On March 16th, the event OVO Sénégal Diaspora & Investisseurs took place on the ICHEC campus (Brussels Management School). The aim: to inspire the participants with entrepreneurial projects in Senegal. Eight speakers underlined the important contribution of Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs or Ondernemers voor Ondernemers (OVO) to entrepreneurship in Africa.

The cooperation with Senegalese companies got off to a flying start. "In September 2019, we had a first meeting regarding Senegal," explained Bruno Van der Wielen, coordinator for Senegal.

"In early 2020, we selected 12 projects. At the end of July there was a kick-off meeting with those selected and 5 months later 4 loans had already been granted. The money was deposited in early 2021."

He also pointed to the cooperation with ICHEC. Two projects in Senegal are being supervised on the spot by students from the Brussels Management School.

Ichec joins in

Kilian Lafont, a researcher at ICHEC, OVO's partner, attended a ‘boostcamp’ (see box) along with a student from the school and pointed out that they are also actively analysing and guiding the projects in Senegal. "In our analysis we look at the viability and desirability of each project as well as its positive impact on the community." As a speaker, he was followed by Rob De Lobel, project coordinator at IOM Brussels (International Organisation for Migration), a United Nations organisation, who could only emphasise the importance of such projects.

Senegalese entrepreneurs speak

Daha Diallo, OVO's local representative in Senegal, gave an overview of the supported projects in his country. Most of them have already been funded, others are still in the screening phase. And they are quite diverse. From solar energy to hair care, from ice cream to waste recycling. He paid special attention to three projects.

  • The 'Projet Economique de Services Solidaires (PE2S)' aims to give economically vulnerable families the opportunity to purchase essential products, such as food and hygiene, at a lower price and sell them again later. A loan of €27,000 was solicited from OVO. A first amount of €18,000 was transferred in January 2021, with the second part to follow in the first quarter of 2022.
  • The objective of Faeda (Ferme agro-écologique domou Africa) is to respond to the growing demand for poultry and vegetables in the Dakar area. The loan from OVO amounts to € 18,000 with a term of 3 years.
  • Finally, Zelie Ice Cream produces ice cream in a sustainable way. It is worth noting that the founder of the company, Jean Paul Birame Faye, learned to make ice cream as a working student during his education in Louvain-la-Neuve. He now puts his knowledge to use in his own country. A loan of € 11,500 was granted here.

Two Senegalese entrepreneurs were also invited to share their experiences. Khadidiatou Ba is the entrepreneur behind FEEWI Corporate, a company that manufactures and sells ecological products for skin and hair care. Khadidiatou was barely 19 when she started her business in 2018.

Ousmane Ndiaye, on the other hand, is the CEO of Leukelé, a company active in various solutions based on solar energy. Their goal: "give electricity to those who need it". And that includes individuals as well as businesses. Both are confident about the future, but have been through a difficult time due to, as you might have guessed, covid.

With support from the government

The final speaker of the evening was Jan Van de Po, advisor at the office of Meryame Kitir, Federal Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy. He pointed out the need for creating 'levers', something OVO is doing according to him: being a lever for entrepreneurs in Africa. "We can only be happy that young Africans and Belgian companies are joining forces," he said. Finally, on behalf of the Minister, he thanked OVO for its successful projects.

Some figures about OVO

Identifying promising African SMEs and supporting them with funding and intensive guidance. That is OVO's mission in a nutshell. Because local entrepreneurship is the motor for new opportunities.
Today, OVO has over 150 volunteers (with very diverse backgrounds and expertise) and is being supported by 130 private and public companies.
In 2021, the organisation invested no less than €380,000 in African entrepreneurship. Specifically, this includes loans with a term of 3 to 5 years and an interest rate of 7%. And these loans are not granted lightly.

From boostcamp to loan
The selected entrepreneurs first attend a 'boostcamp', a kind of mini-MBA of 3 days. Since the first edition in 2018, 36 projects in the four countries where OVO is active (Senegal, Benin, Uganda, Rwanda) have completed such a boostcamp. After intensive coaching, 35 of them were considered 'investment ready', of which 30 were eventually granted a loan.

All information about OVO is available at www.ondernemersvoorondernemers.be .

Here you can also find out more about how to support the organisation.

By Marc Van de Velde – Translation Ann Prinzie