The run-up to Catalysing Conversations 2020 came with a flurry of uncertainty and excitement. Uncertainty because this year’s summit was going to be virtual as a result of the global pandemic. Excitement because we knew what was in store for attendees. The event would represent a melting pot of Africa’s leading visionaries, who are paving the way in their various sectors and regions, with attendees joining in from all over the world.
Catalysing Conversations was developed to do just what its name suggests — create an avenue for deeper and more meaningful conversations about how to sustain economic growth and development in Africa. This year’s event did just that — it was a celebration of all entrepreneurs in Nigeria and on the continent. During the keynote address our Managing Director, Eloho Omame, reminded us that “2020 has been a battle, and entrepreneurs are warriors”. Regardless of stage, sector, or background, so many entrepreneurs rose to the challenge to innovate and provide solutions to various challenges over the course of the year.
At Catalysing Conversations we brought together founders who are building in industries such as healthcare (54gene and LifeBank), financial services (Paga, BuyCoins, and Kueski), retail and consumer technology (Globant) and consumer retail/agriculture (Twiga Foods). Through a mix of moderated conversations and TED-style talks, these entrepreneurs brought to life some of the key issues that founders face, how they’ve been able to sustain growth, and their vision for the future. These compelling conversations painted a full picture of the journey of a high-impact entrepreneur and provided insights into how their resilience and leadership have been stretched and tested.
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely experience and many of the speakers at Catalysing Conversations recognised the importance of sharing their vision with other members of their company. Twiga Food’s CEO, Peter Njonjo advised founders to, “motivate your early hires to think like entrepreneurs. As a founder, providing incentives will help with retention and attraction of talent.” But having a vision is not all it takes — founders need to be able to adapt and pivot in ways that are beneficial to the company. This flexibility was important for 54gene’s founder Abasi Ene-Obong, who had this to say: “With each investor pitch, you have to be able to adapt, modify and improve your business’ proposition.”
Even with a vision, entrepreneurs in emerging markets often face roadblocks that can be attributed to a lack of adequate support for an underdeveloped (but promising) innovation ecosystem. It’s important to recognise the role of the public and private sector, as well as entrepreneur support organisations like Endeavor, in building an ecosystem that allows the most innovative entrepreneurs to thrive.
Our mission at Endeavor is to create a prosperous and equitable future for everyone, and this means ensuring that the best founders have access to the resources they need. This year, the pandemic highlighted how a lack of inclusion can have negative effects, particularly for female founders. In Q1 2020, 3.2% of venture capital was invested in female-led companies in Africa; this is less than half the investment figure of 2019. In Q3 2020 in the US, this figure was 2.2% compared to 2.8% in 2019. At this year’s event, Ire Adenirokun (Co-founder, COO and VP Engineering of BuyCoins), Temie Giwa-Tubosun (Founder & CEO, Lifebank) and Ugwem Eneyo (Co-founder and CEO, Shyft Power Solutions) all shared their one big idea for the future of their industry and how their companies can contribute to building for Nigeria’s future.
As Eloho Omame (MD, Endeavor Nigeria) succinctly put it, “A vibrant and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem should feature many strong female-founded, high-growth companies that can also be long-term job and wealth creators. This piece is particularly timely and critical because we know that one of the early outcomes of the pandemic was reduced capital to female entrepreneurs. My vision of the future includes female entrepreneurs getting the same level of access to capital, resources and leadership in the community.”
With all that has happened in 2020, technology has proven to be a powerful asset for tackling social problems. Catalysing Conversations 2020 was packed with so much insight and we are incredibly grateful to our speakers, moderators and attendees that participated. We look forward to next year’s event knowing that it can only get bigger and better!
Watch all the videos here on YouTube.