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TEF Director of Operations, Ifeoma Okafor-Obi’s Speech On The Strong Female Entrepreneur at Eloy Conference 2019

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TEF Director of Operations, Ifeoma Okafor-Obi with Tewa Onasanya, Founder ELOY awards (Pic: TEF)

Every morning Mama Bisi sets out – her stool on her head, her beans paste, oil and other paraphernalia in a bucket, held in her right hand – to the junction by 5.45 am.

By 6.30 am, passers-by and her loyal customers line up to buy her fresh akara while you and I send someone from the comfort of our homes to do the same.

Occasionally she hears the magic words – “Oya keep the change” and she is extremely glad. A smile rends her face ear to ear and you wonder…

You see, that N50 or N100 tip means more groundnut oil to fry akara, the occasional N200 windfall, an additional cup of beans – both direct investment into her business. Mama Bisi is frugal, there are no excesses around her except when once in a while, she gives in to her mothering instincts and buys sweets for her children. But when it comes to herself, she is extremely austere. 

Mama Bisi did not go to school but she is more financially savvy than some business school graduates. She knows the costs of all her raw materials. Even N50 makes a difference, it is salt for two weeks of her business. She longs to raise money to buy a full bag at N25,000 and reduce the cost of the cups of beans for her business.

She is a route-to-market, consumer segmentation and customer service expert. She knows the locations to sit at different times of the day to maximise sales. She also changes her product offerings from akara to buns and then to puff puff as each day progresses. 

Also Read: Meet Mariatheresa S. Kadushi, Founder of M-afya, A Mobile App Providing Health Information In Native Languages In Africa

She is a marketing expert. You can hear her voice early in the morning calling out in her local dialect that “if you taste better akara or puff puff anywhere, you should return her wares for a full refund”. There have been no refunds till date.

She is a branding expert. She wears her white Apron and tells you that it is to show her customers she is clean, and her wares are prepared under hygienic conditions. 

From the proceeds of her enterprise, she contributes meaningfully to her family, ensuring her children are educated, well-fed and well-dressed to the best of her ability. This is because Mama Bisi is a strong female entrepreneur. 

For a lot of women, motherhood and entrepreneurship are blurred lines- everything they get goes into the business and every profit or loss impacts their families. 

According to the world bank female labour force participation in developing countries index 2014,  as more women enter the labour force, economies can grow faster in response to higher labour inputs. At the same time, as countries develop, women’s capabilities typically improve, while social constraints weaken, enabling women to engage in work outside the home.

How then do we ensure that the work that they engage in is meaningful? How do we give Mama Bisi access to financing to expand her enterprise? To move from roadside selling to dry or wet premixed packages to expand her market and customer base? How do we help her uplift her family through entrepreneurship? What innovative models can we use to reach her and remove finance as one of the major deterrents to entrepreneurial activities, industrial transformation and private sector development especially for women? What trainings do we have to leverage her financial savviness, help her with the right staffing and corporate governance?  How can she access external partners to move from a small-scale business to a global brand, leveraging her unique recipe? How can she build a trusted network in the right sectors in the shortest possible time? How do we enable her to be the catalyst to harnessing Africa’s strengths – its youthful population and fertile land.

Bearing in that Africa needs 12 to 15 million jobs annually to reduce poverty.

The TEF Model

The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme is a 10-year commitment to select, train, mentor, provide seed capital and access to a supportive network to 10,000 entrepreneurs to create 1million jobs in 10 years and generate 10 billion Revenue growth across the African continent.

In 5years we have almost reached our original goal. Partially through our partnerships because our model has been proven to be successful and sustainable. 

We are piloting a program to reach even more people with our UNDP partnership. We plan to train at least 10,000 each year.

What makes it successful is that we achieve in 1 year, things that take programs like the apprenticeship program 5 to 8 years to achieve.

TEF Democratises luck. The impact of our flagship programme is so far-reaching because we are gender and Sector agnostic and we chose thousands from across Africa. In the past 5 years, we have had targeted communication for women and almost doubled the volume of female participation in our programme from 24% in 2015 to 41.6% in 2019.

After a 12-week intensive training with emphasis on finance, scaling, structure and transparency, due diligence and mentorship, these women get seed capital. As part of our Alumni network, they also get ongoing mentorship and value-add exposure to enable them to scale their businesses and to access 2nd stage funding.

