U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) President and CEO C.D. Glin participated in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in The Hague, Netherlands this week. Created nearly a decade ago by the U.S. Government, GES is now considered the preeminent annual gathering of entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, and thought leaders from around the world.
GES 2019 was jointly hosted by the governments of the United States and the Netherlands under the theme “The Future Now.” The summit attracted more than 2,000 attendees from approximately 140 countries, including 1,200 entrepreneurs. USADF facilitated the GES attendance of several young African entrepreneurs we support with funding and technical assistance under our Youth-led Entrepreneurship portfolio.
The three-day summit included an opening reception with welcome remarks from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte; and dozens of forums, panel discussions, workshops, investor-entrepreneur matchmaking, mentoring sessions, and even a catalyst pitch competition. GES closed with a plenary session on women’s empowerment featuring Advisor to the President of the United States Ivanka Trump, who spearheads the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative, and Mastercard President and CEO Ajay Banga. The summit provided a platform to discuss solutions to global challenges, specifically in the areas of agriculture/food, energy, connectivity, health, and water.
These focus areas are closely aligned with USADF’s mission, as two of the agency’s primary sectors for creating pathways to prosperity in Africa are through investments in agriculture (food security and agribusiness) and energy (off-grid and renewable). Under USADF’s third sector – entrepreneurship – it’s able to address additional African challenges by investing in community-driven entrepreneurs whose work includes developing local solutions to connectivity, health, and water challenges.
USADF President/CEO C.D. Glin was a panelist in the GES session “Women & Entrepreneurship: Women Connecting Across Continents,” along with Liza Velarde, co-founder and CEO of Delee, a medical technology company based in Mexico; Kinga Stanislawska, a venture capital investor from Poland; and moderator Anna Roy, an advisor for the National Institution for Transforming India. The panelists offered perspectives on best practices to enhance women’s abilities to start, fund, and scale a business.
“When we assess women entrepreneurship – and entrepreneurship, in general – it usually breaks down to four key elements that are needed: access to finance, access to market, some level of technical assistance, and capacity-building,” Glin said during the session. “And then what’s been found to be the most important is about network. I’ve been shocked… When you ask a woman entrepreneur what she needs most, the number one thing women around the continent (of Africa) have said is it’s a really lonely struggle for them as women trying to change the game. So, network building has become a critical component of [USADF’s] work.”
Among the USADF grantees we supported in participating in GES is Adepeju “Peju” Jaiyeoba of Nigeria, CEO of Mother’s Delivery Kit. Jaiyeoba was one of four panelists in the “Women & Entrepreneurship: Mind the Gap, Unlock the Full Potential” session.
Jaiyeoba told the story of a recent experience when she contacted potential investors. After receiving no response, she asked a male colleague to make contact on her behalf. He quickly received responses to set up three meetings with investors.
“Funding has a gender, and it is not female,” Jaiyeoba told the packed room. “It’s harder when you’re female. Now multiply that [difficulty] by 100 when you’re an African female. Now multiply it by 200 when you’re a female from Nigeria.” Jaiyeoba went on to say funding needs to become gender blind. “As women, we know how to work, and we give you real returns on your investments,” she said boldly.
Glin also moderated a panel focused on investment opportunities and realities in Africa. The panelists were: Gabrielle Gay, Director of Emerging Market Strategy for Kensington Capital; Cindy Shepard, Vice President of Legal Affairs for the United States’ Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC); Ami Dalal, Vice President and Managing Director for FINCA Ventures; and Kamran Elahian, Founder and Chairman of Global Innovation Catalyst. The panelists provided insight on their investment priorities in Africa and discussed creative ways to work through challenges that arise for entrepreneurs.
The group of USADF-supported entrepreneurs who attended GES 2019 include: Francis Xavier Asiimwe, CEO of Kaaro Health (Uganda); Adepeju “Peju” Jaiyeoba, CEO of Mother’s Delivery Kit (Nigeria); Eric Muthomi, Founder and CEO of Stawi Foods and Fruits (Kenya); Olusegun Odunaiya, CEO of Havenhill Synergy (Nigeria); Kémo Touré Jr., Founder and CEO of Wutiko (Senegal); and Youma Fall, Chief Product Officer at PayDunya (Senegal).