Concordia was pleased to host its first-ever event on the African continent in Lagos, Nigeria this March on the subject of youth agency, entrepreneurship, and capacity building. This event represented an important milestone for our organization in terms of growth and scale. Whilst deliberating how best to move Concordia Africa forward in advance of our inaugural Africa Summit, scheduled for November 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda, there was unanimity on the role of partnerships in creating a bright future for a young and growing workforce. Building on past strategic dialogues at the 2018 and 2019 Annual Summits, and the 2019 Partnership Accelerator that took place in London, UK, we had plenty of ideas to unpack around how partnerships could uniquely address local, national, and regional challenges facing entrepreneurs and investors in Africa. Importantly, we selected the format of a Partnership Accelerator to advance this conversation set within the Concordia Community. This fast-paced and action-oriented format is expertly designed to add dynamism and urgency to the discussion. Participants share at least one innovative idea, model, or initiative relevant to the selected theme, with the intention of directing future action in a consistent, coordinated, and concrete manner. The ultimate goal is to broker and/or catalyze partnership opportunities around specific themes, which Concordia and its Partnership Development Department will dedicate its efforts towards supporting in the months leading up to the Concordia Africa Summit and beyond.
Landing in Lagos reaffirmed that we had the right topic in the right location. Not only is Nigeria the largest economy on the continent, but it is widely considered to be an African leader in the entrepreneurial space. Lagos serves as an epicenter of activity, with hundreds of capacity-building support organizations, foundations, co-working spaces, government initiatives, and research organizations offering financial and infrastructure & business development support, professional services, and policy advocacy. I had the pleasure of joining an innovation hub tour led by Olatunbosun Alake, Special Advisor to the Lagos Governor on Innovation & Technology, and learning about the Lagos Innovation Master Plan, as well as attending a reception with graduates of SME.NG’s Ebi Fund Beneficiaries and its The Funding Space pitch competition winners. Thanks to these opportunities, I saw firsthand the range of innovation and entrepreneurship taking hold in Lagos, and the depth of public and private support for such endeavors. In planning and executing the Partnership Accelerator, I further confirmed the critical role of cross-sector collaboration in connecting impactful but disparate initiatives towards a holistic, inclusive, and wide-reaching response. While many of the Accelerator participants represented Lagos or Nigeria initiatives, it was encouraging to see the regional thinking and visions of scale throughout the conversation, ensuring that this Partnership Accelerator offered ideas to be carried forth in other Afican states and regions.
This event’s success hinged on the authenticity and collaborative spirit of its participants, each selected due to their unique individual or organizational role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It was made possible with support from the Africa Fintech Foundry and SME.NG, and we are grateful to our sponsors for not only supporting the event, but for having leadership join these discussions, as well.
So, what comes next? Concordia is issuing a call to action for its community, based on the ideas and next steps in this report. Many of these ideas—and others not listed—will be carried forth by the participants directly. Others will be supported by Concordia’s Partnership Development Department, and we welcome additional participation from organizations, foundations, companies, and public officials poised to help turn an idea into fruition or scale it to a new region. I invite you to join us in this endeavor, and help us launch new partnerships at the 2020 Concordia Africa Summit this fall in Kigali!
What We’re Reading
- Lagos Innovation Master Plan (Lagos State Government)
- Lagos Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Snapshot (ANDE West Africa)
- African Innovation Report (Africa Foresight Group, in partnership with Harambeans)
- Youth and jobs in rural Africa: Beyond stylized facts (Valerie Mueller, ED., James Thurlow, ED.)
- The Business of Leadership: Building Business Resilience for Uncertain Times (Ruka Sanusi, ED., Ghana Climate Innovation Centre)
What THEY’re SAYING
“To understand the entrepreneurial ecosystem on the continent, it was important we convened where the heart beats fastest. From the Agege bread seller on Ikorodu Road to the startups raising millions of dollars, the success of Nigeria’s startups are a national imperative that have implications both regionally and internationally. These companies will help employ the growing youth bulge on the continent and engineer solutions that will help alleviate the effects of global challenges like climate change, and urbanization. The Nigerian diaspora, also part of the 6th region, is keenly taking note of what’s happening within the country, contributing to a brain gain that will shape the course of the country and continent for the foreseeable future. This diaspora phenomenon however is not permanent. Illustrated during the discussions is the important relationship between the ecosystems the private and public sector create. Unless these two ecosystems are in alignment talented Nigerians will leave to places that value their talents. The continent cannot afford to get this wrong.”
Concordia Africa Advisor
“To hear that 37% of VC funding across the African continent goes to Nigeria (ahead of Egypt, Kenya or South Africa) is an insightful stat that is only crystallized by the stories of grit and unrelenting perseverance showcased by entrepreneurs thriving in the extremely challenging environment that is Nigeria, especially its central hub of Lagos. Nigerian innovators are building entire industries from the ground up with limited resources. Some may even need to reinforce foundational infrastructures needed to build said industries for scale, sustainability, and longevity. I believe the rapid growth of Nigeria’s startup ecosystem should be seen as a positive indicator for other African countries as they seek to gain market share and global relevance.”
Founder, Ayiba Magazine