Having been exposed to the opportunities of working in Africa from an early age, it was inevitable that Alexander’s career would bring him back to the African continent.
Combining this passion for Africa with his understanding of trade and investment, desire to support businesses and keen interest in sustainable development, Alexander’s journey with Invest Africa has certainly been an inspired one. What’s in store for 2021? A focus on sustainable development goals, digitalisation and April’s African Tourism Investment Summit.
Putting Sustainable Development Goals in the Spotlight
Enjoying a bird’s eye view of trends taking place across the continent, Alexander has been motivated to find ways to advocate on behalf of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) conversations and initiatives.
While Invest Africa’s interest in the SDGs is not new, the fact that the topic has become more mainstream has spurred the organisation to put it in the spotlight. As such, Invest Africa has chosen the SDGs as its theme and focus for 2021. “We have decided that all our work will highlight conversations around these topics,” says Alexander.
This is further underpinned by the fact that COP26 (the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference) is taking place in Glasgow this November and Invest Africa is tailoring the work they do around SDGs so it can contribute toward this important event.
“At Invest Africa, one of our key aims is to support our members in understanding the importance of the SDGs and to help them find ways of integrating these practices into their own businesses.”
New Round-Table Discussions Spark Creativity and Collaboration
Taking African investment discussions to the trenches, Invest Africa has launched a new series of private round-table discussions where C-Suite and ExCo members from specific sectors come together in small and personal virtual groups to engage in peer-to-peer discussions and grapple with topics that are important to their businesses and the wider industry.
“Having 15 decision-makers around a table bringing to light captivating topics about what’s happening in their industry, instead of high-level webinar discussions, has been extremely successful.” “Having 15 decision-makers around a table to candidly discuss the challenges in their industry and share investment solutions has been very productive alongside our high-level webinar programme.”
Digitalisation = Opportunity
For Alexander, some of the biggest investment opportunities lie in digitalisation. Its obvious growth trajectory encourage investment in spite of slowdowns in other sectors.
Invest Africa continues to provide as much support as possible to its members in the tech space so those businesses in turn, can take advantage of these consumer-led tech opportunities.
To this end, and steered by its interest in supporting entrepreneurs further, Invest Africa is working with an organisation called Untapped Global, which acts as an ‘entrepreneur support group’.
Together, they are laying the foundations for success for start-ups and entrepreneurs. “Our members are given the opportunity to pitch ideas to a panel of three investors, from across the tech space to provide unique funding opportunities for Africa’s start-up community.”
Although COVID-19 has been a stumbling block, reports from fintech and prop-tech companies have provided some positive news by indicating an increase in the deals made in the tech space.
“This shows there is an appetite by investors to support our members.”
Invest Africa’s Bullish Outlook for 2021
The lack of travel has undoubtedly been a major challenge. At Invest Africa, Alexander and the team have taken a cautiously optimistic view, and strongly believe that with the global commencement of the vaccine roll out, travel will improve gradually.
“Like most parts of the world, we have seen trends showing a slow first half of 2021, but people are hungry for the opportunity to travel so the appetite is there, and hopefully it will grow as the vaccine roll out across Africa progresses.”
Invest Africa’s interest in the tourism space is massive and the organisation has clients in this sector which have shown incredible resilience, despite the challenges of the past year.
“We currently work with several hotel groups and airlines. Although operations in these businesses have been affected by COVID-19, there is still movement in terms of expansion. This is where we come in because they require introductions to financiers, and we can assist them.”
Alexander and his team are hopeful that once travel and tourism reopens, its members will hit the road running and Invest Africa plan to be right by their side.
“At Invest Africa we guide our members to look at benefits throughout the value chain and not view the growth of their businesses in isolation e.g., conservation businesses have taken time to recalibrate and figure out how they can dovetail with tourism businesses, find ways of collaborating and they all get to progress together as opposed to working alone,” explains Alexander.
The case for public-private collaboration
What could Africa do to ensure the continent is Tourism investment ready? “For starters,” says Alexander, “The private sector needs to work in conjunction with government to make sure that when tourism re-opens, the continent is ready.”
It must also be the responsibility of the government sector to find a way of cutting through the red tape and open their minds to alternative options, for example, allowing the private sector to invest in some of the key national businesses that have taken knock due to the pandemic, for instance government-owned airlines.
This needs to be the case for both inter- and intra-Africa trade and investments.
Invest Africa and the African Tourism Investment Summit
Invest Africa currently works with Reed Exhibitions in several ways, explains Alexander. “In fact, we are Afreximbank’s strategic delivery partner for the Intra-Africa Trade Fair, which subsequently gave rise to a partnership around the African Tourism Investment Summit.”
When it noticed a steady growth of its membership base, Invest Africa realised that having a dedicated summit, where issues directly affecting its members across the continent are addressed, would be an ideal opportunity for growth, learning and exposure.
“Working with the team at the Africa Tourism Investment Summit and having the opportunity to put forward some of our members for speaking opportunities has been great. This partnership has presented an incredible networking opportunity because investors, who are generally hard to reach, will be attending the same conference and our members will have the chance to engage with them.”