Good evening everyone and Welcome to the final Rollo Masters event.
I would like to first acknowledge the presence of representatives from the African Union and UNDP, our partners on this project. Also, the presence of our judges, AfriLabs member hubs and other stakeholders present and the participants. Welcome to the final presentation by finalists of the Rollo: Future of African SMEs program.
First, a little background about AfriLabs: We are a growing network organisation of 240 innovation hubs in 48 African countries. We have a vision of a thriving innovation economy in Africa, powered by our community. We believe that Africa will solve its problems by harnessing local solutions by Africans, and we see entrepreneurship and innovation as the platform where this can happen. So we support innovation hubs (which are support systems for innovators and entrepreneurs in local communities) by helping them build capacity on best practices, providing access to funding and partners, and fostering collaboration between themselves and with other ecosystem stakeholders.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unravelling and we are still responding to these challenges that we never saw coming. The growth of the African economy is mostly reliant on our entrepreneurs heading small and medium enterprises. They are responsible for tackling local problems with innovations and their business activities, providing employment to locals and hereby empowering micro-economies across the continent. The pandemic and lockdowns drove many of these businesses to survival mode, with many letting go of staff and some even closing up.
Governments, Enterprise support organisations, development agencies and other stakeholders intervened with several support programmes and funding with many still running. At AfriLabs, we launched a number of programmes to support the ecosystem. Rollo Africa, in partnership with the AU and UNDP, and driven by Kmt house (District Spaces) in Egypt, Savannah Hub in Sudan, Jokkolabs in Senegal, Activspaces in Cameroon and iZone Hub in Zimbabwe. Rollo is a business simulation program dedicated to inspiring and supporting small African enterprises facing challenges after the COVID-19 outbreak. The program provides a platform for African entrepreneurs to create ideas and test new strategies in a simulated and risk-free environment. We need to understand how businesses across the continent make decisions in peculiar situations such as during a pandemic and we need to empower them to make better ones. Rollo is first a learning opportunity for every stakeholder and then a support system for the entrepreneurs affected by the pandemic.
Today we hear from the finalists, feedback from the judges and successful businesses will emerge. There is a lot to unpack from the weeks of bootcamps in Senegal, Sudan, Cameroon, Zimbabwe and Egypt, and I believe we are in for a very educating time. We appreciate the support of our partner organizations, the African Union and UNDP. Their sense of obligation for development on the continent brought this project to life. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of more Rollo programs in Africa. We also acknowledge the dedication of AfriLabs hub members in the participating countries, led by Moetaz Helmy of District Spaces as the Executive Director of Rollo, bootcamp facilitators and of course the participating businesses.
So gentlemen and ladies, let’s dive into the business of the day. Thanks!