The combination of financing and coaching of starting entrepreneurs. This is what distinguishes OVO from other organizations that want to stimulate economic development in Africa. This vision is best expressed in the SusTech4Africa competition.
With SusTech4Africa - short for 'Sustainable Technology for Africa' - OVO supports sustainable start-ups that are active in a specific African country or Belgium. "From all entries we pick the best candidates", says Björn Macauter, general manager of OVO. They receive an invitation for a multi-day boot camp with intensive training and guidance by Flemish and African experts. This gives the participants the prospect of long-term support".
"The boot camp is just a starting point. During those several days we get to know the entrepreneurs and their skills better and we check if they are open to a cooperation. What makes SusTech4Africa special is the combination of knowledge transfer and access to financing. If we approve a loan, we stay on board for 3 to 5 years".
"The advice of OVO has helped us to become profitable."
Douglas Karugaba, CEO Innovex
Sustainable technology in Africa
With SusTech4Africa - short for 'Sustainable Technology for Africa' - OVO promotes sustainable technology. "We look beyond agriculture, because we believe that other sectors such as ICT and electricity supply can boost economic growth and employment.
SusTech4Africa first reached Africa through projects of entrepreneurs from the diaspora in Europe. In 2018 OVO organized a first selection and boot camp in Uganda, a year later a second one in Rwanda, and in 2020 Senegal will have its first turn. "This way we have four entry moments a year. The ambition is to work together with 50 projects a year".
"If we approve funding, we'll stay on board for 3 to 5 years."
Björn Macauter, general manager OVO
Funding and coaching
Participants in SusTech4Africa will have the prospect of funding. Specifically, they can claim a loan of 5,000 to 50,000 euros at a relatively low interest rate. With SusTech4Africa, OVO targets a specific group of projects that fall out of the scope, because they are too large for microfinance and too small for impact investments.
"We prefer a network of partners who believe in entrepreneurship and cooperation".
Björn Macauter, general manager OVO
At least as important for the participants is the coaching. Douglas Karugaba, CEO of Innovex, a spin-off of the university in Uganda's capital Kampala that collects and processes data from solar energy systems, explains: "We received advice on how to organize our sales and generate more revenue. This has helped us to become profitable. Other projects OVO cooperates with are Akaboxi, Trautbuck Energy and CropTech.
For SusTech4Africa, OVO builds on Belgian partners such as the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), the Thomas More Hogeschool and the African Diaspora Projects Initiative. Also in the African countries where the bootcamps take place, OVO is building up a network of partners.
"We do not necessarily want to be present everywhere ourselves. We prefer a network of partners who believe in entrepreneurship and cooperation. They can provide us with potential projects and help us make a selection". OVO aims at a network of permanent partners, who know and understand how SusTech4Africa works. "We want to get 80 to 90 percent of the companies we support ready for an investment," concludes Macauter. "To achieve this, the quality of the inflow is crucial. The goal is to grow our investment portfolio from 200,000 to 1,000,000 euros."
Text: Jasper Vekeman