Besides its many challenges, problems, and needs, there are many reasons for optimism when it comes to the future of Africa. Accelerated economic growth in various markets, the war on poverty, the emerging energy market, political stability and international investments in various sectors, all positive signs for what is yet to come.
As an entrepreneur, investor and change agent that has been operating in Africa for many years, two main factors make me more optimistic than ever before. First is the emerging field of innovation, with local ventures demonstrating advanced technological solutions and impressive business models.
The other is African youth, many of those which I had the opportunity to meet display groundbreaking thinking, creativity, curiosity, and a strong desire to lead their homelands towards a better future.
This month, I was privileged to see these two elements come together live on stage, during a Face The Gorillas event at the Kigali YouthConnekt 2019 conference. Face The Gorillas was established a few years ago with the goal of strengthening and encouraging the entrepreneurial field in Africa. Under the scheme, local entrepreneurs introduce their company to a panel of leading international investors who decide whether or not to invest in the venture. To date, 16 episodes were aired, featuring over 60 entrepreneurs, 15 of whom have raised capital from the investor panel.
The current panel was particularly exciting. The panel was led by entrepreneur and investor Angela Homsi (who Co-founded Ignite Power), the managing partner of the Angaza Capital, running the Rwanda Innovation Fund (RIF) - an investment fund working in collaboration with the Rwandan government and the African Development Bank. Homsi was joined by the international investors Eugene Nyagahene and Robin Bairstow (CEO of I&M Bank); Together, they met 5 local entrepreneurial youths who set up business ventures in various fields, aiming to provide real-life solutions for the needs of their communities in Africa.
While all the panel attended various entrepreneurial programs around the world, we were all amazed by the presenters’ prominence and remarkable levels of creativity.
“We have seen many entrepreneurs from all over Africa over the years,” said Homsi. “They all believe that innovation and entrepreneurship can lead to amazing outcomes for themselves, their communities, their country and for the world. "They all have a common ground: they are creative, problem solvers, they work hard, and most importantly they are not afraid, and have uncommon grit. We want to support them - and many other people through their solutions”.
The high levels of creativity and innovation presented at the recent event is not sheer luck. It is the result of hard work and smart investment by various parties, led by the Rwandan government. And now comes the challenge: What is the best way to continue supporting these young entrepreneurs, providing them with more tools, guidance and capital so they can fulfill their vision - and lead Africa towards the future as they envision it.
The first step, as stated, was provided by Homsi on stage, when she declared the kickoff of RIF’s activities, financing and supporting African entrepreneurship: “We are excited to launch and start investing in companies that are changing the status quo, led by visionary entrepreneurs,’’ she says. “We will support them with smart capital and operational guidance, that are crucial for unlocking the full potential of Africa”.
Now, many more players need to join the effort, and provide the needed support and guidance to the next generation dreaming of becoming business entrepreneurs. With smart investments and ongoing support from experienced professionals and leading figures (such as Homsi, Bairstow and Nyagahene), African governments can provide these young dreamers with an advanced and meaningful professional toolbox that will help them lead the entire continent to a more inclusive, sustainable, and advanced future.