By Sam Close
Whilst it is not something I do on a regular basis and certainly not a course of action I enter into lightly, a recent inspirational experience participating as a mentor on the Her Future Africa programme in Ghana compelled me to throw caution to the wind… and write a blog.
Her Future Africa is an initiative led by the Africa Technology Business Network (ATBN), aimed at equipping young African women with the tools they need to develop future solutions to the continent’s problems. It takes the form of a 2 day boot camp, where the participants come together to develop innovative new business ideas, followed by a 2 month mentorship period, where participants research and refine their ideas with support from their mentors. The 10 top ideas are selected to pitch at a demo day, where the top idea receives seed funding, co-working office space and business support (hopefully from more talented mentors than myself!)
If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect but after the first conversation with my mentee, Charlotte, I was feeling optimistic. She had set her sights on a critical issue that impacts the UK as well as Ghana (and probably every other country!) – the lack of financial literacy amongst young people. She had the idea of developing a service that not only develops personalised saving and budgeting plans, but teaches you to make better decisions in the future. It was rough around the edges but the idea seemed solid and I was looking forward to seeing how it developed.
When Charlotte sent me the second iteration of her work, I was blown away! The issues we identified had been ironed out and what initially felt like a vaguely good idea, had blossomed into a first-class business plan. Unsurprisingly she qualified for the pitch day, which fittingly (and possibly deliberately?!) took place on the 8th March – International Women’s day. Unfortunately, Charlotte didn’t come first, which speaks volumes about the competition she was up against, although something tells me that it won’t be the end of the road for this idea…
So what did I learn from the experience? What initially felt like a whimsical decision to sign up to a programme I knew little about, gave me a great insight into the innovation, motivation and talent that is inherent in young women across continents. If my work with Charlotte was in any way representative of the next generation of leaders, we have a few things to be optimistic about!
And if you happen to be in Ghana and feel like you could do with brushing up on your financial skills – watch out for FinStep…