Igniting Prosperity: Recap of the Africa Prosperity Summit 2023
The WHY; Our THESIS
“These [Market-creating] innovations target nonconsumers—the segment of the population who would benefit by owning or using a product but cannot due to the product’s cost, time, or the expertise needed to use it. Market-creating innovations transform complex and expensive products into simple and more affordable products, making them accessible to a wider segment of the population–nonconsumers.” - Efosa Ojomo, co-author "The Prosperity Paradox"
At the heart of our mission lies an unwavering commitment to fostering prosperity across African nations. The belief that investing in market-creating innovation can be a catalyst for sustained economic development, job creation, poverty alleviation, and democratise prosperity is at the core of everything we do.
As a testament to this commitment, we hosted the Africa Prosperity Summit (APS) on the 16th of November, bringing together our Limited Partners, DFIs, Family offices, investors and key players in the ecosystem for powerful conversations and actions, aimed at driving innovation and prosperity across the continent.
The summit commenced with a grand welcome reception in partnership with AWS, setting the tone for an evening of networking, rich conversations, and camaraderie. Partners, founders, investors, and attendees from around the world gathered for a relaxing experience that paved the way for the summit ahead.
A Cinematic Start and Keynote Address
The following morning saw about 150 attendees at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, where a captivating 10-minute video showcased the profound impact of our portfolio companies on their employees, customers and communities. Featuring customer and staff stories from Fluna, Omnibiz, SunFi and Remedial Health, and Fez Delivery, the video set an inspiring tone for the day.
Founding Partner, Kola Aina, provided a comprehensive overview of the current African venture landscape, expressing optimism about the future. He emphasized Ventures Platform's commitment to tapping into Africa's immense potential and fostering innovation that transcends generations.
Democratizing prosperity through innovation; The Paystack Story
Shola Akinlade, the visionary founder of Paystack and Sporting Lagos, took center stage with a keynote address on "Democratizing prosperity through innovation: The Paystack Story." He shared his extraordinary journey, reflecting on being the first African country to join Y Combinator, navigating investor rejections with unwavering confidence, and the pivotal role Ventures Platform played in supporting him during the early days of Paystack. Shola's insights shed light on the immense opportunities in Africa, emphasizing Africa's vast potential with its 17% share of the world's population, and the transformative impact of supporting African founders. .
Shola did not stop at Paystack, he expanded his impact beyond fintech with Sporting Lagos, a 100-year football project aimed at nurturing Nigerian talent from a tender age. He shared that his vision goes beyond creating exceptional athletes; it extends to providing education and instilling a sense of community service. The overarching message resonated with the audience: "Companies can exceed the expectations of the founders and grow faster than their markets. Investing in an African founder is an investment in that founder's community." His keynote illustrated the profound influence that supporting African founders can have on society, culture, and opportunities, extending far beyond the realms of their primary businesses.
Catalyzing Development through Private Capital
Moderated by Dr. Dotun, this panel brought together key figures in the investment landscape. The discussion highlighted the critical role of private investors in fueling innovation across Africa, addressing challenges in the current investment climate and emphasizing a commitment to fostering sustainable development through strategic private capital investments.
Mr Yemi Odubiyi, Group MD of Sterling Bank, emphasized the presence of problems and the importance of discerning solutions. Sterling Bank's philosophy revolves around exploring opportunities rather than immediate exploitation, recognizing the need for a nurturing framework.
Rotimi Oyekanmi, an early investor in MTN, underscored the importance of finding strong local and foreign partners, advocating for a collaborative approach between both parties. His insights into addressing FX risks and emphasizing the need for founders to think long-term and account for potential devaluation in valuation methodologies, provided a valuable perspective. Simone Baur, Director Impact Investments at Allianz Global Investors, stressed the importance of collaboration and having success stories to help drive more private capital. It was quite the engaging panel and the overarching theme was a commitment to fostering innovation and sustainable development through strategic private capital investments.
Regulation as enablers and barriers to Innovation: The Onafriq Story
Dare Okoudjou, the visionary mind behind Onafriq, shared his perspective on the regulatory dynamics shaping the company's journey. Onafriq, currently operational in 40 African countries, has consistently focused on cross-border payments. Okoudjou highlighted the critical importance of this focus, especially for businesses in smaller markets like Benin, Togo, and Liberia. The ultimate beneficiaries of a pan-African payment network are small businesses, with migration serving as a key indicator of cross-border trade. Notably, 70% of African migration is within the continent, therefore it is important to foster intra-Africa trade.
