I had the privilege moderating the Women in Business and Entrepreneurship Panel during the three-day 10th Africa Together Conference organised by the African Society of the University of Cambridge at Jesus College, Cambridge in May 2023.

The motto for the conference was Forging Our Path, and it aimed to speak to the sense of agency that we have as young Africans to come up with authentic solutions to face the 21st Century challenges that the continent faces.

Women in Business Panel in Action, Day 2 of Africa Together Conference, Jesus College, Cambridge, May 2023

The panel discussion brought together Mandy Nyarko MBE, co-founder of the ESG innovation consultancy Startup Discovery School, which operates in the UK and Africa and an Ada Ventures investor;  Oyinkansola Adebayo, another Ada Ventures investor and founder of the multi-award winning Niyo group of companies, and who is on a mission to economically empower black women using technology; and  Jumoke Dada, an award-winning entrepreneur  and the founder of Taeillo, an E-commerce furniture and lifestyle brand based in both Nigeria and Kenya.

The hour-long conversation focused on venture capital in Africa and the opportunities and challenges women face in entrepreneurship in Africa. In particular, the discourse focused on raising capital as Africans and African women, technology, and micro-lending models that a lot of communities use in Africa. The dialogue revealed a lot of great insights.

The need for clarity around financial modelling, and an ability to sell the business vision in order to secure funding for the next stage of investment that the business needs, especially for black women who face a bias when sourcing for funding was highlighted by Oyinkasola Adebayo, whose Niyo Bootcamps have empowered 400 black women to pursue their business ideas and career aspirations through technology.

From Left to Right: Oyinkasola Adebayo, Mandy Nyarko MBE, Daisy Moraa, Jumoke Dada and BBC Journalist Jonelle Awomoyi, May 2023, Jesus College, Cambridge

These sentiments were echoed by Jumoke Dada, who founded Taeillo in 2018, and whose mission is to make her technology-driven furniture business a well-recognised and respected international African brand. Jumoke, who managed close to $2.5 Million USD for her establishment in a series A, also noted that there is still a huge challenge for women to raise capital even within female founded and female led funds, because the custodians of the funds tend to be patriarchal men. Her experience has been that even despite her revenue track record, men with less than 10% of her business revenue have higher valuations and receive more funding.

This intersectionality of being female, working class, African or black or from a developing nation, and also being an entrepreneur is something that Mandy Nyarko MBE is passionate about addressing. Looking at venture capital statistics, she realised that only 5% of women receive venture capital funding, and that in terms of female led teams, only one pence out of one pound goes into female led teams. Thus, she aims to help women understand business equity, and ensuring that as we make a transition to the green economy, the transition is just. Through her Business Growth Hub, she seeks to accelerate that change by providing business development support and access to capital.

With the Africa Together Conference Executive and Organising Committee who worked tirelessly for six months to bring the 3-Day Conference to life.

The audience warmly received the insights shared by the panel, and ensuing questions sparked excitement, even for me as an MBA candidate at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Moderating the panel, and also being the Head of Corporate Sponsorships and Partnerships for the 3-Day 10th Annual Africa Together Conference and working with other students of African descent and seeing Pan-Africanism in action was an honour for me. It was a lot of fun and work, coming up with the themes for the panels, reaching out to the panellists and creating a three day experience for the attendees. No doubt, this required a lot of institutional and financial support and I am grateful to the sponsors of the Conference, including but not limited to Girton College, the African Energy Chamber and the Mastercard Foundation.

For more on the annual Africa Conference and the Cambridge MBA visit our main web pages here >