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Entrepreneurship: African momentum

  • 03.04.2019

$725 million: that is the amount raised by African startups in 2018, versus $560 million in 2017. Like the continent, the potential of these startups is huge. And this boom is not just limited to startups. The Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) rate for African women is now the highest in the world (24%), while Social Business is thriving. BNP Paribas and its subsidiaries not only support the development of African entrepreneurs, but also encourage an entrepreneurial mindset in their employees. Analysis.

The startup revolution is spreading across the African continent

According to a report by Global Tech Media WeeTracker, in 2018 a total of 458 African startups managed to secure funding. Of those, 80% were from South Africa, Nigeria or Kenya. That same year, the biggest investments were in Fintech, in contrast to 2017 when off-grid energy production, Fintech and e-commerce together accounted for 61% of all funding awarded.These numbers illustrate the enthusiasm and diversity of young African entrepreneurs, who are positioned in all markets, from e-commerce and Fintech to solar energy, e-health and education. And the trend has not gone unnoticed outside the continent: Africa and its startups were the featured guests at the 2018 edition of Viva Technology, a trade fair in which BNP Paribas is a partner.

Developing offers tailored to startup needs

By their very nature, startups grow quickly and have specific funding needs. This is especially true for those based in Africa, where the ecosystem is still being structured. For this reason, BNP Paribas has been deploying an active innovation strategy across the African continent since 2015 and is supported in these efforts by its local banks, which get to use Group programmes for their own initiatives according to their strategy. 

For example, in 2017 the Group was one of the first banks in West Africa to introduce a local offer for accepting online credit card payments. This was a major opportunity for retailers, the tourism sector and entrepreneurs, who were suddenly able to expand their online operations both locally and internationally in a secure manner. Afrimarket, one of Sub-Saharan Africa's leading e-commerce sites, also chose BNP Paribas’ online payment solution for its operations in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. It already had a close business relationship with the Group after working with BICICIBanque internationale pour le commerce et l'industrie de la Côte d'Ivoire, a Group subsidiary – to develop an innovative online consumer credit offer for the Ivorian market. The offer was a huge hit with the middle class. 

Payfacile, innovative payment solutions  

By the end of 2018, the banks had sold more than 100 contracts and processed more than 5,000 payment transactions. The offer was further strengthened when the e-commerce payment solution was directly connected to various global platforms (tour operators, hotels and the events industry). In Q1 2019, the offer was expanded with the introduction of the Payfacile brand to support the launch of all new innovative payment offers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa: the land of hackathons

BNP Paribas regularly organises events with global reach to identify tomorrow’s digital talent, and Africa is no exception! 

In June 2018 the Group’s subsidiaries in Morocco (BMCI and BDSI) and Côte d'Ivoire (BICICI) organised a hackathon that brought together employees, students and startups to work on innovations such as “the branch of the future” and “the autonomous customer”. The winning projects had the opportunity to be incubated at the Cantine Digitale, the lab operated by BDSI (the Group’s IT subsidiary) in Casablanca. These startups, created with employees who took part in the hackathon, were then fast-tracked at LaFactory and will help the local banks improve customer experience. The employees involved received training in innovation processes and will join the BNP Paribas community of champions.

As for 2019, a similar initiative will be set up in Q1 in Algeria by BNP Paribas El Djazair for its employees and local entrepreneurs. During the year, BMCI, BICICI and BICIS in Senegal will host the famous Startup BootCamp, a US startup accelerator that is a partner of RCS, the Group’s subsidiary in South Africa. The banks will help the accelerator find the most promising startups in Africa. Together they will shortlist entrepreneurs during a Demo Day in Capetown. 

Supporting social business and women’s entrepreneurship

BNP Paribas is also involved in financing projects with a social and environment purpose.In 2018, two intrapreneurs from BICICI (Côte d'Ivoire) took part in the People'sLab4Good programme launched by the Group to support employees with positive impact projects. The programme’s key initiatives involve creating an agricultural farm to help feed children via school canteens, and generating power for canteens and bank branches from plant waste. Both projects will be partly financed by the Group. In 2019, it will be the turn of employees in North Africa to take part in the programme’s 5th edition.

Upstream, BNP Paribas and its local banks make sure that microfinance is available to vulnerable populations so that people can become entrepreneurs even in the least favourable regions. The Group also aims to promote sustainable entrepreneurship, mainly with the support of the CSR department, which contributes to specialised investment funds. This was the case with Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P), an impact investment group established 15 years ago that manages four funds dedicated to SMEs based in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018 the bank invested €1 million in IPDEV 2, an impact fund sponsor belonging to I&P, whose goal is to launch 10 funds in 10 African countries within 10 years to support 500 businesses and create 15,000 jobs. So far, five funds are operational in Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Madagascar. 

The PAFADD project (suporting women in agriculture and sustainable developement) aims to empower 30,000 Senegalese women farmers by 2021. 

BNP Paribas also supports women’s entrepreneurship, especially in the farming sector, as reflected in the Group’s commitment, alongside UN Women, to promote climate-resilient agriculture and women’s entrepreneurship in northern Senegal. The programme, called PAFADD (Projet d’Appui aux Femmes dans l’Agriculture et le Développement Durable, or "Project to support women in agriculture and sustainable development"), aims to empower 30,000 Senegalese women farmers by 2021. This initiative is consistent with our corporate engagement policy that is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

photo credits : header ©SFIO CRACHO // ©Jacob Lund// ©Rawpixel.com

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