By Ajong Mbapndah L
Media appearances have been rare for Leila Ndiaye since she joined the Initiative for Global Development in March 2018 as Executive President. In July, she was promoted to President, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and effectively assumed her new role on August 1, 2018.
While she may have been media shy, Leila Ndiaye has made great strides in taking the IGD to greater heights in its core mission of transforming the organization into an engaging and influential platform that fosters greater investment of U.S. and African small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in Africa. From events featuring African Heads of State, to a leadership for Agriculture Forum in South Africa, the IGD under Ndiaye is living up to expectations as a credible development partner for Africa.
With the annual Frontier 100 Forum of the IGD in the horizon, Ndiaye accepted to talk to Pan African Visions .In addition to shedding light on her stewardship since joining the IGD, Ndiaye offers insights on the Frontier 100 Forum which takes place on April 10 and 11 in Washington, DC, the Advanced Executive Training Program, and other seminal projects in gestation .
It’s been about year now since you joined the IGD, how has the experience been for you?
My time at the Initiative for Global Development so far has been extremely rewarding. IGD has been doing great work on the continent bringing private sector solutions to solve development challenges and suggesting ways that the private sector can work with the public sector to promote a conducive environment for business and investment.
On the event side, in September 2018, IGD organized two conferences featuring two African Heads of States in New York and Washington, D.C., and facilitated a Leadership for Agriculture Forum in Johannesburg in November 2018.
This event brings together African ministers of agriculture and finance together with African business leaders and is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and led by the African Development Bank.
Back in April 2018, IGD hosted its annual spring Forum in Washington, D.C. and proceeded to host numerous African business and government leaders for a tour of New York, Iowa and Texas states, where participants presented their experiences, learned from local counterparts, and had explored opportunities for collaboration. This U.S. Roadshow Tour served also to share business and investment opportunities available on the continent to U.S. businesses, and became a precursor to IGD’s new program: The Advanced Executive Training Program or AEP.
What are some of the innovations that you have tried to bring on board?
We have an extremely talented team at IGD, and the best recipe for continued success is to foster increased and effective collaboration between our team and our members as well as with other partners. We are launching the new AEP Program, which will take US, African and global business partners to several countries on the continent each year as well as in the US.
These business leaders will participate in a serious trade and training immersion program where they will learn first-hand from local business and government leaders on how to do business in the country; visit local industries of interest to them; and engage local partners who might be interested in collaborative ventures.
Three countries are targeted for the first year: Tunisia, Nigeria and Mozambique. African business and government leaders will also be invited to visit ICT, Agriculture and Energy industries in the US in the fall. IGD strongly believes in promoting SME-SME linkages between emerging African businesses and other global communities to accelerate Africa’s transformation.
The Frontier 100 Forum is coming up on April 10-11 this year, how are the preparations going, may we have an idea on some of the highlights of this year’s event?
IGD Frontier 100 Forum brings together IGD business members together with African, US and global partners from all sectors to discuss core business issues of significance to the continent’s development. This year, we will host a reception on April 10 and the Forum on April 11 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. The title of our Forum is “Africa@Crossroads: Unlocking Intra-African Trade through SME
Business Growth and Skills Development,” and it covers three major sub-themes: (1) Raising Support for Africa’s Economic and Development Agenda; (2) Expanding Regional Trade and Investments through the newly signed African Continental Free Trade Agreement; and (3) Spurring SME-led Business Growth through Greater Access to Resources and Skills by African Women and Youth. We have a range of great speakers from government officials, business leaders and institutional experts. Panels will be moderated by renowned experts and recommendations shared with key sector and policy leaders for advancement.
May we also know some of the big names expected at the forum, what in general should participants expect?
We have invited many prominent business and government leaders and have already received some confirmations while awaiting others. Hon. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development; Dr. Benedict Oramah, President, African Export and Import (Afrexim) Bank; Hon. Vera Songwe, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa; C.D. Glin, President and CEO of the U.S. African Development Foundation; Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, former US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs; former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Robin Sanders; among others.
Participants should expect a robust discussion on revamping Intra-African regional trade and investment; stimulating women- and youth-led SME business growth; and creating more opportunities for expanding jobs and wealth on the continent.
We did notice that the IGD now has a new Advanced Executive Program, could you shed light on this for us?
The Advanced Executive Program (AEP) is a new initiative that we are launching at the April IGD Frontier 100 Forum. It is geared to educate American and African business leaders on how to do business with each other, and in Africa and the US.
It is a combination of business training program and a trade mission. We believe that strengthening Africa’s private sector will accelerate opportunities for market-led development and self-reliance for generating employment and advancing economic growth on the continent.
The best way to aid this process is to equip business leaders with the knowledge, tools and experience to explore prospects for growth in these amazing and emerging markets, and provide the context needed to ensure successful and dynamic African, American and global business engagement.
The AEP will be exciting and includes both business and cultural components so that participants understand the full picture working and doing business in a specific country. A typical schedule of this immersion program will include two days of seminars and two days of industrial visits. The first day will be discussion sessions with local business leaders and experts, and relevant officials with insight in trade and investment opportunities in the country.
The second day will be devoted to engagement with ministers and public sector officials focusing on legal and policy environment, logistical support and government resources available to reduce incentivize and reduce the cost of doing business.
There will also be a day or two, depending on sectors covered, for visiting leading local industries and engaging local investors, and the last day will encompass a cultural excursion to understand the culture and local community engagement. Throughout the week there will also be numerous networking receptions, group dinners, and free time for participants to explore the surrounding area. Similar programming will be done for visits to the US by African business and government leaders.
In what parts of Africa will the program take place in and what motivated the choice of those countries?
For 2019, we are targeting three initial countries for AEP: Tunisia, Mozambique and Nigeria. The decision was reached after consultation with leaders, aligned opportunities for co-hosting the event alongside other major convening; promising African markets, and identification of key local contacts who are interested in supporting the program.
Each year, we hope to 3-4 countries as well as two missions to the US. More information will be forthcoming about our planned AEP dates and activities.
How has the public especially in Africa responded to the AEP initiative and in terms of cost, how affordable is it?
We have received very positive reactions from partners, advisors and potential funders. The cost per participant is US$6,000, which is inclusive of all costs except airfare. This means that this registration fee includes accommodation, local transportation, some meals and business certification. In addition, participants’ organizations will receive one year membership to IGD’s Frontier 100 Leaders Network, which is our member network that comprises global, US and African CEOs and senior executives whose companies have interests and priorities regarding sustainable and inclusive growth in Africa.
Membership allows access to exclusive events by IGD and our partners, as well access to advisory services, visibility on our website and marketing materials, and access to our influential network African public and private sector leaders. Typically, membership is US$5,000 for one year. By including membership as a benefit to the AEP, we can show the value of becoming an IGD member beyond participation in AEP country programs.
Any other projects that you have in mind on issues around entrepreneurship, youth and women issues that are passionate to you?
Yes, IGD is planning to play a significant role in expanding business opportunities for youth and women in Africa. In order to reach a larger audience of youth and women-led SMEs, IGD is working on hosting an online training program for SMEs around business best practices, value chain management, logistics, legal processes, and gaining access to government resources. These trainings will target growth sectors such as agribusiness, ICT, entertainment, energy and other industries.
These will be held on a regular basis in partnership with other institutions. Our hope is that this initiative will be able to reach a broader base of entrepreneurs that our regular programing can, and also make such training accessible especially to many young people who are currently connected to each other and to the world. IGD currently participates in youth-based training and mentorships programs led by the African Development Bank (ENABLE YOUTH) and the United Nations Development Program (Africa Youth Connect)