With her preparations running until late into Wednesday night, Alexandra - NABC's event manager - could only dream about how the following 48 hours would turn out. With a staggering 350 participants showing up the next morning, the smoothness of the day's events came as somewhat of a surprise to the NABC team. Our own Marina Diboma kicked off the conference in style, paving the way for our first round of keynote speakers and plenary panel session. "Africa works for Dutch business - of the top 20 markets the Netherlands does business in, 9 are in Africa" remarked Klaas Knot, President of De Nederlandsche Bank.
Newly appointed CEO of FMO Jürgen Rigterink explained that the business climate across Africa is becoming more favourable to operate in. "Our share of investment in the African continent was 28% in 2010. Last year it was around 32%. He cited the Lake Turkana wind energy project and a solar energy centre in South Africa as key examples of the work the development bank has been doing in Africa.
From left to right: Jürgen Rigterink (CEO of FMO), Deepak Malik (CEO of Arise) and Tomi Davies (CEO of ABAN)
Day 2 progressed in similar fashion. Director of Fidelity Bank Ghana, Edward Effah, talked about the rapid growth the bank had witnessed due its use of mobile technology to engage its customers. CEO of Bank of Africa, Amine Bouabid, gave an equally insightful speech about the lessons he has learnt from his bank's experiences across Africa. "I find it essential that local branches are run by locally employed people." Bouabid was resolute about this idea - that local talent maintains the advantage of having deep knowledge of local social strucutres which foreign employess cannot have. "I always say to talented youths in Africa that they don't have to look at 'the North' for inspiration. Europe isn't growing much anymore: it is across Africa where growth is at its highest."
Our final round of workshops featured the session "The Art of Dealmaking". Five of the best Dutch entrepreneurs were given a unique opportunity to present their Africa-focused businesses to a panel of four investors. A captivating session followed, which essentially played out like a high-quality episode of Dragons' Den. Our investors all concluded that all five pitches were of a very high standard and showed great promise. But which of them managed to secure an investment for their business after the session?
Regardless, Africa Works could not have closed in a better way. The NABC team will now be working on the post-production phase including a video, interviews with our keynote speakers, and much more. Stay tuned!