In early 2015, I and several other Senegalese women business owners came together to address a gap we had seen – that of mobilising significant domestic resources to address Africa’s development needs.
While the culture of raising funds for community needs already exists on the continent in the form of savings and credit cooperatives and associations, we knew that the real game-changer would be in mobilising even larger amounts of money for the growth and development of the continent in more formalised investment vehicles. It is against this backdrop that we founded the Women’s Investment Club (WIC).
WIC, through its WIC Syndicate Fund, aims to accelerate women’s inclusive economic emergence in Senegal, through support and investments in high-potential early-stage businesses with a gender focus. More broadly, WIC provides financial products that are tailored to women-led businesses in Senegal and Africa.
These financial products include an existing index fund targeting the West African Regional Stock Exchange, a soon-to-launch syndicate fund targeting early-stage businesses, and a planned private equity fund targeting more mature small and medium enterprises. The domestic options to mobilise resources have to be both attractive and safe to work.
Attractive because collectively Africans in the continent and beyond are already mobilising huge amounts of resources, but for several different uses. In 2015 alone, African migrants sent home some $64.6bn, a sum that rivals FDI flows and dwarfs aid. In 2017, mobile payments in Kenya – one of the leading players in the area – averaged close to $100m a day. Safe, because with the many uncertainties surrounding the African investments space for individuals, investors need to be assured that their funds are secure as they wander into new territory.
Investing in our own economies
The need in the region for initiatives such as WIC is very clear, with WIC Senegal having inspired the setting up of similar women’s clubs elsewhere. The continent is also fortunate that there have been similar homegrown initiatives to learn from, especially those in Nigeria and Ghana, the leaders in impact investing in West Africa, where the regulatory environment is more favourable to both angel and impact investing.
By setting up the first syndicate fund based on the angel investing model in Francophone West Africa, WIC will be establishing a precedent for the development of angel investing networks all over the region, therefore creating more financial mechanisms for businesses looking for funding.
Such homegrown resource mobilisation initiatives are a great step in putting the continent and its people more in control of our own destiny. If this and other similar models can be scaled up throughout the continent, African investors can increasingly find ways to invest profitably in their own economies, still in partnership with foreign investment, while ensuring that Africa is more in charge of delivering on its own development objectives for the benefit of its people.