A speaker presents at the first AfricArena event, held in Cape Town this week to facilitate discussions on challenges facing start-ups and entrepreneurs. This was also an opportunity to engage with potential investors. Picture: Supplied
A TWO-DAY investment summit held in Cape Town this week that sought to bring investment into Africa attracted more than 450 delegates.

The first-ever AfricArena, spearheaded by Silicon Cape and La French Tech, provided a platform for start-ups to pitch innovative solutions to potential investors.

Silicon Cape managing director Ellen Fischat said more international investment needed to be attracted to Africa.

“Africa will be the next biggest tech start-up ecosystem. We need to show the world what we can do. In Africa, we are far from countries where investors are and we need to bridge those gaps- international investment is our biggest challenge,” Fischat said.

She said the event was also aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs and start-ups to start thinking globally in terms of their offerings.

The French Ambassador to South Africa, Christophe Farnaud, said through the initiative French companies could build partnerships with entrepreneurs, including young black South African entrepreneurs.

“It’s a two-way process. French companies can build partnerships with young black entrepreneurs and in return African solutions can help unlock challenges that French companies might have. So we all benefit from the process. No one can do it alone, partnerships are key,” he said.

The conference also heard that there were few angel investors in Africa and that there was an urgent need to change the situation.

Of the estimated $27 trillion available for seed investment in small businesses around the world, only between $2 billion and $4bn went to Africa.

The leader of the French Tech Hub in Cape Town, Christophe Viarnaud, said this amount was nothing when the potential of Africa’s entrepreneurs was taken into consideration.

“We need to demonstrate the capacity of these ventures,” he said.

The stage is set for start-ups from across Africa to pitch innovative solutions and showcase their businesses to investors. The series of open innovation challenges were established as an opportunity for companies to sponsor the conference while also benefiting from the expertise of start-ups in solving problems identified by the company.”

Nick Argyros, one of the founders of Gotbot, a start-up that incorporates artificial intelligence into their solutions, said the conference was a platform to showcase and pitch his business.

“What we do enables big businesses to automate conversations with customers through SMS, Facebook. Messenger, WeChat and even email. So we make the contact centre better and more efficient,” he said.

Argyros said through artificial intelligence, businesses were able to see the value of data and how they could then use it to enhance their operations.

“If a customer calls a centre, most of the time the operator on the other side has to fetch data to respond to the query. With artificial intelligence that data is fetched for you much quicker and you can engage on your device. But where it can’t help, it allows a human to take over. We have built a hybrid model,” he added.

One retail company looking for an innovative loyalty programme for its product, attracted three pitches. Usable Solution For Life ( USFL), pitched the winning solution - a digital payment app.

“It’s been very exciting to win at the very first AfricArena conference,” said Yazeed Osma of USFL.