However, more interventions are needed to enable women excel. We need:

  • Mass education for women on financing options available across the business lifecycle. Females by default have a scarcity mindset and want to create miracles out of nothing. They need to know it is ok to ask for more to deliver more.
  • We need a female lens into the route to market for reducing the number of unbanked and financing female-owned SMEs through technology. Bearing in mind that ladies like Mama Bisi will never buy a smart phone unless her family is very comfortable. 
  • Increased access to seed capital
  • Access to creative financing for special sectors e.g. creative and tourism industries in which women excel.
  • Leveraging technology for global scale –This is what we are working to achieve at the foundation with our technologically driven Digital platform TEFConnect. We can create local communities showcasing female entrepreneurs in various endeavors to access global markets. Already we have connected a significant number of businesses across Africa. TEFConnect is our gamechanger.  
  • We need to emphasize the need for governance and transparency within businesses. That is key to being able to attract external funding. With increased transparency and verifiable records, the financing will come, and more meaningful jobs will be created. 

If this is done, then one day, Mama Bisi will proudly be illustrated on the covers of a premixed akara package bearing her name, in a store in London. 

TEF

Press Release

Releaf Partners with IITA to Improve Growth and Sustainability in Oil Palm Production

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Releaf VP Sourcing – Ayodeji Jayeoba (left), Nteranya Sanginga – DG, IITA (Middle) Ikenna Nzewi – CEO, Releaf (Right) (Image: Supplied)

Releaf, an agtech startup that develops proprietary hardware and software solutions that makes African farmers and food factories more efficient and profitable, has partnered with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture to improve growth and sustainability in oil palm production in Nigeria and across Africa.

The partnership will enable the startup and the award-winning research-for-development organisation to explore ways to increase oil palm yields, deploy the best intercropping mechanisms, and work with fabrication and mechanisation experts to foster further innovation and development in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven oil palm sector.

Despite having 80 percent of market share, 4 million smallholder farmers in Nigeria’s oil palm sector are unable to maximise the opportunity available to them. Due to relatively low yields and limited access to adequate processing equipment. Releaf has invented Kraken – West Africa’s most advanced palm nut de-sheller. Which can process up to 500 metric tons of palm nuts per week to produce premium palm kernel products at 95% purity, better than the 88% industry standard. Releaf also works with farmers to improve their output. By encouraging the adoption of best practices to increase their yield. And supporting farming activities that are good for the environment.

In the early 1960s, Nigeria was the world’s largest oil palm producer with a global market share of 43 per cent. Today, it contributes less than two percent of total global production. IITA will support Releaf with soil fertility analysis, access to its facilities, oil palm management programmes and leaf analysis for improved productivity. The partnership will also explore how insect waste can be recycled into organic waste that can be used to fertilise oil palm or as a source of nutrition for livestock.

According to Ikenna Nzewi, CEO and co-founder of Releaf, “IITA has a long and rich history of working with international and national partners to impact agricultural value chains. And we are really excited to be partnering with them. IITA also represents the beginning of the journey that led me to co-found Releaf and I am grateful for the opportunity to take this relationship forward. Oil palm is one of our most ubiquitous plants and we must continue to develop technology to improve its sustainable impact on rural communities’ livelihoods.”

IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga said, “We are really impressed by what Releaf has already achieved in such a short space of time. I recall our first meeting with Ikenna in 2015 and it is great to see what that first encounter has led to. Investing in research and development is always a great advantage for everyone. And we are looking forward to working with Releaf to explore more ways to add value across the agricultural value chain.”

 

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Press Release

Social media main enabler for growth among women-owned businesses

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95% of women SMEs in the region identify social media channels as the top tool to drive their business ventures

Mastercard, the Official Payment Technology Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai, and Female Fusion Network unveiled new research at the first in a series of workshops for the region’s female entrepreneurs at the world’s largest cultural gathering.

Held at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Women’s Pavilion, in collaboration with Cartier, the session focused on the power of the digital economy in enabling women-owned businesses to go online. In a study conducted among Female Fusion’s network of 20,000+ members across the region, it was revealed that 95% of women SMEs in the region identify social media channels as the top tool for their business ventures. Other channels include their own e-commerce websites (72%) as well as messaging services such as Facebook and Whatsapp (50%).

In addition, three out of four (72%) women-owned businesses said they rely on word of mouth to market their products and services. The workshop identified how SMEs can make the most of their online footprint, and better connect to their consumers in a digital economy.

