Africa’s rising influence on the global power stage is finally getting the recognition it deserves. As the UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020 takes place in London today, Esther Oluga explores what this interest in Africa’s economic potential means and how African women entrepreneurs are at the forefront of development.
The UK-Africa Investment Summit is finally here. Government and business leaders from across Africa and the UK will gather to discuss ways of creating lasting partnerships aimed at delivering more investment, jobs and growth, to benefit both Africa and the UK.
With an eye to the impending challenges of a post-Brexit UK, over the last few years, our government has been visiting several African nations – notably South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria – to boost post-Brexit trade and explore mutually beneficial economic opportunities within our respective countries.
It remains to be seen how well Africa will benefit from these new opportunities. Will African leaders step up and negotiate trade opportunities that truly benefit their citizens against the ever-present backdrop of corruption and international debt? Following the UK-Africa Investment Summit, how much power will African leaders actually have in shaping these trade deals?
An important factor in these discussions is the part African women entrepreneurs play. A concerted effort is being made to ensure women in Africa equally benefit from trade opportunities.
African women mean business
In recent years, the UK government has amped up its efforts to support African women entrepreneurs through funding and advice. Research continues to show that Africa’s female entrepreneurship rate is one of the highest in the world. Last year, MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs noted that in Africa, Uganda has the highest number of women-owned enterprises, closely followed by Ghana and Botswana. Despite challenges such as good infrastructure, gender inequality and economic instability, women entrepreneurs in Africa are still dominating the scene globally. Yet, overall, women are not receiving the support they need to scale up their businesses, particularly when it comes to funding.
Last week, the UK government hosted a Start-up Night in partnership with the Lionesses of Africa, a women-focused entrepreneurship social enterprise, giving 11 African entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their businesses to UK investors to raise funding. From Temie Giwa – Tubosun‘s health tech company LifeBank Nigeria, to Flora Mutahi‘s tea company Melvin Marsh, these inspiring business owners were able to connect with investors.
Whether you’re looking for a business to invest in, searching for inspiration or simply want to buy products to support enterprising women, we’ve compiled a list highlighting some of the African women-led businesses you should know about.
Melvin Marsh International (Kenya)
Flora Mutahi, Founder & CEO
Sector: Tea processing and retail
Melvin Marsh International is a Kenyan-based family business that produced Melvins Teas, the country’s first flavoured teas. CEO and Founder, Flora Mutahi, presides over the company which serves millions of cups of tea a year. The product base has expanded to include herbal and fruit infusions including green, orthodox and purple tea. They ship products internationally.
Suzie Wokabi, Founder & CEO
Sector: Cosmetics manufacturing, retail and distribution
SuzieBeauty is Kenya’s first make-up brand, as well as a global trailblazer in creating a bespoke product for the African woman, by an African woman. The company has evolved into an independent makeup brand which offers consumers a high-quality brand at an affordable price. It competes with international brands in the market and stands out for its incredible textures and colour ranges, custom-created for the African woman. Retailing mainly in the Kenyan market for the last six years, the company now has 18 product lines, plus a full range of application brushes. Suzie is currently looking for capital for future expansions.
Java Foods (Zambia)
Monica Musonda, Founder & CEO
Sector: Food processing company
Lawyer turned entrepreneur, Monica Musonda, is the founder of Java Foods and their first product was “eeZee Instant Noodles”, which has become Zambia’s leading instant noodle brand. Her experience of working with one of Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs, Aliko Dangote, gave her the motivation to start her own business and in 2012, she moved back to Zambia and set up Java Foods.
Gebane Investments (South Africa)
Pumza Ndlotyeni, Founder & CEO
Sector: Power Distribution
Gebane Engineering Services (GES) is a Black woman-owned engineering services company. The company is currently looking to expand its capabilities, and geographical footprint. GES was established in 2007 by co-founders Ms Pumza Ndlotyeni and Mr. M A Ngcobo, mainly to grow specialised skills from previously disadvantaged individuals in the Electricity Supply and Distribution Industry with more emphasis on women. The business is currently looking for access to funding, so do get in touch!
Reform Studio (Egypt)
Mariam Hazem, Co-founders
Sector: Sustainable Lifestyle Brand
Hend Rias and Mariam Hazem are the duo behind Reform Studio, an international award-winning lifestyle brand, founded in 2012. Reform Studio produces a range of luxurious eco-friendly fashion and home accessories. Their story began after the 2011 revolution in Egypt, which motivated them to try to solve Egypt’s waste problem through inventing “Plastex”, a 100% eco-friendly handmade fabric that is purely made out of waste plastic bags interwoven with Egyptian cotton threads. Through Reform, they hope to empower local craftsmen and under privileged women with limited resources and education. The duo is interested in expanding in the UK and meeting with corporate and fashion buyers.
Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Founder & CEO
LifeBank is a medical distribution company that uses data and technology to help health workers access essential medical products like blood and oxygen. This is done through a smart logistics system that delivers these products to hospitals on time and in the right condition. Their vision is to be the supply chain engine for healthcare systems across Africa and save the lives of one million Africans in the next 10 years. They are currently looking seeking capital for growth and innovation across more cities in Nigeria.
Ruff N Tumble (Nigeria)
Adenike Ogunlesi, Founder & CEO
Sector: Children’s clothing manufacturing and retail stores
Ruff ‘n’ Tumble is an indigenous premium quality clothing, shoes and accessories brand for children. The brand was founded by Adenike Ogunlesi in 1996 as a solution to the scarcity of quality children’s clothing and to showcase the business opportunities in Nigeria. The main brand TIMOTIWA, creates Afrocentric ready-to-wear clothing and accessories that infuse African print fabrics (Ankara) into contemporary trendy designs. The company is currently looking for investors for potential expansion plans.
Ruff ‘n’ Tumble Kids| +234 8024613263
The full list of entrepreneurs on the night is here.
*Outside her role at Melan Magazine, Esther is a PR & Communications professional. She specialises in Africa media, with clients across foundations, impact investing and philanthropy. She has a special interest in women’s rights, political, cultural and social developments in West Africa.