I&P Brings Together Entrepreneurial Support Structures in Cotonou
Within the framework of the IPAS program, 10 of these SAEs are selected each year for a 9-month training program alternating between e-learning, mentoring, and regional meetings. In November 2022, I&P selected 22 business coaches to form the second cohort of the program. They were trained for several months on topics such as corporate governance and finance.
The Golden Tulip Hotel in Cotonou hosted an event organized by Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P) on February 2, 2023. The impact investment fund brought together the business incubators involved in its I&P Acceleration in the Sahel (IPAS) program.
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IPAS targets startups in 13 countries in the Sahel region
The program provides these small and medium-sized enterprises with financing and training in the skills they need to grow. The initiative has three main components: SME financing, technical support for these enterprises, and strengthening of entrepreneurial ecosystems. This last aspect is essentially translated into support for incubators, business gas pedals, and other startup studios that constitute what are known as “entrepreneurship support structures” (ESS).
Within the framework of the IPAS program, 10 of these SAEs are selected each year for a 9-month training program alternating between e-learning, mentoring, and regional meetings. In November 2022, I&P selected 22 business coaches to form the second cohort of the program. They were trained for several months on topics such as corporate governance and finance. The participants then met in Cotonou from January 31 to February 4. The objective of this meeting is to strengthen the skills of these coaches through roundtables, experience sharing, meetings with investors, and practical workshops.
The Cotonou meeting was an opportunity for Sophie Ménager, who leads the IPAS program, to highlight the good performance of the program. “In three years, we have financed 87 companies in ten countries. These companies represent 3,158 jobs, of which 1,895 jobs were maintained and 1,263 were created. To summarize, when we fund a company, it has an average of 20 employees and our funding allows it to create 15 jobs.”
These achievements would not have been possible without the financial support of donors such as the European Union, which has accompanied IPAS since its inception. For Juan Luis Barbolla Casas, team leader for Governance and Economy at the European Union (EU) delegation in Benin, this support is the product of a paradigm shift in the organization. “Supporting the private sector has gradually become a global priority for the European Union in a world where investment, trade, vocational training and digital represent real opportunities when it comes to creating young, inclusive and sustainable employment.”
On the side of the program participants, satisfaction is total. Thus, Awa Sarr, who holds the position of senior advisor at the pan-African incubator Etrilabs, was full of praise for the meeting. “We met people with whom we created good synergies. Our goal at Etrilabs is to support excellence and innovation, and IPAS, by providing the financial component that complements our technical expertise, allows us to achieve this goal.”
The meeting was also marked by the presentation of the SCALE methodology
This tool, designed by the Argidius Foundation, is a collection of best practices aimed at enabling CASs to be more successful in their mission to support start-ups.
This presentation was followed by a round table discussion on the theme “How to concretize the potential of entrepreneurship support structures? The debate, led by Marianne Vidal-Marin, Director of I&P Conseil, brought together panelists from various backgrounds (entrepreneurs, coaches, and funders).
The exchanges allowed the identification of the weaknesses of CASs and the potential they have to best accomplish their missions. From these discussions, solutions emerged such as the need for CASs to create umbrella structures. To be successful, coaches will also have to rely on increased collaboration and the development of specialized and differentiated offers and adopt entrepreneurial logics.
(Featured image by Jo_Johnston via Pixabay)
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First published in Financial Afrik, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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