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BAO Exclusive with Irene Ochem on AWIEF2022

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AWIEF Founder/CEO, Ms Irene Ochem (Image: Supplied)

The Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum is heading to North Africa for the first time. The 2022 edition of AWIEF will take place on 26 and 27 September in Cairo, in partnership with Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation and co-organised by the Egyptian Businessmen’s Association. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Ms Irene Ochem talks about AWIEF, its impact and AWIEF 2022 conference. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: To begin, could you briefly tell us about AWIEF, its annual conference and priority on the continent?

Irene: The Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum’s goal, simply put, is job creation, wealth creation and economic prosperity across the continent. Our mission is to foster women’s economic inclusion, advancement, and empowerment through entrepreneurship, support and development of micro, small and medium enterprises. This helps drive employment and economic growth.

We are also contributing to facilitating and enhancing intra-Africa trade and leveraging the opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). To achieve its objectives, AWIEF offers a range of enterprise development programmes that are tailored to the needs of entrepreneurs in Africa including accelerators, incubation, and other capacity building. 

We also host our annual award-winning AWIEF conference, where we gather the best and the brightest from across the government, development, corporate, and entrepreneurship ecosystem for keynotes, interactive industry panel discussions and fireside chats on entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, development and trade, finance and investment, energy and infrastructure, climate change and sustainability, and agriculture and food security. The conference gives start-ups, SMEs and professionals a fantastic opportunity to learn from and connect with other industry players from across the African continent and beyond.

Alaba: Tell us more about this year’s conference and awards. What inspired this year’s theme, “Advancing Africa through Gender Integration”?

Irene: AWIEF2022 is a hybrid event which will take place on the 26 and 27 September on-site in Cairo, Egypt and virtually via our online event platform. The theme for this year’s event is inspired by the fact that no conversation about empowerment or entrepreneurship can, or should, exclude either women or men. Gender diversity and inclusion is vital for Africa’s economic growth.

Since its inception in 2015, the annual AWIEF has become Africa’s leading women entrepreneurship conference and awards event, bringing together high-level industry, developmental and business thought leaders, start-ups, and entrepreneurs for dialogue and discussions on issues of economic empowerment, entrepreneurship, investing, technology and innovation in Africa.

Regarding the AWIEF Awards, there are many outstanding women entrepreneurs and businesswomen across Africa who are driving growth, creating opportunities, and positively impacting the continent. In this, our 6th edition of the awards, we are once again enthusiastic to celebrate and shine the spotlight on these inspirational female entrepreneurs and share their stories of excellence and success.

Alaba: AWIEF2022 will take place in Egypt. Why the choice and what’s the catch? 

Irene: Egypt is at the forefront of the African entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem. Hosting AWIEF in a country known for its strong support for women’s economic empowerment and sustainable development is important for us. AWIEF was previously hosted in West Africa in Nigeria in 2015 & 2016, Cape Town (2017, 2018 & 2019). The event was fully virtual in 2020 and in 2021 the in-person conference was in Johannesburg. As a pan-African organisation it made sense to take it to North Africa this year.

Alaba: Who are your main partners and why did you decide to partner with them?

Irene: Last year, H.E. Dr Rania Al-Mashat was a speaker at the AWIEF conference and Egypt’s Ministry of International Co-operation is particularly focused on sustainable development, one of the key thematic areas on the AWIEF2022 agenda.

5). What do you intend to achieve with this  year’s conference, and would you like to share some of your speakers?

Irene: We want entrepreneurs to come and learn from industry leaders, connect with potential investors and network with their counterparts from other parts of Africa to share their experiences and then take the lessons home to apply to their businesses.

For C-Suite executives and investors this is an opportunity to grow their network and potentially to connect with their next big project and to learn about new innovations and best practices from other countries. 

NGOs and development sector organisations should see this as an opportunity to gain insights into the changing issues confronting the people they serve and learn from the successes and challenges shared by other organisations on the continent.

Our stellar line-up of speakers include:

  • H.E. Dr. Rania Al-Mashat – Minister of International Co-operation, Egypt.
  • Damilola Ogunbiyi – CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL)and Co-Chair of UN Energy. 
  • Ayoade Alakija – WHO Special Envoy for the ACT-Accelerator, co-Chair of the African Union’s African Vaccine Delivery Alliance. 
  • Jackie Jones –  Director, Gender Equality Division Office of the President & Chief of Staff, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Ahmed Rezk – Deputy UNIDO Representative, Regional Hub in Egypt.
  • Patricia Obozuwa – Vice President, Government Affairs, Communications & Sustainability for Africa, The Coca Cola Company.
  • Brenda Mbathi – CEO, GE East Africa.
  • Juliet Anammah – Chief Sustainability Officer, Jumia Group and Chairwoman, Jumia Nigeria.
  • Gielan Elmessiri – Deputy Country Representative, UN Women, Egypt.
  • Dolapo Kukoyi – Managing Partner, Detail Commercial Solicitors, NIgeria.

