Senegal SMEs See Success with IIA Development Schemes

Seynabou Guisse, Head of Finance at Invest in Africa and African Development Bank Business Linkage Project Finance Manager.

Energy Capital & Power spoke with Seynabou Guisse, Head of Finance at Invest in Africa and African Development Bank Business Linkage Project Finance Manager, about the MSGBC region’s newly discovered energy industry and how the charity supports local businesses with its three-pronged approach to programs.

Firstly, could you tell us a bit about Invest in Africa’s history- how it came about and its mission in doing so?

Invest in Africa (IIA) as an organization was founded in 2012 as a crossroads of diverse partners who are there to support SMEs and local suppliers. So, our existence is born of a desire to help local economies knowing that these are best aided through the prospering of small-to-medium sized local enterprises. IIA has operated in Senegal itself since 2018, having started its first national base in Ghana two years’ prior, later spreading to Kenya, Madagascar, Zambia and in 2019, Mauritania.

The charity’s work has three pillars: access to skills, access to market and access to finance. The former revolves around capacity development and empowerment of enterprises, enabling their sustainable success and resilience through free training and certifications- equipping them to lead national industrial development. This isn’t limited to the energy sector but extends to agricultural businesses as well.

Access to market, then, is about getting SMEs to the negotiating table and competing for contracts with key actors like BP and Woodside in Senegal with whom IIA fosters strong ties, professional and philanthropic. That means if either of these megafirms issues an invitation to tender, we’ll hear about it and can help our network of local businesses to answer the call, bid and win.

Lastly, access to finance details our role in facilitating the financing of SMEs through venture capital and relations with investors and banks. Where capital is needed for development, we work to provide it. So that’s what Invest in Africa is all about.

IIA’s portfolio spans a number of African nations. Do you find that the national contexts in each of these are more alike or different?

I would say that whilst each nation holds a unique set of circumstances for businesses operating with its borders, many of the challenges faced are common ones: matters such as population growth, climate change, and a need to move industry and markets towards renewables. These common challenges allow Invest in Africa to deliver its trainings across the continent, and for them to be as pertinent in, say, Madagascar as in Mauritania. SMEs are the foundation of development and local economies across every country- Japan is a model example of this, empowering its local enterprises early on and flourishing as a result. Africa has much to learn in this respect, but our training and programs have set it on the right track.

In Senegal, IIA’s African Partner Pool included 1358 local suppliers with five key buyers- the likes of bp and Woodside. What position do you believe the country holds in the region’s energy sector?

Senegal plays a role of crucial importance in the MSGBC region and its economic basin. After all, it was in Senegal where the region’s first oil and gas reserves were discovered, leading to exploration and exploitation in neighboring nations. Our programs at IIA are designed to promote and sustain the social and economic benefits of this oil rush, with Senegal as a figurehead and trailblazer for the region. The country is ready to be taken seriously within the hydrocarbons industry internationally, starting to tap tremendous natural resource reserves with IIA coaxing and cheering it on, streaming the benefits back to communities. Now, with the 2nd edition of the MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power summit, we can push forward for the region. We at IIA partner with the Ministry of Petrol and Energy, Cospetrogaz, CNSCL and many other national institutions, but the nation’s energy sector could really use a boost to its profile to achieve the visibility and investment it needs to prosper- this, the MSGBC conference gives us.

One of IIA’s primary roles is to facilitate international investment by connecting multinationals with credible local suppliers. How is this achieved?

Of course, and this brings us back to the access to finance pillar. Here, IIA creates and cultivates strong relationships with banks and other financiers so as to connect them down the line to SMEs- bringing in $4.1 million worth of investment to date. Institutions and investors like these will have minimum requirements stipulated for funding: sometimes, the number of employees in a company, or else a minimum annual turnover. By working with SMEs, connecting them in coalitions and growing their capacity, we see that they meet the KPIs that these banks and investment funds look at- even accompanying them into meetings with financiers to see that they receive their backing. We do this in Senegal, in the MSGBC region and with investors internationally.

MSGBC Oil, Gas & POWER 2022

Under the patronage of H.E. Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power will once again take place in Dakar, Senegal, with the event serving as a catalyst for investment and multi-sector development in 2022. To find out more visit msgbcoilgasandpower.com or contact sales@18.198.47.39.

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Elliot Connor

Elliot Connor

Elliot Connor is Energy Capital & Power's Field Editor for The Republic of the Congo region. He holds a PgD in Environmental Engineering and is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration. He is also a bestselling author, TED speaker and charity CEO, having priorly worked as a columnist for India’s largest newspaper: The Daily Pioneer.

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