Sustainable entrepreneurship in Africa, with and by Africans

More than ever, 'partnership' is the key word when it comes to sustainable entrepreneurship in Africa. That was the message for the more than 250 participants in the sixth annual conference of Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs.  

"Africa needs huge investments to cope with the demographic explosion. Europe and Africa must therefore become partners. We don't just have to send expatriates, we have to support local innovation and go for investments with an impact," said Loic de Cannière, Incofin's managing partner. "The time for expatriates to develop projects is over. In Africa, we need a more fashionable approach based on partnerships and local employment," agreed Bijou Tshiunza, founder of Microdev, which provides microcredit to Congolese market women in Kinshasa. Siemens senior director André Bouffioux referred to the African saying: "If you want to go fast, go out alone. If you want to go far, let's go together. The creation of value and sustainable enterprises must be with Africans, by Africans." 

"The biggest challenges are access to the financial market and the development of start-ups to scale-ups," said Rwandan ambassador Amandin Rugira. VUB professor Nicolas Dentchev pointed out that Africa is very entrepreneurial, but that there is a need for a solid ecosystem to strengthen its dynamism." Rector Herman Van Goethem of UAntwerp pointed out that "the growth figures in Africa are huge, which offers enormous opportunities, but the approach should be local, not based on a mainly global model. This was also confirmed by KUL vice rector Chris Van Geet: "There must be locally independent 'ownership'. Europe must play a role in this. The problems in the south are indeed ours too." 

Director Guido Van Huylebroeck of the RUGent pointed to the joint long-term research programmes with, among others, the Gents Africa Platform (GAP). "Universities need to break away from their traditional education and knowledge role and go for social impact," said Jean-Michel Rigo, vice principal of UHasselt. These include projects in Congo and Morocco. 

"We invest in Africa, local people and support SMEs there. I am also very pleased that we can work together structurally with OVO for this purpose," says BASF CEO Wouter De Geest, who, as VOKA chairman, also advocated a joint VOKA-OVO approach "in order to be able to stimulate entrepreneurship and thus also the development of Africa more strongly". OVO chairman Luc Bonte illustrated this with euphonious figures: "Over the past five years, our B2B initiatives have created some 6,300 jobs. The NGO projects we support provide more than 121,000 jobs. The impact of small-scale projects is of the same order of magnitude as what large companies in Africa are doing." OVO general manager Björn Macauter referred to the success of 'Sustainable Technology for Africa', which will be able to help 50 companies with knowledge exchange, expertise and social loans for four editions and possibly annually from 2020. 

"The world will be a better place, both ecologically and socially, if Africa can develop its industry with local raw materials, local customers and local employees who earn a fair income. We need partnership chips at different levels at the same time, in the private, public and social spheres. OVO plays an important role in this," concluded moderator and OVO board member Freddy De Mulder.