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Alaba: AWIEF has really grown and recently launched some fantastic programmes. Tell us about these programmes and how does your organisation measure its impact?

Irene: Simply put, AWIEF’s impact is measured by how the lives of our alumni have changed after completing our programmes. It’s all about changing lives and livelihoods. We have seen more than 3500 graduates from our various programmes. They are growing their businesses, creating jobs and contributing positively to the economy.

Earlier this month, 100 SMEs in nine Southern African countries: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia, completed the USAID-funded ‘Enhanced Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Investment and Export Readiness Through a Digital Platform’ program.

Our new African Development Bank (AfDB) funded programme “Solutions Catalysing Increased Access to Capital for the Success of Women Entrepreneurs” aims to accelerate efforts to address gender inequality to drive inclusive economic transformation. More than 500 growth-oriented WSMEs across 8 African countries will be supported for scale, access to markets and investment readiness. To date, more than 4 000 applications have been received for this programme.

Alaba: What are your thoughts on gender inclusion in Africa’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem? How much progress have we made?

Irene: A lot of progress has been made, but there is still a lot of work to be done – especially in relation to access to finance for women entrepreneurs, access to markets, skills training and networks.

Alaba: Lastly, what should your audience expect from this year’s event?

Irene: High profile keynotes and interactive panel discussions will cover topics such as the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, climate change & sustainability, creating an enabling environment for MSMEs and SMEs, innovation & technology, intra-Africa trade and the AfCFTA, energy, Infrastructure and industrialization, investment & financial services, health leadership, as well as agriculture & food security. 

Come learn more about the latest trends, innovations, opportunities, and initiatives across the African entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem, and then continue these vital conversations during our networking sessions, on-site in Cairo, Egypt, or virtually via our online event platform.

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Egypt’s BONBELL seeks $10 million seed funding after closing $350,000 initial round

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Egypt’s startup BONBELL, the first mobile App in the Food-tech industry specialized in food ordering, digital solutions for table and meal reservations, has closed an initial funding round for $350,000. This is through a Canadian Angel investor, to help further develop the App services and achieve a level of growth in regard to user count and daily orders.

BONBELL launched its own App in early 2022, to offer a wide range of food ordering services in Egypt. The App offers many food ordering solutions, from food delivery to restaurant’s reservations and Dine-in ordering through a QR Code on the tables, as well as take away services. The App offers various payment solutions through cash or credit cards.

BONBELL has partnered with many restaurants and cafes, as well as clubs like Heliopolis Club and Smash Club. It also offers its services in Malls and Cinemas, to offer a smoother food ordering experience, reserving tables and food delivery, for mall and cinema goers. It has also strategically partnered with many leading major companies and institutions. Most notably the German University in Cairo (GUC), and Raya Telecom, in order to offer its services in their respective headquarters for employees and visitors alike.

The Food-Tech startup targets raising its partnered restaurants to 750 by the end of 2022. The company is also negotiating with two venture capital funds from Europe and the Gulf, to close a $10 million fund in its seed round by the end of the year.

Doaa Abdel-Hameed, the Chief Business Officer of the company said: “we aim to help restaurants in offering an easier food ordering experience to their customers. Either through food delivery or reserving a table in the restaurant, as well as taking away orders and also the special orders made by customers in their restaurants.”

“We pursue a better experience for the Egyptian user in food ordering. We see a lot of potential and opportunities to do that through developing the App constantly based on the user reviews. And adding more restaurants in all of the Egyptian governorates.” She added.

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BONBELL has earned the trust of more than 12,000 customers, who used the app in food ordering in all the ways offered through the App, in just 6 month.

Doaa Abdel-Hameed emphasized that the success of BONBELL App, in offering the best experience to its users can only be done through strategic partnerships with many more restaurants. In addition to the constant development of the technology used in the App, as well as relying on offering inventive solutions to the Egyptian user such as (Robotic Stations) service. 

This service will offer customers the experience of food ordering and serving through a Robot, without any human intervention. It is expected to launch in Egypt at the end of 2023.

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GrubTech partners Geidea to provide cutting-edge e-payment solutions for restaurants and cloud kitchens in Egypt

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GrubTech, UAE’s leading cloud kitchens and restaurants tech solutions provider, signed an agreement with Geidea, a leading e-payments and fintech platform, to provide its services for the BOSs of GrubTech’s clients. This cooperation will avail an added value and new merits for GrubTech’s clients in the Egyptian market. GrunTech’s Egypt Country Manager Osama Harfoush, and Head of Commercials at Geidea Ahmed Magdy signed the agreement in the presence of GrubTech’s Founder and CEO Mohamed Al Fayed and the General Manager of Geidea in Egypt Ahmed Nader.

