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BAO Exclusive with Irene Ochem on AWIEF2022



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.


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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Press Release

AWIEF Opens Registration for its 2023 Africa Conference



AWIEF 2022 Conference held in Cairo, Egypt (Image: Supplied)

The Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) has announced the opening of registration for its annual conference and awards. This year is the 9th edition of the prestigious AWIEF event, and it will be held at the Kigali Convention Centre (KCC), Kigali, Rwanda, on 9 and 10 November 2023.

AWIEF has become Africa’s leading entrepreneurship, innovation and technology platform, bringing together more than 1,300 entrepreneurs and startups, industry experts, thought leaders, policy drivers, and change-makers from across Government, Corporate and Development sectors for impactful discussions and dialogue on new ideas, initiatives, strategies, and solutions to drive innovation, entrepreneurship, digitization, intra-Africa trade, investing, food security, climate action and sustainability and, ultimately, economic and social transformation in Africa.

Last year’s speakers included H. E. Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission, H. E. Dr. Rania A. Al-Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, Solomon Quaynor, Vice President, Private Sector, Infrastructure & Industrialization, African Development Bank (AfDB), Jackie Jones, Director, Gender Equality Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Izabela Milewska, Digital Skills Global Leader, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Sponsors included Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AWS, Afreximbank, Sparkle, and Africa Europe Foundation. AWIEF 2023 will be a fully in-person event, coming back to its full glory since 2020 when COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to go virtual and hybrid.

AWIEF Founder and CEO, Irene Ochem, said: “We are excited to be bringing the 9th edition of our annual conference to East Africa for the first time and especially Kigali, one of the most exciting cities in Africa right now. We are looking forward to advancing our efforts in connecting the African and global entrepreneurship ecosystem in this significant hub for business, technology, and innovation.”

All AWIEF 2023 participants, attending the event from outside Rwanda, are eligible for a visa upon arrival without prior application. Citizens of African Union, Commonwealth and La Francophonie member countries can obtain free visas upon arrival for a visit of 30 days.

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AVEVA Partners with Azule Energy to drive Digital Transformation



AVEVA, a global leader in industrial software, driving innovation and sustainability, has partnered with Azule Energy, Angola’s largest independent oil and gas operator, to drive digital excellence throughout the firm’s operations. The partnership agreement will enable Azule Energy – a 50/50 Joint Venture backed by bp and Eni – to reduce costs, improve safety and unlock new production opportunities using AVEVA’s cloud, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and digital twin technologies. 

Moreover, the partnership will help cut the time spent searching for key asset information, improve maintenance planning, reduce offshore trips and visits, enhance team collaboration, and facilitate remote operations. Azule Energy boasts a strong pipeline of new projects that are scheduled to support the energy needs of Angola’s growing economy and strengthen its role as a global liquified natural gas (LNG) exporter. 

Digital Twin Spans Entire Asset Lifecycle

AVEVA will deploy its digital twin software to connect data from every layer of the technology stack for one contextualized, multi-visual experience. In the first phase, AVEVA will focus on existing operations, implementing AVEVA Asset Information Management, AVEVA Information Standards Manager, and Assai Cloud for Operations – for two existing floating production storage and offloading units (FPSOs) in Block 18 (Greater Plutonio Development) and Block 31 (PSVM).

AVEVA’s digital twin technology is the only solution on the market that spans the entire asset lifecycle. The vendor-agnostic solution is scalable, integrated, and open. It unites engineering and enterprise data to create a true digital backbone that will bring industrial intelligence to Azule’s entire team, delivered via the cloud.

Peter Harriman, COO, Azule Energy, said: “We have signed a strategic contract with AVEVA to digitally transform our operations for optimized productivity, efficiency and safety. This partnership will enable Azule Energy to achieve our goal of establishing a world-class operation.”

Caspar Herzberg, CEO, AVEVA, commented: “The move to AVEVA SaaS will empower Azule Energy to innovate and remotely collaborate across teams regarding their FPSO assets. The vessels are located a long distance offshore, which represents a significant challenge to operations. Using data-led insights, Azule’s team will be able to breakdown silos and deepen collaboration between onshore and FPSO teams, using their combined insight to streamline processes and accelerate delivery.“

Herzberg added: “AVEVA’s industry leading visualization technology will further enable Azule Energy to deliver faster and at scale. AVEVA is the only provider to supply a fully integrated solution that can be developed quickly and reliably. Together we are committed to providing secure, lower carbon energy to support Angola’s sustainable development.”

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Press Release

Baron & Cabot launches a portal to support the expansion of local real estate agencies in Africa



Baron & Cabot Managing Director, Mark Pearson 

Baron and Cabot, a UK-based international real estate firm has launched a game-changing concept, a UK property portal that is offering a strategic expansion plan for real estate agencies in Africa. The innovative approach, is a first of its kind using AI technology to predict property prices and will allow real estate agents in Africa to sell properties, and earn in pounds, providing an unprecedented opportunity for growth and financial success.

Through this portal, real estate firms will get to de-risk their investments in international markets and gain access to a wide range of fully compliant properties. Baron & Cabot, with a reputation for being one of the top fastest-growing property companies in the world and transacting on around £100 million GBP per annum ($120 m) of UK property while having access to some of the best property developments in the UK, has been particularly successful in Africa due to inflation driving clients to move their money into GBP and Dollar to purchase assets.

“We are thrilled to be launching this innovative concept that will not only provide a platform for real estate agents in Africa to sell UK properties but will also create job opportunities and drive economic growth. We believe that by leveraging AI technology to predict property prices, we can provide our partners with a unique advantage and help them to achieve financial success. Our joint venture expansion plans are aimed at creating mutually beneficial partnerships that will bring value to all parties involved.”Mark Pearson, Managing Director of Baron & Cabot.

In addition to providing agents with access to new revenue streams, Baron and Cabot’s property portal is also expected to create new job opportunities in the African market. The company is committed to providing its agents with comprehensive 2 to 4 week training and support to help them succeed in their new roles. This training will ensure that agents are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate the real estate market and take advantage of the opportunities that Baron and Cabot’s concept provides. Real estate will have the ability to reserve properties and Baron and Cabot will process the client through legal processes.

As part of its offering, Baron and Cabot will provide clients with mortgages anywhere in the world (excluding war zones), with mortgage rates lower than 6% and deposits below 35%, making it easier for clients to invest in UK properties.

Mark Pearson, Managing Director of Baron & Cabot, said, “Our management company boasts an impressive occupancy rate of over 99%, with properties awaiting new tenants for an average of only 10 days. This sets us apart from other cities around the world, where the average occupancy rate is only 70%. In addition, our AirBnb or short-term rental products have an average occupancy rate of over 70%, resulting in substantial rental returns and a secure investment. Our secret to success lies in our ability to identify high-demand areas with low supply, combined with exceptional management that keeps both our tenants and landlords satisfied.”

Baron and Cabot utilizes advanced machine learning and data processing to analyze millions of lines of data to identify the best investment locations and pockets of value for clients. With access to information such as the square footage of every property in England and every sold price of every residential property in the UK since 1997, along with economic forecasts, government investment plans, and knowledge of upcoming transport links for the next 5 years, Baron and Cabot is ahead of the curve when it comes to investments. This allows investors to benefit not only from the firm’s purchasing power and large discounts, but also from massive rental growth and capital growth.

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