“Growth is back in Africa, and has so far been accelerating. But it remains insufficient in terms of fighting poverty, with growth remaining fragile and unevenly distributed. Deepening the SME tissue and increasing the manufacturing sector are important and relevant ways to speed up growth, reduce inequalities, and strengthen the society by increasing the middle class,” explains Jean-Michel Severino, Managing Director, I&P (Investisseur et Partenaire pour le Développement), former Managing Director AFD (French Development Agency).
Severino’s remarks come on the eve of the Africa Finance & Investment Forum 2012 (AFIF 2012), where as a key speaker he will give his expertise and insight into the future of Africa’s SMEs. The Forum, entitled “Financial inclusion through SMEs & Cooperatives”, is promoted by EMRC and held in partnership with Rabobank at the Rabobank Headquarters, the Netherlands, from 17-19 June 2012.
“Demography is Africa’s main strengths. The continent is entering the era of the “demographic dividend”, during which each year in the coming 80 years, the dependency ratio between the active and inactive parts of the population is going to improve. The growing population is also going to create huge markets, while the urbanization process will also improve the productivity of the economy,” Severino says.
Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P) is a social business dedicated to promoting African entrepreneurs and businesses, in order to accelerate African growth and make it more sustainable, currently running 30 SMEs in Sub Saharan Africa. I& P basis its strategic agenda with a view that Africa will have a lot to offer in the coming years: “Africa’s growth will be less dependent on external markets and build strongly on the nascent deep domestic markets which will emerge,” adds Severino.
This year’s AFIF Forum will gather leading global representatives from a variety of sectors to highlight the financial tools, solutions and growing policy trends to ensure economic growth for Africa’s SMEs. The discussions and proposals to be highlighted at the forum are essential for a cross section of African sectors to establish their full economic potential.
A growing number of organisations and businesses will be present at AFIF 2012, such as FMO - Rabo Development - Rabobank Foundation - IFC, World Bank - IFAD - AfDB (African Development Bank) - Centenary Bank - Shell Foundation – GIZ (German International Cooperation Organisation) - Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture & Innovations - Oikocredit - FARA - Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation - Clifford Chance - Wageningen University – Agriterra - HEINEKEN - I&P - Hivos – AFRACA - AMSCO - Rectory Foods, Ltd – AFRACA (African Rural & Agriculture Credit Association) - Global Development Co-operative - Centenary Bank - among many other from Africa, Europe, America and Asia.
AFIF 2012 will provide a platform for new and improved financial tools to be spotlighted, with a particular focus on mechanisms adapted and unique to the African business model. Business-to-business (B2B) meetings which are tailor-made to ensure maximum business partnership success will be organized on the 18th June at Rabobank Headquarters. Previous forums have seen over 1,000 of these meetings set up over a 2-day period. The international media will spotlight the various speakers and interview a select group of participants to highlight regional and local business ideas and trends.
The EMRC-Hivos-VC4Africa Project Incubator Award will be sponsored this year by the Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (Hivos), a leading Dutch organisation with a worldwide presence, and held in collaboration with Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A), a global platform connecting entrepreneurs and investors throughout Africa.
With two leading organisations associated to this year’s Award, the winner and nominees will receive increased international recognition and the opportunity to expand their global contacts. The award is presided by a panel of international experts, with the winner receiving a cash prize of US$15,000 and the much-needed international media spotlight.
The first two days of the Forum will be held in Utrecht and the third day will be held in partnership with Food First, which includes guided visits to one of the world’s biggest Horticultural Expo - Floriade 2012 (Venlo-Netherlands), organized once every ten years.