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Forum on entrepreneurship in Africa organized at l'X

A forum on entrepreneurship in Africa took place on Friday, February 26th, 2016 at École Polytechnique. This forum, organized by the student association X-Afrique, focused on two themes: digital innovation and energy.

In an international economic context marked by a slow recovery after the crisis, Africa remains a continent with great economic potential, with its average growth rate of over 4.5%. This continued growth, added to resources and an important human potential, makes this land of opportunities the new Eldorado for many investors and entrepreneurs.

To value this tremendous potential and attractiveness of the African continent for entrepreneurs around the world, the student association X-Afrique organized a Forum on entrepreneurship in Africa, which took place on École Polytechnique campus on Friday, February 26th. The forum focused on two themes: digital innovation and energy. Various spokespeople - including entrepreneurs, capital investors, researchers, spokespeople from international companies operating in Africa - shared their viewpoints on those topics during two round tables. This Forum was supported by Total, through the Academic and Research Chair entitled 'Advanced Concepts in Photovoltaics'.

The first round table on the topic: “Sustainable energy and Entrepreneurship, key vectors for the future of Africa” brought together such participants as Arnaud Chaperon, Director-General of Total Énergie Développement, Moussa Mara, ex-Prime Minister of Mali, Pere Roca i Cabarrocas, the Director of the Laboratory of Physics of Interfaces and thin Films (LPICM - École Polytechnique/CNRS), Mamadou Mbaye, Chief Executive Officer of FONSIS (Sovereign Funds Strategic Investment) and Xavier Barbaro, CEO of NEOEN. The spokespeople put the emphasis on the importance of the integration of sustainable energy systems in daily life on the African continent. Several of them focused their arguments on the value of the photovoltaic industries.

The second round table, on the theme “Africa, the new Eldorado of digital”, with Sébastien Crozier, Senior Vice-President of Orange, Claude Grunitzky, President of True Africa, Thomas Clausen, representative of École Polytechnique’s Academic and Research Chair entitled “Internet of everything”, William Nkontchou, President of ECP (Emerging Capital Partners) and Alain Ducass, international expert for digital transformation of Africa, founder of EnergeTIC, covered a wide array of topics related to the digital development on the African continent. The spokespeople shared their opinion on the subjects regarding the application of the artificial intelligence in job recruitment solutions, media digitalization, the importance of mobile apps creation for African companies and crowdfunding digital solutions. They talked about the digitalization of various sectors of activity in Africa such as healthcare, education, sustainable energy, agriculture and culture, and they agreed on the importance of the development of relations between Africa and Europe in the digital field via cooperation programs.

Nine start-ups introduced their entrepreneurial projects directed towards Africa before each round table. École Polytechnique Alumni, Amina Nasri, Cyril Colin and El Alami participated in these pitch sessions. Amina Nasri, graduate of École Polytechnique and Mines de Paris, founder of Afrikwity, introduced the pioneer equity based crowdfunding platform for Africa. Afrikwity enables anyone to invest in Africa related start-ups and early-stage growth businesses through equity. Cyril Colin and El Alami, both graduates of École Polytechnique and UC Berkeley, co-founders of eLum, the winner of the Africa Rethink Awards, talked about their software solution that optimizes the use of solar energy with the help of machine algorithms and reduces the electricity bills of customers, accelerating the transition to renewable energy. The company proposes its solution in Morocco nowadays and will soon establish its activity in Senegal.

In addition, the participants of the forum had access to the bilingual exhibition "Small is powerful", work of the photographer and video artist Joan Bardeletti. Through a visual and analytical investigation, this exhibition offers a new vision of Africa by exploring it through five SMEs. Entrepreneurs connected to these five projects as well as nine start-ups had a booth close to the exhibition space to discuss their experience with participants during all afternoon. The event was followed by a networking cocktail.

The student association X-Afrique

X-Afrique is a young association created in December 2014 within École Polytechnique, bringing together students who have a connection or an interest with Africa. It aims to promote African culture and generate interest for current African economic challenges as well as raise awareness on the entrepreneurial opportunities offered by the continent.