Op-Ed: Tangible results when investors and innovators collaborate

by CNBC Africa 0

The recent WCA Executive Investment Summit 2017 is a case in point of how well it works when we put innovators and investors together – and also how much change African women are making for our continent.

Image: Pexels

By Nnamdi Oranye

Lisa Lambie is one of the most inspiring African women I have had the privilege of meeting. She is truly making a difference for Africa and African innovators and bringing her twenty years (plus) experience to our continent to help form and change our narrative, creating opportunities and networking the right people together.

I recently returned from the WCA Executive Investment Summit 2017, which has been running for four years now (this year, it also included the second Africa Family Office Forum). It was held in Marrakech, Morocco.

What is interesting about the Summit, and what has been key to its successes, is that it successfully manages to do something that I’ve seen sorely lacking in many other instances – connecting actual innovators together with actual investors on a Pan-African scale.

On average, Lambie says, more than 300 executives from around 32 countries come. Of those, 80 percent are investors and 88% percent of them are on an executive level. It’s essentially an investment summit.

Summit brings together family-owned offices

This year it also sought to collate and bring together Family Offices. This is a term that’s new to many, but are essentially investment vehicles consisting of the private capital of families. Family Offices have been a key driver in African economies.

The website, Investopedia, puts it well when it says, “They are different from traditional wealth management shops in that they offer a total outsourced solution for managing the financial and investment side of an affluent individual or family.” Essentially, they sit in the space of Angel Investment.

The Summit was all about getting these Family Offices, and the individuals involved with them, to talk about investing in Africa.  It sought to bring family capital and industry innovators, award-winning entrepreneurs, and sector game changers together directly – without advisors like wealth managers and private bankers playing a role.

The reason for this is it creates an openness with the Family Offices you might otherwise not see. I was really excited about the prospect and the buzz at the conference. it was clear to me that there were real, authentic, and valuable connections being made, which can often be lacking at a conference.

This was also fascinating for me because I work so much with innovators, and attend many conferences with innovators, where the predominant theme is frequently a lack of funding or access to the people with funding. It was so exciting, this time around, to see how those with the ability to fund are looking for spaces to put their money. As I was sitting in this Summit, and talking on two panels, I just kept thinking about innovators I work with and saying, “All we need to do is put all of these people in the same room – the innovators and these investors. They literally just need to talk to each other. It works.”

It’s all about action

Lambie has had the tremendous foresight in putting this together and creating a Summit where people don’t just talk but actually convene and make deals. This is why for the four years it has been running, it has managed to garner a brilliant reputation for delivering actual tangible results. It’s not just another conference. It’s not just a lot of talking. It’s not just motivational. It’s about action. It’s not organised by event planners but by actual investors.

The Summit is run by the Wharton Club of Africa (WCA), of which Lambie is the president. With ties to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (in the U.S.), it’s fascinating to see how Lambie and her team have brought their vast experience and connections to our continent to make a change.

Lambie is also a Director at SHIL, an investment holding firm that works with Family Offices and family-owned businesses in Africa, as well as venture capital. In my book, Taking on Silicon Valley: How Africa’s Innovators Will Shape Its Future, I argue how Africans working abroad can make a difference to our continent here. Lambie is a perfect example of this, and I was struck by her passion and forward-thinking approach. When we talk about Disrupting Africa and changing the narrative or people knowing their change (see the #knowyourchange campaign), everyone plays their part and is a piece of the puzzle in getting Africa where it needs to be.

Everyone plays their part

When we talk about Disrupting Africa and changing the narrative or people knowing their change (see the #knowyourchange campaign), everyone plays their part and is a piece of the puzzle in getting Africa where it needs to be. Lambie, and others like her (such as Haweya Mohamed, who I had the privilege of meeting at the Afrobytes Conference in Paris earlier this year – which connects European investors with African innovators) is a very crucial piece of this puzzle. She brings investors together and shows them that we have viable innovations they can invest in. This is simply fantastic.

Not enough of us speak about what African women are doing and the change they are creating. Brilliant examples such as Lambie and Mohamed are not in the news enough, and so much happens under the surface that doesn’t make the headlines. Our women are doing phenomenal work that we’re not recognising well enough. But if we do, imagine how much more could happen.