FUNDING of entrepreneurial ventures will feature prominently in the maiden East African Business and Entrepreneurship Conference and Exhibition, which is slated for October 10 in Nairobi, Kenya.
The three-day event, organised by the East African Business Council, in partnership with national investment agencies in the East African Community, will also throw a special look on women entrepreneurs, according to Angelika Farhan, EABC’s business development manager.
“There are numerous programmes that promote women entrepreneurs. Many women have an extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit but with limited access to financing,” Farhan said last week.
“We want to show their power, energy and opportunities by inviting many female speakers who can report on their success stories. I was impressed by how many women entrepreneurs are active and successful in the ICT sector.”
Organisers expect up to 300 participants from the infrastructure, manufacturing, and energy sectors, as well as from the ICT and leather and textile industries, and financing institutions. Policy-makers and top representatives of relevant international organisations will participate.
“We expect Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta to host a special ladies dinner to encourage women to participate in this important networking event,” he said.
Christine Rukera, owner of Premium Cayenne Pepper, a Rwandan pepper producing firm, told The New Times that women entrepreneurs “for a long time had been dogged by financial constraints, not only loans from banks but also in accessing family funds.”
“What took them so long to figure out that women entrepreneurs are smart, reliable and have woken up to see no limits in different business segments?” she posed.
“I hope such a conference would look into acknowledging the thirst and determination of women entrepreneurs all over the word, especially in developing countries, including Rwanda.”
If she attends the conference, Rukera said, she will particularly underscore that access to finance is key when it comes to supporting women entrepreneurs, and the importance of capacity building.
“I would be happy to see women entrepreneurs blossom in all sectors and take leading roles. A successful woman leads to a successful family and successful country. Access to finance by women entrepreneurs is crucial for sustainability of their enterprises,” Rukera said.
Farhan said the handicap for financing lies mostly in the size of a project and the will of funders.
“They rather finance balance sheets than individual projects,” Farhan said.
Annual one-stop centre for investment
According to Farhan, the objective of the event is to provide an opportunity for business to business and government to business engagement, provide a platform for buyers and sellers and to strengthen entrepreneurship in the Community and internationally by developing an annual one-stop centre for investment and trade opportunities.
Lilian Awinja, the EABC executive director, said after last year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit, they saw the need for a critical follow-up on the tangible impacts of initiatives like “Trade Africa” or “Power Africa” that have come along with large funds to promote entrepreneurship.
According to Awinja, they will have two sessions on the opportunities and experiences in accessing those funds and on the requirements for other ways of financing. The 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, the sixth annual gathering of entrepreneurs at all stages, was held in Nairobi.
During the business and entrepreneurship conference, financial institutions will elaborate on the key issues relevant for the financing of entrepreneurial enterprises.
Awinja said: “This is not on big funds and programmes only but also a chance to learn about innovative sources like crowd funding, impact investment and other incubator initiatives.”
In its maiden edition, the entrepreneurship conference will see investment agencies from the EAC present actual bankable projects.
New opportunities arising from the regional harmonisation processes will be highlighted.
Farhan said: “The conference will also look at big regional projects in the Northern and Central Corridor; pipelines, railways, aviation. These are interesting for companies that are already established and want to expand.”