The 1st West African Startup Summit organised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with the support of UNIDO, ECOBANK and the African Solidarity Fund (ASF), ended with the adoption of the draft charter for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and the presentation of award of the best startups in the region. This summit was held from 17 to 22 November 2021, in Niamey, Niger, on the sidelines of the African Union’s 2021 industrialisation week,
During this meeting in Niamey, whose main themes were: “Policies for an enabling environment for entrepreneurship in an integrated region: The role of the governments of ECOWAS Member States and the private sector” and “Economic transformation through technological clusters and innovation in the ECOWAS region”, the experts and the Ministers in charge of Trade, Industry and Small and Medium-scale Enterprises considered and adopted the new charter for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and validated the work of the Jury that selected the best startups in the West African region.
At the end of this competition, 10 startups from the ECOWAS region that proposed innovative solutions in various fields ranging from the digitisation of agriculture to social services, through industrial transformation processes and monetary and financial transactions, were awarded prizes. The first prize of 30,000 dollars was awarded to Mr. Olivier Biley from Côte d’Ivoire for his resourcefulness in the digitalisation of agriculture through the creation of a complete and integrated ecosystem using the drone. Mr Konou Yawo Muwape from Togo, who proposed a project for the production and marketing of a water drilling management system, received the second prize of 20 thousand US dollars. Ebun Feludu from Nigeria received the 3rd prize worth 15 thousand US dollars for his project on the production and marketing of coconut-based products and derivatives.
H.E. Mr. Okyere Micheal Baafi, Ghanaian Minister of Trade and Chairman of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in charge of Trade, who opened the meeting of the Sectoral Ministers of Trade of ECOWAS Member States on Monday 22 November 2021, in the presence of his Nigerian counterpart, Mr. Gado Sabo Moctar, recalled the difficult economic context in which this high-level meeting of the MSME sector is taking place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also urged ECOWAS Member States to promote and accelerate their industrialisation for the benefit of our people by creating an enabling environment for young entrepreneurs.
Earlier in his speech, Minister Gado Sabo Moctar, expressed satisfaction with the conclusions of the meeting of experts and commended ECOWAS for its leadership role in promoting the development of start-ups in the region. This is through the policies and dynamics of digitalisation, as well as the main channels through which they can increase employment for young people. “Startups are real drivers of structural change for sustainable economic growth and prosperity, enabling the production of new knowledge, products and services as well as the development of new markets and job creation,” said Minister Gado Sabo Moctar
During the opening ceremony on Monday 22 November, Commissioner Mamadou Traoré, informed participants that the meeting became necessary for drawing up a profile of reforms to be implemented by States to support them in increasing the resilience of their economies. “The revision of the West African Charter for Small and Medium Enterprises has allowed for the reclassification and re-grouping of Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises according to turnover and staff, the inclusion of networks of small business development agencies, platforms of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and digital entrepreneurs,” said Commissioner Traoré.
It should be noted that this new charter takes into account improvements through the inclusion of new innovative financing mechanisms, clusters, industrial workspaces, bio-innovation centres, quality standards and quality assurance particularly in the context of the FTAA. It should be noted that this new charter takes into account improvements through the inclusion of new innovative financing mechanisms, clusters, industrial workspaces, bio-innovation centres, quality standards and quality assurance particularly in the context of the FTAA.
The ECOWAS Startup Summit brought together young entrepreneurs to present their innovative, multi-sectoral solutions and bright ideas in new technologies. It also provided a forum for raising awareness on the role of start-ups among governments, policy makers, public and private investors, the media and entrepreneurs. Participants also shared lessons, success stories and addressed critical issues underlying improvements in the start-up and innovation ecosystem in West Africa.