Kizito Okechukwu | December 6, 2023
[Photo: Olivier Becht, French Minister for Foreign Trade, Investments and Economic Attractiveness; Ambassador David Martinon, France Ambassador to South Africa, Kizito Okechukwu Executive Head at 22 On Sloane and other French delegation at the launch of Africa France Entrepreneur Community on Tuesday, 5 December 2023.]
Over the years, there have been efforts to renew Africa-France relations. President Macron made this a key priority for his Presidency when he assumed office in 2017. In many Francophone African countries, there is some disillusionment on how France has not managed to fully change the course and keep its promises made by its leader at Ouagadougou in 2017, where he promised to renew relations and overhaul France’s relations with the entire continent.
Yes, many commitments have been made by France in the support of Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. Some of these include a €130m investment in Digital Africa, launched by the President to support Africa’s digital startups, which I had the opportunity to have co-chaired for one year; the other was a Choose Africa initiative, which is a €2.5bn commitment to finance and support African startups, micro-enterprises and SMEs. €1bn will be invested as equity in African startups, micro-enterprises and SMEs, while €1.5bn will be earmarked to facilitate access to credit for small and medium enterprises. It was envisaged that a total of 10,000 SMMEs in Africa will benefit from this initiative. With all of these, the key will be to diagnose and ascertain whether all these initiatives achieved their objectives and targets – and if they didn’t, one has to find out why – and how efforts can be put in place to ensure these are achieved.
A few days ago at 22 On Sloane, we hosted, the French Minister of Foreign Trade and Investments, Olivier Becht, who launched an Africa-France entrepreneurial community. The engagement, with over 100 French and South African members, focused on how to build strong economic links between the two countries. As Becht said, “A partnership based on common values, on shared commitments to the promotion of an international rules-based order and on collective action for a sustainable and inclusive development”. In launching the Africa-France entrepreneurs’ community, he acknowledged the role that South Africa plays in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, having been in the top four among African countries by value invested through private equity and venture capital investment, just behind Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya.
In 2022, at the South Africa Investment summit, hosted by President Cyril Ramaphosa, French companies committed a R50bn investment in sectors such as energy, health, tourism, mobility, retail, manufacturing and the agro-industry. Becht believes that a better understanding of the South African market can be mutually beneficial to creating new business opportunities for both South African and French companies, while fostering job creation and diversified growth in South Africa.
Yet with all this mind, more still needs to be done. This also goes for the commitment made to Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and to what extent this has positively impacted entrepreneurs on the ground and achieved its targets. The Africa-France entrepreneur’s community that the Minister launched aims to promote and strengthen a ‘win-win’ dynamic between Africa and France, while exploring business improvement solutions.
Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane, Africa’s largest startup campus; co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa.
22 On Sloane is the largest startup campus in Africa. The campus offers disruptive startups and innovative SMEs a complete turnkey solution to scale, from the initial idea all the way to commercialisation, funding opportunities and access to markets. Its aim is to nurture the entrepreneurial mindset, ensure their sustainability, and explore development of new industries and contribute towards job creation in Africa.
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