TRIBUTE FOR MR. JOHN WEARING

Innovation SL mourns the passing of Mr. John Wearing, a cherished consultant, judge, and mentor who left an indelible mark on our organization and the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sierra Leone. Mr. Wearing’s passing on Saturday, April 20th, 2024, leaves a void that will be deeply felt.

Mr. Wearing’s contributions extended far beyond his role as a consultant on a specific project. He embodied the spirit of Innovation SL, acting as a teacher, leader, and mentor to our team. His vast knowledge served as a beacon, guiding our research efforts and illuminating the path towards a more vibrant entrepreneurial landscape.

Beyond the walls of Innovation SL, Mr. Wearing’s impact resonated through his participation as a judge in numerous Freetown Pitch Nights. His presence inspired countless aspiring entrepreneurs, and his insights proved invaluable in shaping the future of Sierra Leone’s startups.

Mr. Wearing was more than just a consultant; he was a friend, a guide, and a champion for innovation. His dedication to fostering a thriving entrepreneurial environment will be deeply missed.

We at Innovation SL offer our heartfelt condolences to the Wearing family, both at home and abroad. May they find solace in the knowledge that Mr. Wearing’s legacy will continue to inspire future generations of entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone. We will cherish his memory and strive to carry forward the torch of innovation that he so brightly ignited.

Julliet Josiah
Fempreneur Pitch Night

 In a bid to select participants, Innovation SL posted a  CALL for applicants for the Freetown Pitch Night-fempreneur edition; with a star prize of $5,000, seven women were selected for the competition. Two-week prepping sessions were held in order to prepare them. During this time, they were given instructions on how they should showcase their ideas, to aid them with their pitch deck.

On the 26th of  April, 2023 the Freetown Pitch Night was held at the Limkokwing University, Hill Station, Freetown with the theme “FEMPRENEUR” (a platform where female entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to pitch their ideas and access seed funding). The event was hosted by  Ms. Margret Cassel and Ms.Francess Beresford- Renner. 

A keynote address was given by the company’s CEO/MD Mr. Francis Stevens-George who created a sense of purpose; in his speech, he stated the reason why Innovation SL partnered with Mercury International. Relatively, “for entrepreneurs to work we need a pipeline of ideas. To have new ideas to work we should have INVESTORS.” He further added that entrepreneurship has been the bedrock of development in Sierra Leone, for an entrepreneur to work there should be an ecosystem, for an ecosystem to work there should be a pipeline where new ideas as well as older ones strived. He emphasized that for both old and new ideas to strive there is a need for Investors, for that reason, there was a sense to appreciate Mr Martin  Michael, the MD of Mercury International, for deciding to collaborate with the Freetown pitch night by providing seed capital, especially for female entrepreneurs. Statistically, Sierra Leone has an estimate of 1.5 million women in the micro or small business sector and this sector accounts for 90% of the country’s economy. However these women have been struggling over the years to up-scale their businesses  because they lack funds and this is exactly why the fempreneur edition of Freetown Pitch night is a stitch in time.

Mr. Martin Michael explained that, since 2007 Mercury International has been involved in a wide variety of corporate social responsibilities by awarding scholarships to approximately 2000 students, providing abroad treatment for people with severe ailments and having built two schools.

Conversely, they were never introduced to such a platform wherein they could have the opportunity to aid entrepreneurs, which is why they had decided to partner with Innovation SL through the Freetown Pitch Night to provide a seed capital of $25,000 in total for five sessions of FPN and two out of the five sessions would be exclusively for female entrepreneurs. This is so because female entrepreneurs face the most challenges in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The emerging winner would help to alleviate poverty by creating job opportunities and payment of tax as that is what they are looking forward to. He left the stage thanking Mr. Stevens-George for the shared platform.

One of the hosts Ms. Francess Beresford-Renner ushered the panel of judges to introduce themselves and they were predominantly women, namely: Fatmata Sesay, John Wearing, Tafadzwa Chiganga, Waheed Awonuga and Mavis Madaure.

The pitch proper started immediately after the judges had introduced themselves and pitchers were reminded of the pitch’s rules which include the utilization of five minutes for presentation and two minutes for questions and answers, all summing up to seven minutes per pitcher.

The first pitcher for the night, Panashe Chikhata from Recycle2Skill, is a young hardworking and innovative female entrepreneur who has strong culinary and computer skills. She has been working with a team of four members; 3 female and 1 male that has the Practera programme, a programme that has been working with Seed Stars (an incubation company) in Switzerland. As a young female entrepreneur, she has a vision of empowering unskilled youths by providing them with skills at the cost of plastic waste. The business would have a positive impact: socially, economically and environmentally. This will help curb the problem of waste management and mitigate the issue of climate change.

