International Women’s Day 2024: Why it has become essential to invest in women-led businesses in Africa

by MMC
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B.S.: When it comes to investments, resolving some lingering issues is key to seeing an increase. Some people would even like to call them wicked problems due to their complex and resilient nature. Yet how can we eradicate centuries-old traditions that affect the perception and treatment of women? This is a daunting task that requires education and increased awareness.

Closing this funding gap will be difficult. But I think one of the biggest things we need to do is for women to invest in other women. Many women have already overcome obstacles to become successful fund managers, investors and entrepreneurs. As one of these women, I believe it is our responsibility to open doors for others. I have been fortunate to be in the company of women who are not only willing to invest financially, but also to advocate for change. For example, there was recently a proposal in the UK to raise the income threshold for angel investors to £170,000, as well as assets to almost £600,000. The move was met with strong opposition from women, who called on the government to return to the more accessible thresholds of a £100,000 investment and £250,000 in assets. And we all signed the petition. I signed a petition. Every friend I have in the industry, angel investors, signed the petition because we recognize the importance of maintaining opportunities for women to become angel investors. Fortunately, our collective advocacy was effective and the government decided not to implement the proposed changes. Without such advocacy, the law likely would have passed, further reducing investment opportunities for women.

VA: Let’s limit this to the work you do. Thanks to your leadership within the ETK group, you have enabled many companies, particularly those led by women, to navigate foreign and African markets. How do you measure the impact of your work on economic growth and development in Africa?

BS: That’s a very good question. We use various methods to measure our impact. We monitor the number of jobs created, with particular emphasis on the employment of women. We monitor the amount of capital invested, particularly when a client expands into Africa or acquires a minority stake in an African company. This allows us to measure the growth achieved by these companies.

For example, we collaborated with a cosmetics brand to expand in Africa. We have seen brand growth and an increase in employee numbers as it enters new markets. This expansion not only creates more resilient businesses, but also positions them to attract new investment. We also assess intangible outcomes such as the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Often, when introducing an international partner – from Morocco to Nigeria or Nigeria to Kenya, for example – we gain valuable lessons on best practices and operational methods. This exchange enhances the development of skills, knowledge and talents across the continent. These companies are then poised to become global entities, capable of engaging at any level of discussion within management due to their international exposure. This is how we have assessed our impact across the continent so far.

VA: What are some of the essential skills for women to succeed in international business in Africa?

B.S.: I always emphasize three key skills. First, strategic planning is crucial. This is not just for women but for all entrepreneurs. You need to develop strategic plans, conduct in-depth market analysis, and understand your total addressable market and available market. It’s important to have concrete numbers and not make assumptions about market readiness for your product or service.

Next come soft skills and understanding cultural nuances. It’s important to recognize that not everyone shares your point of view. I usually have this conversation with my Nigerian brothers and sisters. We are known for our confidence and confidence. And that’s because we are great people, very innovative and very intelligent. But sometimes it seems intimidating. So if you’re going into a new market, a market like Kenya, where people are very subtle and very soft spoken, you know, just be aware of those cultural nuances because that’s what will help you win in business . The last thing I always say is to be very aware of the risks. Create a risk register. Make sure you have very clearly articulated some of the issues, challenges and obstacles you might encounter, as well as ways in which you can mitigate these risks. This includes currency risk, which is one of the most talked about currently in West Africa, whether in Ghana, Nigeria and even in the East, Kenya and South Africa. So carefully consider your currency risk and how you can mitigate it. As a general rule, keep your eyes open, listen to what’s happening, interpret macroeconomic conditions, and just make sure you’re strategically positioned.

VA: What emerging trends or developments do you see influencing women’s participation in the entrepreneurial ecosystem?

B.S.: Women are becoming more and more emboldened. As more women gain funding, move into leadership positions, and thrive within their organizations, it inspires others to take action. They start trying, they start launching, they start creating business plans, and they start being venture capital leaders. And I saw a lot more. I have seen more V CSs led by women emerge on the African continent. I have seen more women-led boards emerge across the continent, more female founders and more innovators. They are developing business plans and moving into venture leadership, and I have seen an increase in the number of women-led venture capital firms across Africa. There has also been an increase in the number of female-led boards, founders and innovators. These are the trends we are currently seeing.

Another trend we’ve noticed is a female release or two, which brings me so much joy. It is particularly heartening to see women entrepreneurs successfully exit their businesses. Such exits are rare and can take various forms, not limited to investments. This could involve a founder transferring management responsibilities, signifying the maturity of the company. These developments are encouraging and we are seeing more and more of them across the continent.

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