Ethiopia is going to host the first Africa Fintech Summit to Addis Ababa on Nov21st.IBEX Frontier, a Virginia based niche Investment advisory firm focused in Ethiopia with presence in London & Addis Ababa is proud Co-organiser of the Africa Fintech Summit(AFTS).
Zekarias Amsalu is a founder of IBEX Frontier who has been at the forefront of providing deal sourcing, research, buy-side & sale-side Investment advisory, guiding international investors on entry into and about bankable opportunities in. Starting from coining the term ‘Sheba Valley’ for Ethiopia’s tech space and representing and speaking on behalf of entrepreneurs of Ethiopia at various international summits, Zekarias is helped investors pour out FDI into Ethiopia as well as created visibility of Ethiopian businesses & entrepreneurs globally.
Zekarias is also the 2018 cohort of NextGen Investors of Invest Africa(USA) and has been featured on various international mediaincluding CNN, CGTN, Quartz Africa & Digest Africa among others. In September 2019, Zekarias has been featured as the reckoned connector of opportunities to Investors and Route-to-Ethiopian Market advisoryby Forbes Africa, in its exclusive issue on Ethiopia entitled: Ethiopia: The Pride of Africa”. Zekarias has brought the premier Africa Fintech Summit to Addis Ababa and Capital Newspaper has sat down with him while he was in Addis for the planning of the summit. Here are excerpts of the interview.
Capital: Can you briefly tell us about Ibex Frontier and its role in connection to the AFTS?
Zekarias Amsalu: Ibex Frontier is an investment & route-to-market advisory firm based in Virginia with presence in London and Addis Ababa. In one hand, we help international investors and corporates with buy-side advisory/deal sourcing as well as customized research and business intelligence on opportunities in Ethiopia and in another, we represent Ethiopian businesses as investment advisors- from getting them investment-ready to road-show to investment negotiation and fund raise. We are humble to have the privilege of helping Ethiopian businesses successfully raise funds in the last 2 years and we have few more investments we will be closing soon. We currently are working on FDI generating, job-creative initiatives and investment in excess of $100M in Ethiopia in Fintech, Tech, Mining, FMCG, FMCG & Infrastructure. With our commitment of providing Access, Visibility & Opportunity to Ethiopian businesses, I spoke at a panel of AFTS DC last April and immediately I approached the Founder of AFTS to bring the next AFTS edition to Ethiopia and for Ibex be co-organizer and here we are, very pleased that AFTS is taking place in Addis Ababa on 21 November 2019.
Capital: Can you tell us the story of AFTS, it’s origin and track record so far and what makes it different from other Fintech summits?
Zekarias: The AFTS was born of the belief that fintech holds the potential to transform lives and economies in Africa but more collaboration among stakeholders and nations is needed.
In 2016, the Founders at Dedalus Global led a series of round-table discussions about how technologies like peer-to-peer payments, mobile money, and blockchain could reverse financial exclusion in Africa and in the process unleash unprecedented economic firepower. It was tremendously exciting stuff, but it also became equally clear that silos posed a threat to this potential. Banking and tech communities were often isolated from each other, policy makers and regulators weren’t always attuned to new technologies, cross-border integration was scarce, and global investors just didn’t have a good understanding of African markets. Led by an advisory board of investors and entrepreneurs, the AFTS was created in 2017 specifically to bridge these gaps.
Capital: How is AFTS different from other Fintech summits taking place across Africa?
Zekarias: The AFTS is different from other fintech summit is a few key ways. First, we are a biannual event that occurs each April in Washington, D.C., and each November in a different African city. That makes us a pan-African event with a global scope. We are also unique in our diversity, as we engage with the full spectrum of sectors and geographies that comprise the highly-dynamic African fintech space. Lastly, we are content driven and feature Africa’s thought leaders, which makes for a highly curated and outcome-oriented event. We’re proud that a number of large investments were mobilized during the last three Summits and that we facilitated real policy development, particularly at our Lagos Summit last November. Ultimately, however, our biggest differentiator is the relevance of our program and the quality of our participants.
Capital: Who are your co-organizing partners with Dedalus Global and describe their relationship with Ibex Frontier?
Zekarias: Dedalus Global is an investment and communications advisory that focuses on emerging markets and emerging technologies. Based in Washington, DC, and Lagos, Nigeria, they have an intimate understanding of African operating environments as well as a strong network of global investors. Dedalus specializes in country insights and research, investment facilitation, strategic communications, and investment summits. Dedalus has deeper insights in Western Africa as well as global reach of Fintech investors and eco-system players while Ibex Frontier has similar capabilities in Ethiopia and East Africa, this has made our collaboration synergetic and complimentary to organize result driven and highly anticipated summit in Ethiopia.
Capital: What international companies are you bringing to Ethiopia for the Summit?
