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Call for businesses to use tech and partnerships to take advantage of Africa’s opportunities

ZIMBABWEAN and African businesses have been urged to embrace technology as a catalyst to exploit opportunities presented by a youthful and growing African market, and to leverage public-private partnerships to scale their businesses and achieve economic growth.

The call was made at the just-ended BPL Africa Connect Business Conference in Harare, attended by over 150 business executives, including a European Ambassador and a government minister.

Noting the continent’s vast potential, speakers at the conference – running under the theme “Strategic Agility in a Dynamic Environment” – called on businesses and governments to collaborate and leverage technology to accelerate growth and unlock opportunities on the African continent and beyond.

From Left to Right: Centum Investments Group CEO Dr James Mwoira, Mr Ahmed Hassan of CEO Coaching International, FML Group CEO Douglas Hoto, British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Peter Vowles, Securico Founder & MD Dr Divine Ndhlukula and Econet Deputy Roy Chimanikire

Among the speakers at the conference – a first of its kind in Zimbabwe – was seasoned and successful Kenyan industry captain and CEO of Centum Investments Dr James Mwoira, female Nigerian tech founder and entrepreneur Keturah Ovi, global CEO Coaching network partner Ahmed Hassan, and former Fortune 500 company CEO and BPL Africa Founder Lionel Marumahoko Snr.

“Africa has over 1 billion people with needs to be met through the provision of goods and services. The key is to find a fit-for-purpose approach to deliver these goods and services,” said Marumahoko.

He pointed to several trends that are driving growth on the continent, including a young and capable population and significant enabling infrastructure, including technology, that are capable of propelling businesses forward and making them compete globally.

“With over 230 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years, who are future-ready and tech-savvy, Africa is rising to be the world’s largest workforce by 2040,” Marumahoko added.

Dr James Mworia, the Group CEO of Centrum Investments, the largest investment company in East Africa, said Africa was an attractive destination for companies seeking cost-effective opportunities.

With Africa projected to have the world’s largest workforce, Mworia stressed the importance of tapping into the continent’s youthful population.

“Approximately 70% of Africa’s population is under the age of 35, providing a unique opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said.

“By 2030, the services sector on its current trajectory will create at least 85 million net new jobs across the continent, enough to absorb half of new labour market entrants in highly productive work.”

Keturah Ovio, tech founder and CEO of Dukka, a fast-growing fintech company in Nigeria, said technology will lead Africa’s charge as it emerges as the fastest growth market in the coming years.

“Technology can solve a lot of human problems, or at worst, make them easier to bear,” said Ovio, a firm believer that innovation holds the key to uplifting communities and driving economic growth and progress.

She added that technologies such as artificial intelligence had the potential to revolutionize financial inclusion by automating tedious tasks, delivering personalised insights, and even extending credit to underserved entrepreneurs and consumers.

“The future of technology lies in inclusivity, and by actively promoting opportunities for women and underrepresented groups, we can unlock a wealth of untapped potential and create solutions that truly reflect the diverse needs of our communities,” she said, noting the universal importance of grit, resilience and focus in building successful businesses.

Ahmed Hassan, a partners at CEO Coaching International, spoke about the vital role of agility in a  rapidly changing global business landscape.

“Agility is the currency of survival,” he said, adding that research by McKinsey & Company revealed that agile organizations are 70% more likely to rank in the top quartile of organizational health.

Officially opened the conference earlier on, the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development, David Mnangagwa, spoke of the power of public-private partnerships in unlocking Zimbabwe and Africa’s potential.

“We have made a decision to engage the private sector when crafting our policies,” the minister said.

He noted that the country’s diaspora community held immense potential in contributing to economic growth and development. “They are not just remittance senders, they are investors.”

He stressed the importance of creating the right policies to attract diaspora and other investments, which could play a crucial role in driving economic growth.

The BPL Africa conference – which also hosted an engaging panel discussion moderated by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Deputy CEO Roy Chimanikire – served as a platform for business dialogue and strategic collaboration. It also highlighted the need for African entrepreneurs and businesses to leverage digital and emerging technologies, such artificial intelligence (AI), to compete for the vast opportunities on the continent.

Britain’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Peter Vowles, who participated in the panel discussion –  along with First Mutual Holdings Group CEO Mr Douglas Hoto and Securico Founder and MD Dr Divine Ndhlukula, and the rest of the conference speakers –  hailed the role of the private sector in supporting governments to attain their economic objectives.