The East African Entrepreneurship Conference and Expo

The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Resilience and Prosperity recently participated in the East African Entrepreneurship Conference and Expo (EECE) held between 31 October and 2 November 2023 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This was the second conference organised by The Nation Media Group Limited Kenya, with the theme “Positioning African Enterprises for Global Trade Competitiveness.” The first conference was held earlier in the year in March 2023.

The event brought together government officials from various ministries in the DRC, investors from the East Africa Community region, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), and institutions that constitute the backbone of entrepreneurship across sub-Saharan Africa. The target sectors for discussion during the conference included Agriculture and Value Addition, Mining, Oil and Gas, Ecommerce and Cross border trade, Healthcare, Construction, Business Insurance, Digitilisation, Education and Renewable Energy. The conversations and panel discussions revolved around improving the political goodwill within East Africa so that SMEs can understand trade consumption, patterns, logistics, barriers, and the rules and regulations required in order to thrive. The issue of cultural incompatibilities and language barrier within the region was discussed as well as access to markets and finance.

The Fund Grants Manager, Wilson Irungu and Communications Associate, Bella Kimutai attended the event to create awareness on the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Resilience and Prosperity among relevant stakeholders.

The team members identified and engaged with various audiences such as SME CEOs and decision makers and other stakeholders, potentially relevant to various Fund interventions. Wilson Irungu, during one of the sessions, gave a brief introduction of the Fund, guiding delegates to visit the Fund information desk for more information on the program, its sectors, and interventions. Both Fund representatives were able to interact one-on-one, with those interested to learn more on the Fund. They were also able to add prospective participants to the Fund communication database.

The Fund team also paid a visit to Silikin Village, one of the SME incubators in the heart of Kinshasa, where a meeting was held with the hub’s team leaders, sharing knowledge of the Fund as well as gathering more information on SMEs in DRC. Silikin Village host various networks of SMEs and start-ups in different sectors in the country and run support programs for entrepreneurs, with forty four percent of the entrepreneurs being young women. During this meeting, the Silikin Village team gave an in-depth presentation on the support programs offered for entrepreneurs from ideation to acceleration, as well as the strategic support given to already established SMEs. The team was also introduced to some of the entrepreneurs at the Hub; one led by four young Congolese women in the agri-tech sector who have developed a platform that connects consumers with local restaurants, grocery stores, local markets, and convenience stores at their convenience; a young team of software engineers who provide software solutions and technical training to microfinance institutions in DRC as well as having several digital platforms launched in the Congolese market; and a vibrant team who have developed a pan-African streaming application in the creative industry in Congo that aims to solve the problem of legal access to music as intellectual property in Africa through streaming as well as many other projects. The event provided a great opportunity to amplify the Fund objective to an audience as well as build on information and establish relevant contacts who can continue engaging with the Fund team on the various interventions.