By Amba Mpoke-Bigg
*** Africa Investment Forum Senior Director Chinelo Anohu ( 5th from left, poses with US Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire Jessica Davis ( fourth from left) and women businesses leaders, March 8 2023 Abidjan ***
The Africa Investment Forum(link is external)marked International Women’s Day by hosting a special evening session for African women business leaders and innovators under its “Women as investment Champions pillar”.
Founded in 2019 by the African Development Bank and seven other founding partners, the Forum is a fully transactional, multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary platform dedicated to advancing private and public partnership deals to financial close.
The intimate dinner gathering was held March 8, as a prime opportunity to “sit and dine with each other, learn from each other and hear from those who are taking on the world,” Africa Investment Forum Senior Director Chinelo Anohu told the attendees in welcoming remarks.
“I am gratified to see the champions in this room. Women who are doing marvelous things, who are doing big things; women doing small things in a big way, and big things in an even bigger way,” she said.
Chinelo, underlined the support which the Africa Investment Forum has given to women following the launch of the Women as Investment Champions pillar in 2019.
“This pillar seeks financing that will accelerate women’s businesses and discover their particular needs and also encourage their innate strengths to ensure that they do the businesses they do,” Anohu said.
“The AIF stands ready to assist everyone in this room and to learn from everyone in this room. Together we can lift each other up and support each other,” she said.
Expressing support for the AIF women’s pillar, special guest, United States’ Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire Jessica Davis, said her nation understood the importance of investing in women.
“As for the United States we are there to support women, to encourage them, to form partnerships, to learn from them and also to exchange with them and to see how we can better open US markets to them and to encourage investment into Cote d’Ivoire and the region,” Davis said. “Because investing in women brings empowerment which brings prosperity in families, communities, countries and the world.”
Only in December last year, the Africa Investment Forum garnered strong support in the U.S. during the US-Africa Business Summit convened by President Biden to help advance key infrastructure projects for the continent. Three founding members of the Forum signed memoranda of understanding worth over $1 billion with the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) to expand American trade and investment in Africa.
Swazi Tshabalala, Senior Vice President of the African Development Bank Group said the occasion was opportune for her to “talk to women entrepreneurs, hear their stories, understand their needs which I think will help us to better support them in growing their own businesses and pursuing their own passions.”
At the end of the evening, she expressed admiration for women involved in training other women for entrepreneurship and leadership roles. “I think that’s a very underrated part of the work that we need to do for women and as women,” she said.
As the businesswomen shared their journeys, triumphs and challenges, they also opened up about their expectations of AIF as a catalyst and facilitator of financing for women. They voiced their optimism and expectations of how much further women can go with more resources.
Kadi Fadika, CEO& partner, Hudson &Cie, a financial company specialized in intermediation, the stock market industry, brokerage and investment management spoke of the firm’s new project which enables it to support women-owned small businesses. “It’s not our only goal, but we offer women financing customized to their current size and growth,” she added.
Young women leading a new generation of female entrepreneurship
Three outstanding young female entrepreneurs spoke passionately about their businesses, which have raised the bar in innovation for Cote d’Ivoire: Salimata Toh, CEO of Agribana, which transforms banana tree trunks into biodegradable bags, Edith Kouassi, CEO, EcoPlast Innov a recycling plant which turns plastic waste and used tires into granules and building materials and Ahoua Touré, CEO Maison Manjou, founder of a gastronomic company which celebrates African heritage through culinary works to “highlight the richness of the continent.”
Other guests at the event included, Laure Gondout, former minister of Foreign Affairs in Gabon, Patrica Pokou-Diaby , Founder and CEO of Plot Enterprise Ghana Limited, a major cocoa processor, Oumou Coulibaly, CEO of Ivoire Win, Jane Feehan, head of West and Central Africa, European Investment Bank, Massogbé Touré, Founder and CEO of the SITA Group which produces, processes and exports Cashew nuts and Roselyne Chambrier Chalobah, Country Representative, Arise RCI. The veteran manager of infrastructure and logistics projects, is also owner of the San Pedro Multipurpose Industrial Terminal Project and Manon Karamoko, President of WIC Capital an investment fund dedicated to financing women-owned businesses.
Also in attendance from the African Development Bank were Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development Beth Dunford and Esther Dassanou, Coordinator of the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), which is bridging the finance gap for women in Africa.
The Africa Investment Forum’s partners are the African Development Bank together with seven other founding partners, namely Africa 50; the Africa Finance Corporation; the African Export-Import Bank; the Development Bank of Southern Africa; the Trade and Development Bank; the European Investment Bank; and the Islamic Development Bank.
To learn more about the Women as Investment Champions pillar of the Africa Investment Forum, click here.