Speakers included Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships MEA, Mastercard, Sarah Beydoun, Founder and Creative Director of social impact fashion business Sarah’s Bag in Lebanon, Ioanna Angelidaki, co-founder of Instashop, and Maureen Hall, Founder and CEO of COÉGA Sunwear.

“The findings from the study indicate a clear need for further education and empowerment. Mastercard has long pushed for the success and growth of women as we break gender barriers around the world. Digital tools and technologies are the greatest equalizer for businesses and as the shift towards e-commerce becomes increasingly permanent, we are committed to helping women businesses go digital and grow digital as they pursue their entrepreneurial passions,” said Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships MEA, Mastercard.

The recent unveiling of the inaugural Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index also revealed that in terms of a digital footprint of the region’s women entrepreneurs, social media (71%) leads the way followed by a company website (57%).

“We are proud of the successful launch of our workshop series in partnership with Mastercard. As a growing community of ambitious women leaders, Female Fusion Network looks to support our members with access to platforms that offer simple yet effective takeaways for them to grow their business. We look forward to having more of these impactful sessions during Expo 2020 Dubai,” said Jennifer Blandos, Managing Partner, Female Fusion Network.

Mastercard has made a global commitment to connect 25 million women entrepreneurs to the digital economy by 2025 as part of its goal to build a more sustainable and inclusive world. As part of its efforts, the technology leader recently launched  ‘The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey’ a first-of-its kind digital education platform that brings together a range of world-class academic and business resources to help small businesses learn and thrive.

 

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Acronis, Cyber Protection Leader appoints Technology Veteran Paul Maritz, as Chairman of the Board

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Acronis Board Chairman, Paul Maritz (Image: Supplied)

Acronis, a global leader in cyber security and data protection, today announced that Paul Maritz has been appointed as the Chairman of the Board of Directors, effective September 21, 2021. Maritz will be responsible for the governance and leadership of Acronis as it strengthens its position in the service provider market preparing for significant growth in the future.

Earlier this year, Acronis raised $250M at a $2.5B valuation, and announced former GoDaddy’s partners business president, Patrick Pulvermüller, as the new chief executive officer. The strengthened management team will use the momentum to provide Acronis’ partners with the tools that they need to deal with a rapidly changing digital world.

The challenge of providing MSPs with effective tools to manage the environments of their customers is becoming increasingly complex, particularly in a world where security is becoming an overwhelming issue. Security can no-longer be handled by having an SMB end customer put together a plethora of individual tools. Modern threats have exposed the need for an integrated approach and automated cyber protection that solves the safety, accessibility, privacy, authenticity, and security (SAPAS) challenges of the modern digital world.

Acronis Cyber Protect provides all the management tools of the future that service providers need to do an effective job for their customers to help them grow their business. As well as developing its own technology, Acronis will continue to make acquisitions to become one of the world’s major players of providing the most innovative backup, security, and management tools on the market. Over 12,000 service providers trust Acronis Cyber Protect to manage over 2,000,000 workloads around the world, positioning Acronis for even more company growth in the future.  

“Paul brings a wealth of experience developing products to meet market demands and take companies to the next level. His becoming Chairman represents another step forward for Acronis in solidifying its position as a global leader in cyber protection. Paul’s experience with innovations at scale will help us to continue delivering easy, efficient, and secure cyber protection to service providers and their customers of any size,” said Patrick Pulvermüller, Acronis CEO.

“With its strength in backup and security, Acronis is well positioned to build a platform for a comprehensive list of management tools, helping service providers deliver modern cyber protection to their customers today and in the future. Acronis Cyber Protect is a great example of what can be done. Acronis will continue extensive research and development in this direction, helping partners optimize their operations and stay ahead of the competition,” said Paul Maritz, Acronis Chairman of the Board.

Maritz first joined the Board of Directors in May 2021, bringing 40 years of experience in computer science and software to the cyber protection company.

In his previous executive roles, Paul served on the Executive Staff of Microsoft, was the CEO of VMware, and was CEO and Founder of Pivotal Software. Paul currently is an active investor and serves on the Boards of several start-up technology companies.

Paul graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the Universities of Natal and Cape Town. He is active in the nonprofit world, served for 10 years on the Board of the Grameen Foundation, which supports financial inclusion and technology in the developing world, and supports conservation efforts in Africa.

Paul Maritz replaces René Bonvanie, whose leadership helped Acronis develop an effective strategy to expand global presence and deliver easy, efficient, and secure cyber protection to customers of any size. Acronis wishes to thank René Bonvanie for his contribution to the company development and growth.

 

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