The second pitcher Emily Kumba Fanday from ‘The Community’ has a peer-to-peer lending platform that has been allowing individuals or institutions to lend directly to borrowers in both formal and informal businesses. The community project was launched in 2022 having a population of 70 people; 30 female and 40 men. It has been seen as a viable market that provides loan services among institutions, businesses and individuals who are interested. Due to the huge market size, they have decided to have a low operation cost, minimal regulation, big data and technologies to streamline models. This is because they wanted to disrupt the system of how loans are given. To ensure the lender’s trust, the Community has a license of operations from the Bank of Sierra Leone which makes it reliable and secure. They had a business treat and control unit structure that would help lenders have better ROI.

The third pitcher was Mariama Bah from Rise Radio 96.3 FM who started by asserting that Climate change has been a global phenomenon caused by human activities primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Burning fossil fuel generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising the temperature. Looking at the topography of Sierra Leone, there is a dire need to discuss the

causes, impacts and solutions of climate change. Due to the lack of awareness (no specified programme on climate change by radio station) there was a sense of massive deforestation in both rural and urban areas causing flooding and soil erosion nationwide. This has impeded the production of agricultural goods.  Rise radio has a dedicated 4 hours radio program that would be providing radio content and radio drama that would be deemed fit for climate change discourse.

The fourth pitcher was Lydia Bernard-Jones from ‘The Bridge’ who has proved to be a link between young Sierra Leoneans and the opportunities to get resources in order to maximize their potential.  There are many students in Sierra Leone who lacked the opportunities of having scholarships and they needed someone to cross the bridge, by creating a platform for scholarship opportunities ranging from secondary school to university and sharing links with peers and mentors in their field internationally. The bridge would provide prestigious and productive young people equipped with experience to be competitive in their careers. This would build a strong cohort of youths that would be equipped with the skills.

 The fifth pitcher Nippy Bah is the leader of ‘Mamie Coker. Mamie Coker’ has a project that ensures young people employment in Sierra Leone. It’s a team made up of 5 members; 3 females and 2 males experienced in code and web development. The project stemmed from the fact that a girl was in desperation to secure a job. Relatively, a platform called Mamie-Coker was created to connect clients with skilled and reliable workers. From the research that was conducted, approximately 100 people were asked about their pressing needs and what they were willing to pay for. 70% said they are willing to pay for skilled workers.  Such could be applicable by creating profiles for both businesses and prospective workers, connecting clients to workers or hiring workers on behalf of the client and monitoring until the job is done and encouraging feedback from both workers and clients. Using technological tools, it would improve access to service in various skilled service fields and also promote digital literacy in an efficient manner.

Fatmata Kargbo, the penultimate pitcher from Tamara Millennium company, expressed that their business vision is to empower underprivileged women by providing them with essential training to help them sustainably earn their daily income. She explained that their financial struggles are often caused by the lack of seed capital and knowledge on how to utilize it.

Therefore, there was a need to create Agro-forestry cooperation for these women to get training on crop practice which would increase production. They would be providing basic business management skills as well as bookkeeping while making sure that they would be weeding the seed bed and proper farm check-ups. Participatory field research was conducted; the research informed that, if they had been working with them it would have been better.

Ms Hawanatu Sesay, the final pitcher, co-founder of the Wi-AgricTech business which focused on designing Green and Smart farming technologies to improve and increase the quality of food products nationwide. In Sierra Leone, the males have outshone females when it comes to technology which is why she served as a bridge to connect more females in the tech world. That is why she focused on farming technologies to increase the production of crops. With these technologies, they would train over 500 farmers by 2025 for the cultivation of vegetables worth 1 ton annually. The io T plant monitoring device through a cloud-based technology via phone could detect soil fertility, plant growth and moisture level of the plant, it could take an automatic decision on behalf of an individual regarding water, light penetration and nutrient level. The technology has been highly secure, efficient and reliable.

Madam Isatu Harrison the CEO/founder of creative hub Africa and Izelia Fashion who was the guest speaker for the night, started her speech by explaining that she obviously did not wake up one day and got to where she is currently as she had to go through some rough patch and challenging times. Cleaning was her first business; she started with a mop and a bucket where she employed 10 people and had some others as part-timers. The cleaning business was successful as she had a Ghanaian woman who worked so hard to own part of the company. She later sold the business and pursued a hairdressing venture which she fancied; ended up selling the cleaning business and failed in the hairdressing saloon. She relentlessly moved over to being a seamstress as all she had left was a singer machine and some Ankara pieces, being a business person who has always had a knack for fashion she then ventured into the fashion industry with just a sewing machine and eventually developed the brand called Izelia, which is well known today for its signature gara tye fashion prints all over the entrepreneurial ecosystem. She finally encouraged young female entrepreneurs to use what they have until they can get what they need.

