Published On: 01/11/2017

Dubai, UAE: Dubai can play a key role in supporting the development of Africa’s entrepreneurial eco-system by helping the continent’s business leaders and entrepreneurs leapfrog developmental challenges.

That was the view echoed by a panel of entrepreneurs who spoke during first day of the 4th Global Business Forum on Africa, which is taking place on November 1st and 2nd at Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah. The high-profile forum, held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is being organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The panel session, entitled “Innovative Solutions – Is Leapfrogging a Reality or a Myth?”, involved the participation of Jeremy Hodara, Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Jumia Group, UAE; Vahid Monadjem, Chief Executive Officer of Nomanini, South Africa; and Ada Osakwe, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Agrolay Ventures, Nigeria.

The panellists spoke about how Dubai can leverage its strategic geographic location and capital to connect African entrepreneurs with new growth opportunities and fill market gaps across the continent.

Describing their journey, the panellists noted that technology presents a new landscape of opportunities for entrepreneurs on the continent. However, they also pointed out that infrastructure bottlenecks must also be addressed to accelerate business growth.

There is a need to create the right environment and policies to ensure the success of Africa’s entrepreneurs and SMEs, said Osakwe, adding that governments must take action to implement policies that support business growth. She pointed out that the emergence of young entrepreneurs across Africa is not limited to technology, and noted that new solutions are being adopted by the continent’s agro-business sector.

For his part, Monadjem revealed that African enterprises are creating new business models that factor in existing challenges and added that Africa has a strong narrative pushing people towards entrepreneurship across the continent.

“Entrepreneurship is not the cure for infrastructure. The government is responsible for ensuring that the horizon of growth is there, and entrepreneurs are responsible for realising that potential,” Monadjem said.

Africa is witnessing growing demand for products and services, despite the lack of a strong distribution infrastructure, Hodara explained, noting that this trend is creating plenty of opportunities within the continent’s fast-growing e-commerce sector.

“If you wait for countries in Africa to have as many malls as in Dubai, it might never happen. Yet, African consumers will find a way to access these products, and that is why e-commerce is a great opportunity,” said Hodara.

The need for more valuable partnerships was identified as a key factor which could give a major boost to entrepreneurial and business growth in Africa. Monadjem shared his view that “disruption is less useful than disruptive partnerships,” and stated that he sees tremendous potential to foster innovation through corporate partnerships.

Sangu Delle, Chief Executive Officer of Golden Palm Investments, Ghana, introduced the theme of the forum “Next Generation Africa”, and revealed that young entrepreneurs accounted for a third of the participants at the event. He described the forum as an important platform for African and UAE entrepreneurs, and business and government leaders to explore new opportunities that can potentially drive entrepreneurial growth in Africa.

The Global Business Forum series, launched by Dubai Chamber in 2013, focuses on Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Latin America. To date, the series has hosted 10 heads of state, 74 ministers and dignitaries, and 5,400 executives, as well as a host of influential decision makers from 65 countries around the world.