Impact investors, business owners and other stakeholders in Africa have been urged to transform the challenges posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic into opportunities by going into strategic partnerships acrossdifferent sectors nationally, continentally and internationally. In addition, they have been enjoined to place emphasis on impact investment, as part of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery process, to fast-track economic growth and development.
These were the submissions at a virtual conference, under the theme, ‘’Investing in the New Normal: A Call for Impact Investing in Africa’’, organised by The Funding Space (an access to finance, impact investing, training and networking platform) in collaboration with leading financial services provider, First City Monument Bank (FCMB). The conference, which recorded over 1,100 registered participants from 18 countries across the world and prominent speakers from 10 countries, was held on September 4, 2020. It provided a platform for diverse expert discussions with leaders in government, financial and investment sectors, international development institutions, innovators, donors and entrepreneurs, to have more insights into enhanced impact investing and exploring opportunities for the growth of African entrepreneurs and what the new normal caused by the COVID-19 pandemic should look like.
The experts spoke on various topics, ranging from, the Policy & Practice on Impact Investing in mid/post COVID-19 Africa, Outstanding Impact Investing Examples during COVID-19, Diaspora & Impact Investing in Africa and Strategies to make this a reality as well as Gender Lens Investing: Trends & Community Building in Africa.
Among the speakers at the virtual conference were the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo; The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen; Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, (who was represented by the Special Adviser, SDGs and Investment, Mrs. Solape Hammond) and the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr. Oscar Onyema.
In his keynote address, Mr. Onyema highlighted the important opportunities of increased impact investing in Africa and the need for investors to operate with high standards. He also stated that Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria and across the continent should be viable stakeholders on the capital market, as this will go a long way to boost their profile and performance in the local and international business environment.
In addition, the speakers noted that for Africa and entrepreneurs to maximise the benefits of impact investment, certain key requirements must be put in place. These include, an improvement in the continent’s digital infrastructure in order to foster e-commerce;investors should prioritise financing entrepreneurs, “investment readiness” to build their long term resiliency to future economic shocks; flexibility and expediency should be the cornerstone of access to finance to support entrepreneurs in the recovery process.
Moreover, investors should encourage African Founders and home-grown innovations through equitable and mutually respectful investment strategies; impact investors should invest in technical assistance and capacity building through Accelerators, this is important as part of strengthening gender lens investing; need for increased innovation, localization and diversification of supply chains as an avenue for job creation; African governments should institute policies that facilitate the growth of impact investing; impact Investors should operate with high standards and document successes to strengthen the ecosystem and there should be deliberate investment in youth entrepreneurship across the continent to mitigate the high youth unemployment rate.
Speaking on the conference, the Executive Director, Business Development of FCMB, Mrs. Bukola Smith, described it as another milestone in the quest to harness the potentials of businesses in Africa by connecting them with the right tools and other opportunities. According to her, "we are excited to be part of this initiative. Impact investing will go a long way to help Africa attract more private sector capital and skills to reduce the continent’s vulnerability to external shocks, through the provision of market-based solutions to address socio-economic needs in a sustainable manner. At FCMB, we will continue to upscale our support to businesses through the profitable and beneficial business models we have developed for entrepreneurs. We have gone a step further by ensuring that SMEs that have benefitted from our support in turn go ahead to impact positively on society’’.
Also commenting, the Managing Partner of SME.NG (Nigeria’s SME Impact Investment Platform), Ms. Thelma Ekiyor, said, "since 2017, The Funding Space has hosted annual convenings that link ideas to financing. The 2020 event provided a unique opportunity for investors, policy makers and entrepreneurs across Nigeria, Africa and the world to deliberate and share ideas on how to support robust post-COVID recovery processes on the continent. In Nigeria, impact investors NEED to forge strategic alliances with the government to implement recovery initiatives that would reach communities most affected by the Pandemic. This event was an important contribution to building those alliances”.
The 2020 edition of The Funding Space Conference also witnessed a Youth Innovation Challenge to engage and support young entrepreneurs. The Challenge showcased five entrepreneurs who pitched their innovative ideas in the areas of Fintech, Renewable Energy,Education, Health and Agriculture. The winners of this year’s challenge were Gift Muoneke, Co-Founder Greenera Technology (Renewable Energy); Excellence Joshua, Founder Animations With Excellence (Information Technology) and Victory Oye, Founder Life Farms (Agriculture). Each of the winners was provided with seed grants for their businesses.
First City Monument Bank (FCMB) is a member of FCMB Group Plc, which is one of the leading financial services institutions in Nigeria with subsidiaries that are market leaders in their respective segments. Having successfully transformed to a retail banking and wealth management led group, FCMB expects to continue to distinguish itself through innovation and the delivery of exceptional services.
The Funding Space (TFS) was launched in 2017 as an access to finance, impacting investment, training and networking platform in Nigeria. The main objective of The Funding Space is to inspire, challenge, support and share information on access to funding/finance with Nigerian actors and diverse donors and investors. The Space is committed to enhancing the growth of locally grown innovations and enterprises in Nigeria that use ‘market solutions to address social problems’ across different sectors, such as health, education, renewable energy, agriculture, information technology and job creation. Afrigrants Resources conceptualized The Funding Space in 2017, in collaboration with Enabek Solutions USA, and Moore Philanthropy USA. In 2019, The Funding Space became part of SME.NG’s impact investing platform. TFS has convened over 2000 African and international actors - including angel & impact investors; traditional donors; social innovators; philanthropists and game changers, over its first four years. These convenings have led to successful investments in social innovations; the creation of indigenous impact funds to drive financing on key areas; and the establishment of diverse loose and structured partnerships.