Zekarias: We are very pleased to say that given the intersection of Fintech in Banking, Telecom & Technology, we have speakers, sponsors and panelists from international giants gathering in this summit including KCB, TDB, AfDB, Eco-Bank, Standard, Microsoft, IBM, Google, AWS, Oracle. We are also pleased to be welcoming the Global office of Partnership, US State Department as our strategic partner and they will lead a country mission to Ethiopia in connection with AFTS and bring US Tech giants and investors attending the summit. Part of the partnership, a startup pitch event P!TCH ETHIOP!A is arranged as an extension of our Fintech Summit on the 22nd November. This will provide an opportunity for Ethiopian Tech startups pitch their businesses in front of incoming investors and secure long term partnership as well as winners being funded to travel to Silicon Valley to participate on the Global Pitch of Startup World Cup with full expense paid!
Capital: What can Ethiopia and Ethiopian Fintech companies expect from the Summit?
Zekarias: We have diverse participants who benefit from diverse outcomes. Entrepreneurs have raised over 20million USD in venture capital through the AFTS. Investors use the AFTS to source deals. In our 2018 report, we have shown that Ethiopia raised around $11.3M in Tech investment, was 7th largest Tech investment destination in Africa with some 76% of the funding going to Fintech. We have created an ‘Alpha Expo’ where we give 10 Fintech & Ecommerce companies free pass, exhibition table to showcase their businesses & products so they are connected to investors and partners. Secondly, Regulators and policy makers come to hear what other countries are doing and learn how new technologies are changing markets. Third, early stage startups and Tech outsourcing companies benefit by showcasing their capabilities to the incoming Tech giants, DFIs and corporates for business development and job-creation initiatives. Fourth, companies like banks, fintech’s, and Telco’s use the AFTS as a powerful global platform to build their brands and tell their stories. And lastly, we are expecting hundreds of delegates coming from abroad to our summit and this is a huge boost to the Conference tourism industry as well as Ethiopian Airlines that is our airlines of choice for the summit. We will be showcasing successful Fintech companies in Ethiopia that can manage complex outsourced jobs and drive as many jobs as possible are created locally as a result.
Capital: How is the government supporting the Summit?
Zekarias: We are very grateful for the gracious support and help we have received from the onset. His Excellency Ambassador Fitsum’s endorsement was instrumental in bringing the summit to Ethiopia as well as the US delegation participation. His Excellency Dr. Ing. Getahun, Minster of MiNT has been actively helping us from lobbying and endorsing for the summit to take place in Ethiopia to gracing our summit as a keynote speaker. We have the honor of welcoming key Government officials including His Excellency Dr. Yinager, NBE Governor, EIC Commissioner Ato Abebe, Job Creation Commissioner Dr. Ephrem, Dr. Brook Taye from MOFED, Ato Yodahe from the PM Office, Ms. Feven from the ICT Village. We have a number of investors coming to the summit and we have partnered with Ethiopian Investment Commission so EIC has a booth at the summit and promote ‘Invest in Ethiopia’. All this support is something we are very grateful for.
Capital: How can Ethiopian businesses and startups register to attend the summit and who will participate in the summit?
Zekarias: Our Summit is taking place in Sheraton Addis on 21st November, followed by P!TCH ETHIOP!A on the 22nd November. Global delegates can register via our website. For Ethiopian delegates, we have partnered with our sponsor AMOLE for registration and payment in Ethiopian Birr. We expect 350 in attendance, out of which around 175 are coming outside the country. Some of the remaining local ticket is assigned to key Government offices & eco-system players within the policy making, regulatory and enabling decision makers. Any company that does Fintech, Mobile-money, E-commerce, Tech, Incubation, Banking and Financial services will need to hurry up securing their tickets before these are gone.
Capital: Speaking of sponsors, who are the sponsors of the Summit?
Zekarias: We are very proud to welcoming Kenya’s KCB as well as TDB as sponsors from the Financial services sector. We are also proud to having AMOLE, Flutterwave and M-BIRR & Iris-Guard as Fintech sponsors. We had a promotional event in New-York sideline of UNGA last September and as a result we have encouraged global investors to join us in Ethiopia which is bearing fruit. We are hoping to welcome more sponsors to the summit in the coming days.
Capital: Any message to Ethiopian Fintech, financial services and tech companies?
Zekarias: One reason that Ethiopian companies are not active in the African fintech space is the prohibitive cost of travelling and partnership at various international platforms. AFTS is bringing all the possible DFIs, Banks, Telecoms, Fintechs, Tech giants and investors to Ethiopia and my message to Ethiopian Banks, Fintechs and mobile money enablers is simple: – Don’t waste this great opportunity in your own backyards. From partnering with global DFIs for financial inclusion initiatives to preparing themselves for post-AcFTCA opportunity, AFTS gives them unparallel opportunity for brand exposure, Business Development, partnership and technology leapfrogging.