In proposing key policy considerations, Okoudjou suggested contextualizing policies within the framework of trade between African nations, moving beyond the traditional focus on transactions involving major global currencies. He also advocated for proportional regulation, recognizing that transactions of different magnitudes should be treated distinctively.
The issue of licenses was also addressed, with Okoudjou suggesting that a license to operate in one African country should be recognized as sufficient to operate in others. His narrative illustrated the journey of Onafriq in navigating regulatory landscapes to create a network that empowers businesses, fosters intra-Africa trade, and envisions a unified market across the continent.
Workshops and Specialized Sessions
After a satisfying lunch break, attendees delved into specialized workshop sessions led by industry experts. One such workshop, titled "Data Room and Fundraising Best Practices for GPs," was led by Babackar Seck, CEO Digital Africa and former Senior Investment manager at Proparco. This session catered to Investors and fund managers seeking funding from Development Financial Institutions (DFIs). Simultaneously, another workshop titled "Road to Series A," facilitated by Gbenga Ajayi, Partner at QED Investors, was designed for startups navigating the path toward securing Series A funding. Both sessions sparked significant engagement, with the audience actively participating, posing questions, and sharing reactions.
The Role of Ecosystem Players in Reducing the Funding Gap for Female-Founded Startup
In 2022 ~13% of VC equity in Africa was allocated to startups with at least one female co-founder. This alarming disparity underscores the significant challenge that women encounter in accessing essential funding opportunities. The fireside chat between Kola Aina and Napa Onwusah,delved into these challenges. The discussion acknowledged a disconnect between venture capitalists (VCs) and female founders, with implicit biases during pitches recognized as a significant hurdle.
Gender lens investment was scrutinized, cautioning against solely seeking female-led startups for funding rather than prioritizing great innovation. The call was for a leveled playing field, not tokenization.
Napa also emphasized the need to address the mentorship-sponsorship imbalance stating that “Female founders are over-mentored and under-sponsored”
Addressing the role of LPs in equitable capital distribution, Napa suggested diversifying LP and GP teams, analyzing data on the performance of female-led companies, and setting growth targets for deploying capital to such ventures.
Levelling VC Initiative: Bridging the Gap
The insightful conversation led to the launch of the Levelling VC Initiative by Ventures Platform - a multi-year initiative that aims to increase the influx of venture capital funding directed towards African startups led by female founders from 13% to 25% by 2028. The initiative invites collaboration from venture capital firms, stakeholders, and industry players to spearhead a collective effort. If you are interested in collaborating with us to achieve the 25% target, fill out this form
Regulators as Ecosystem Enablers
During the summit's final panel, policy professionals and industry leaders, including Vipul Prakash, British International Investment; Innocent Isichei; Mrs. Janet from the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) Nigeria; and Tunbosun Alake, Lagos State Commissioner for Technology and Innovation, explored the important role of regulators in fostering innovation, investments, and entrepreneurship. The conversation was moderated by Adiah Sowho, Chief Marketing Officer at MTN.
Vipul Prakash, drawing on his extensive experience in emerging markets, emphasized the coexistence of regulators and industry, asserting that emerging markets, though riskier, offer unparalleled opportunities. He underscored the need for education, capital, mentorship, and consumer protection, praising SEC's release of digital asset regulations, albeit not yet operational.
Innocent Isichei spotlighted the collaboration between the government and the private sector, especially amid FX challenges. He urged a delicate balance, creating an enabling framework for remittances to address the FX situation. The commissioner, acknowledging the delicate dance of innovation and regulation, emphasized the need for continuous engagement.
The panel collectively emphasized the importance of communication, education, and strategic collaboration between regulators and the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Nigeria.
A Successful Finale and A Heartfelt Thank You
After a day filled with thought-provoking conversations, the summit concluded with a relaxed cocktail hour. Attendees had the opportunity to connect, mingle, and unwind, capping off the event on a high note.
We are immensely grateful to our sponsors, guest speakers and attendees for their role in making #APS2023 a resounding success. With a promising outlook, we look forward to an even bigger and better #APS2024.