On a hot summer’s day in New York on 16 July, Lionesses of Africa Founder and CEO, Melanie Hawken, was at the United Nations to participate in a number of high level discussions as part of the Companies to Inspire Africa New York Day. One of the highlights of the day was the Senior Ministerial Roundtable event, co-hosted by UK and Kenya UN missions on supporting investment into Africa, where Melanie had the opportunity to speak about mobilizing investment for women entrepreneurs across the African continent.
The Companies to Inspire Africa New York Day was the final stop on a series of global roadshows organized by the London Stock Exchange Group to celebrate the publication of the Companies to Inspire Africa book. The book showcases a number of high performing, growth companies across the African continent, including a number of women entrepreneurs from the Lionesses of Africa community. One of the women entrepreneur led companies showcased on the day in New York was Wonderbag, the high impact, non-electric cooking innovation founded by South African entrepreneur Sarah Collins.
The day’s packed programme started with a UN Capital Development Fund policy discussion, stimulated by lessons learned from the Companies to Inspire Africa 2019 report. The event, which took place at the Millennium Hilton New York at the UN Plaza, featured insights from Lionesses of Africa Founder and CEO, Melanie Hawken, together with Francesca Jewels, Advisor to Wonderbag representing founder Sarah Collins on the day. The session was chaired by Esther Pan Sloane, Head of Partnerships, Policy and Communications at UNCDF and Ibukun Adebayo, co-Head of Emerging Markets Strategy for the London Stock Exchange Group. One of the key topics for discussion around the table was on the specific challenges for Africa’s women entrepreneurs accessing business growth financing between the $1-5 million range.
Next on the morning’s agenda was the visit to the United Nations for the Senior Ministerial Roundtable event which was attended by dignitaries from the UK, US and Africa, CTIA companies, UN officials and senior investors. Chaired by UNCDF Head, Judith Karl, the event was kickstarted by a series of ministerial addresses from Rory Stewart – UK Secretary of State for International Development; the Principal Secretary for Planning, Kenya; the UK Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, DfID; and the Executive Secretary of UN Development Programme. A lively discussion then followed, led by Melanie Hawken who talked about a new approach needed to tackle the challenges facing Africa’s women entrepreneurs in accessing growth finance and investment. The debate stimulated some tangible ideas from investors, commercial banking CEOs, and entrepreneur eco-system players about a possible way forward.
Next on the agenda was a working meeting between Melanie Hawken and Paul Lamontagne, Managing Director of FinDev Canada. The discussion centered on the current launch of the Invest2Impact competition which is open to women-owned businesses in East Africa who have been in business for a minimum of 3 years and who have a minimum of 5 employees. More information on the competition will be shared across the Lionesses of Africa platforms this month for interested and qualifying applicants.
The day came to a formal close with a networking reception hosted by PWC at their Madison Avenue offices and attended by CTIA companies, LSEG representatives, investors, government officials and advisory firm leaders. It was a great way to end a highly productive and engaging series of events, and a fitting end to the Companies to Inspire Africa New York Day.