Zambia's first International virtual conference!
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
The day’s topic was Business strategy, technology and Entrepreneurship:
So, I attended the conference, with much excitement. This is the first virtual African conference I have attended. Curated and produced by Yereka Mhango and her moderators, it was inspiring. Having attended many virtual events in the last few months, as I am in tech I had high hopes, also because black girl magic. Albeit there were some technical difficulties, but in this world of quickly having to organise a large-scale virtual conference, they were minimal. And my conclusion on the event is it was excellence, produced at every level.
I had meetings all Friday so was only properly able to join Saturday’s event. And these where my favourite talks and my takes for anyone looking to join the Anakazi(Literally means women's) network or future conferences.And heres a little gif to show you just what black girl magic it was.
International Markets and taking control: I first joined a conversation with Dr Van Wood his advise was on how African’s can create the environment for foreign investors to want to invest. He explained the need for an alternative model that allowed countries from Africa to have direct trade agreements ,that permit reduced tariffs, such as the example of Mexico who have created several trade agreements directly with other countries, in today’s environment making it a hot spot for automobile manufacturing countries to heavily invest in Mexico.
Emerging Technology: I also listened to amazing strategies and brilliant technological feats being achieved by Africans. On a panel discussion was Tongayi Choto who highly impressed, with his company Afriblocks a platform connecting African freelance professionals to the world. He spoke of how his business has used blockchain, AI and various emerging technologies to scale their business. He underscored how important the African diaspora is to the continent. Apparently, the diaspora has sent more money back to the continent this year than the amount of aid given to Africa. He sees this as an opportunity expand the use of freelancers by diaspora and Africans finding work. They have an excellent ambassador programme that Africans both in the diaspora and on the continent can join. There site is highly secure, able to capture when a bot is writing, and they have their own public key that can identify a duplicate accessing the platform.
Finance Funding and Acquisitions: In that same panel we had Dale Fickett whose expertise lie in finance and funding acquisition. I very much liked this talk, because as you know it is very difficult to get funding as black people let alone as foreigners, so he gave some great strategies. Some of the points Dale made where;
1) Understand where you are in your business to understand what you need.
2) Figure out the various sources of capital at your disposal, so that you can readily tap into them when you need.
3) If you do decide to approach a lender, understand what it is the lender requires from you as a potential debtor and vice versa. Do a bit of shopping and compare.
4) Understand that a lot of times investors want to look at your balance sheet, as this shows a snap shot of the financial position of your company ,ensure you understand this thoroughly before finding an investor. They want to understand if you have revenue, share agreements, what your liabilities and future profitability can be.
5) Understand the various financial model’s at your disposal, those mentioned where (lean)- where instead of getting debt, lean out processes and save and utilise what you have, (lending)- where you go and get debt to finance the scaling of your business or from a (fund)-several funds such as Angels, Venture Capital, incubators etc exist that invest in businesses at various stages like Seed or growth stage etc
6) For businesses in the not for profit sector Dale mentioned a way to scale or get sponsorship, consider what benefit you would be giving the sponsor, or how your values align with theirs, as well as what access, exposure and input to questions you can provide them. Also do not dismiss the power of collaboration, where you may not get direct funding.
Dr Sheila Ochgboju gave some sage advice about cultural competence, encouraging the African to know where we are coming from, for us to understand where we are going.
Upcoming designers & Start Up entrepreneur’s mistakes to avoid: Towani of Towani designs, spoke of her businesses which she calls her twins and her journey to designing and eventually opening a yoga studio. She explained of how difficult it was at the beginning and all the lessons learnt, detailing how her business acumen prepared her well in advance for the pandemic, she runs a few studios, with trained Yoga instructors and has also moved digital, with an already working product that hosts free and paid yoga classes online. Her advice to up and coming entrepreneur’s and designers was intern intern intern as much as you can- “make mistakes on someone else’s time and learn on the job”. She also encouraged us to be realistic about starting a business, you are more likely not going to pay yourself immediately, so save enough to take care of basics at first for at least a year or don’t completely quit your job before you start working on your side hustle. There is importance in having a supportive partner or support system such as friends and family as that’s what kept her afloat in those difficult times.
Lifelong Learning & Passions: Nelly Mhangami is one of those speakers you cannot help but just put down your spoon even if you were eating, because you have to listen to her. Her story is relatable and one of triumph. An entrepreneur and tech enthusiast she spoke of her journey of working and running a farm both in the UK and Zimbabwe and how she started by renting out land to grow what she needed, she is of the belief that both agriculture and tech are the future and I am in agreement.
She said we need to have the capability to be bold and continue lifelong learning, explaining how she was able to take her tech career, when work slowed down and she was working from home she took on online project management jobs with companies around the world. Whilst simultaneously running her farms. So, finding opportunities when we are “disadvantaged” or in pandemics. She said see opportunities in your career and build a business around what you already know, like she did, turn your job into your passion then business.
Quote of the day was from her was –“ I will retire from my profession, but I will never retire from my passion”.
Community Based Initiatives:This was probably my favourite of all the talks because it was closely aligned with what I want to do. Clara Kingston is in the hospitality industry but likes to find ways to enhance communities through initiative especially in Zambia.
She mainly spoke about how Zambians are not maximising current opportunities locally even in the pandemic by making use of research funding, such as with the corona virus and local heritage sites. She wants to create initiatives to help women in communities and enhance tourism. She said there’s a need for a community of Zambians to come together to initiate these ideas. I was so moved I created a group and will be meeting on zoom to discuss if you are interested please register your interest by taking this survey here.