Founded in 2019, GrubTech is a platform that provides tech solutions to manage cloud kitchens and restaurants in a way that enables them automating their businesses and managing food delivery process online. The leading cloud kitchens and restaurants tech solutions provider also provides sales and marketing solutions as well as in-depth analyses of restaurants data that contributes to accelerating their work and reducing their costs as well.

For Geidea, it is currently the favorable choice for merchants in the Egyptian market who seek to count on the fastest and easiest e-payment solutions. Geidea provides a unique and integrated services that qualified it to acquire a large market share of the e-payments in Egypt.  

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Commenting on the signing, CEO and Founder of GrubTech Mohamed Al Fayed said that this agreement is a part of the company’s strategy that aims at expanding in establishing grand commercial partnerships with the major key players in food and beverages (F&B) market in MENA region.

“This cooperation will come into effect in Egypt, originally, and then it is planned to cover other countries that GrubTech operates in, including in MENA; Asia and Africa”, Al Fayed added.

Egypt’s Country Manager of GrubTech expressed his excitement of inking the agreement, asserting that it represents a significant step in terms of GrubTech’s plan to build a system that integrates with its objectives to create a platform that contains all solutions the restaurants and cafes in the local market need.

“Tech solutions GrubTech provides benefit its clients in easing selling and purchasing transactions, tapping digital transformation policy all institutions across the world adopted recently towards sustainable development goals achievement by 2030”, said Harfoush.

On his side, General Manager of Geidea in Egypt Ahmed Nader said that he is pleased about this cooperation with GrubTech as one of the leading tech solutions providers as well as a cloud kitchens and restaurants management system designer.

“This agreement is an imperative action for Geidea in order to expand in F&B market that is growing rabidly in Egypt. It will enable cafes and restaurants owners to work more efficiently, while providing a better experience in terms of online food delivery. It will also help the business owners increasing sales through utilizing multifarious trademarks via a single window in an easy way”, Nader stated.

Head of Commercials at Geidea, Ahmed Magdy said that the company’s vision is providing all merchants and business owners with innovative payment solutions that help growing their businesses and facilitating their management.

“Through collaborating with GrubTech, we target expanding our operations in F&B sector by introducing cutting-edge e-payment solutions. Cloud kitchens and restaurants sector is notably growing in Egypt with accelerating digital transformation, which gives us a significant opportunity to provide an all-in-one operating system that eases the process for our clients”, according to Magdy.

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Mouka Parent Company, Dolidol International Group, Appoints Dr Adesegun Akin-Olugbade as New Vice Chairman

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Mouka, the market leader in Nigeria’s sleep industry and a new member of the Dolidol International group, has appointed Dr Adesegun Akin-Olugbade as its new Vice Chairman. The Board of Mouka’s parent company, Dolidol, has given their vote of confidence to the new Vice Chairman, who has an impressive resume of sterling accomplishments.

According to the Managing Director of Mouka, Mr Femi Fapohunda, the new Vice Chairman’s expertise is in finance, corporate governance and law. As a Non-Executive Board Member, his input and guidance to decision-making by Mouka’s Executive Directors would help propel Mouka to even greater heights. Dr Adesegun is the Founder and Managing Partner of Luwaji Nominees, a legal and corporate advisory services firm and currently serves as Of Counsel at Clifford Chance (CC Worldwide Limited) and International Counsel at ÆLEX.

A graduate of King’s College London (LL. B (Hons) 1983, LL.M 1985) and Harvard Law School (LL.M ’88 and SJD ’91), in addition to being the Overall Best Student at the Nigerian Law School in 1984. He has served for over 30 years in the legal profession and financial services sector; having worked at both the technical and executive management level, in the public and private sector, for leading commercial law firms, multilateral development banks and international financial institutions.

He was previously General Counsel and Senior Director at the African Development Bank (AfDB) (2000 -2007) and the first Chief Legal Officer and Head of the Legal Services Department of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) (1993 – 1997). In December 2018, he retired as Executive Director (Chief Operating Officer), General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).

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Adesegun A. Akin-Olugbade has significant Board level experience. He was a non-Executive Director and former Chairman of the Governance Committee of Ecobank Transnational Inc. (ETI). He was also a Founding Director and Managing Partner of AFC’s wholly owned subsidiary, AFC Equity Investments Limited, Mauritius. He was a founding shareholder and former non-Executive Director of Asset & Resources Management (ARM) Company, a leading financial services company in Nigeria. He is a life member of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and Trustee of the African Refugee Foundation (AREF) and of the Nigerian Law School Class of 1984. 

In 2003, he was invited to be a member of the Committee on International Monetary Law of the International Law Association (MOCOMILA) and joined the World Trade Board as the first African member in 2019.

Adesegun A. Akin-Olugbade is an alumnus of several Executive Management Programs including the Wharton CEO Academy, the IMD Executive Management Program and the HEC (Montreal) Management Development Program (MDP). He is an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), a national honour conferred on him by the Nigerian Government in September 2012.

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