This article was contributed to TechCabal by Noel K. Tshiani, the founder of Congo Business Network. The organisation works with startup founders in the Congolese diaspora and those based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the goal to develop a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem while promoting real solutions in the market.
From October 4–6, I was in Paris to participate in two major business events organised by the French government.
The first event was called Ambition Africa, which was organised by Business France, a government organisation that assists French companies to export to international markets. It also has the responsibility to attract foreign investors to France, the third largest economy in Europe after Germany and the United Kingdom.
The second event was called Bpifrance Inno Génération and was organised by the French public investment bank, Bpifrance. This event is branded as the largest gathering of entrepreneurs in Europe.
Congo Business Network was a partner of the fourth edition of Ambition Africa. Through this partnership, I brought entrepreneurs from Kinshasa to meet potential business partners, look for business partners, and gain visibility in the media by speaking on television. The ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo in France, Isabel Tshombe, and the minister of mines from Congo-Kinshasa, Antoinette Kalambayi, also attended Ambition Africa.
I facilitated meetings between entrepreneurs in our delegation and potential investors, business partners, and journalists who came to Ambition Africa and those who came to the event held by Bpifrance on October 6 at Accor Arena.
Having organised similar delegations since May 2019 at Station F in Paris when I led a delegation to participate in the Afrobytes’ event; then in November 2019 in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia when we attended the Africa Fintech Summit; and in January this year when we participated in the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I have concluded that participating in major business events overseas plays a major role in helping startup founders in Africa develop exponentially in entrepreneurship.
As entrepreneurs prepare to speak with journalists on television, they develop real communication skills, as happened with one person in our delegation who spoke live on France 24 on October 7 about an application that her startup has developed to detect fake medicines.
Speaking with potential investors also helps entrepreneurs to develop real marketing expertise by demonstrating an in-depth understanding of their industries and business models. These kinds of real-life experiences in entrepreneurship can’t be obtained from a business school, an incubator or even an acceleration programme.
That’s why African governments, corporations, embassies, and mentors need to do more to assist entrepreneurs who desire to participate in business events in Europe or in the US in the future with the objective of meeting investors, finding business partners, and gaining visibility in the media in a way that can boost the success of founders.
The exposure that comes from participating in major business events overseas is a tremendously valuable business asset for startups.