to change.

Gumede is honorary associate professor at Wits, author and co-editor of The Poverty of Ideas .
March 19 2012 at 11:55am

By William Gumede