At the final phase of the event, the judges have presented gifts of appreciation on behalf of Innovation SL before declaring the winner. Certificates were presented to all the pitchers

respectively, starting from the rear. The judges unanimously declared “the Community ” led by Emily Kumba Fanday as the winner of the 2023 Freetown Pitch Night, fempreneur edition. The MD of mercury international, Mr. Martin Michaels presented the cheque of $500 as seed capital to the winner and the event was concluded with an atmosphere of excitement and high anticipation for the next edition of the Freetown Pitch Night slated for the 13th of  May 2023.    

 REPORTED BY- George Garber

EDITED BY- Francess Beresford-Renner

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Freetown Pitch Night in Pictures

Dear Partners,
Season Greetings! We have been working on an Impact Report from 2017-2019. This report will be ready in Feb 2021. In the meantime, we have complied “Freetown Pitch Night in Pictures”. Please find two versions here(standard size and mini for bandwidth consideration).

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Freetown Pitch Night only held 3 events in 2020.
We will be back in 2021 with a full program! And again we hope to see you!

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Climate Diplomacy Week 2020

The European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone and Freetown Pitch Night is organizing a Pitch Event to mark EU Delegation to Sierra Leone Climate Diplomacy Week 2020.
The theme is Replacement of Single Plastic Use.
The winner stands a chance to win a foreign travel sponsored by the EU and Brussels Airlines for the purpose of improving their idea.
During Climate Diplomacy Weeks, EU Delegations and embassies of several EU Member States around the world hold various events to foster dialogue and cooperation on climate change, showcase success stories and inspire further action.

The event will take place on October 14th 2020, from 5pm-7pm. It will be streamed live via the facebook page of Freetown Pitch Night.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation- FPN

In light of the increasing spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, and the Government of Sierra Leone advice saying no gatherings over 100 people, Freetown Pitch Night will no longer be held live at the British Council until further notice.
The next editions will be pre-recorded and shown on our facebook page. Kindly visit our facebook page or website
www.freetownpitchnight.com for regular updates.
Steering Committee, The Freetown Pitch Night
17.03.2020

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Student Agro-Processing Pitch Night

Agro-processing refers to the addition of value to raw agricultural material through product transformation; postharvest grading, sorting, washing, and packaging; and storage and distribution.

Six students with ideas on agro processing from Njala, FBC, UNIMAK, IPAM will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.  This edition of the Freetown Pitch Night is in partnership with SL Agcelerator– a program under the Sierra Leone Agro Processing Competitiveness Program.

The Sierra Leone Agro – Processing Competiveness Project (SLAP- CP) focusses on providing solutions to key market failures inhibiting competitiveness of the agro processing sector and limiting firms and SME productivity in Sierra Leone. The SLAP – CP’s mission is to develop through its accelerator programme, high growth potential SMEs with the capacity to disrupt, expand and consolidate on the huge agribusiness potential that the country’s agricultural sector has to offer.

The six students chosen to pitch where:

To be completed.

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Next edition of the Freetown Pitch Night will be held on June 26th

The theme is Social Entrepreneurship. The focus
is on ideas that use technology to provide opportunities for youths within their local communities. Ideas can address any of the following themes>

  1. BREAKING STIGMAS
  2. MOTIVATING GOOD DEEDS
  3. MATCHING YOUTH TO LIVELIHOODS
  4. ADDRESSING HEALTH, ENERGY AND OTHER BASIC NEEDS
  5. RECYCLING
  6. ENTERPRISE
  7. PREVENTING VIOLENCE

8.ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Send a one page summary of your idea/start up/enterprise to be considered to pitch. The one page summary should be received no later than May 31st before midnight.
Please send to mail@freetownpitchnight.com

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IFC-FCS AFRICA / CASA PROGRAM

FCS Africa / CASA Program is to strengthen the private sectors of fragile states. FCS Africa / CASA Program provides support through a combination  of initiatives that includes among others a  focus on gender (a ‘gender lens’ is helping ensure IFC projects support women in business).

To this end, FCS Africa / CASA Program has agreed to sponsor “Dare 2 Aspire-Women in Entrepreneurship”

IFC’s CASA Initiative in Sierra Leone

WHAT IS THE CASA INITIATIVE?
IFC’s CASA Initiative, launched in 2008, is helping design and implement integrated strategies specially targeted to support economic recovery in conflict-affected countries. The Initiative is supported by Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway, while Denmark and Sweden provide additional support in South Sudan and Liberia respectively.

The CASA Initiative focuses on:

• Improving the business environment through regulatory reform

• Strengthening small and medium sized businesses and support institutions, such as chambers of commerce

• Rebuilding financial markets, banks, and other financial institutions

• Increasing private sector involvement in providing and rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, ports, schools, and power stations

CASA’s Support
IFC’s CASA Initiative is helping strengthen smaller businesses in Sierra Leone and is working with the government and private sector partners to introduce regulatory improvements to the country’s investment climate.

Supporting Smaller Businesses
IFC is helping improve access to finance in Sierra Leone for individuals and businesses through the Africa MSME Program, the Microfinance Program, the Trade Finance Program, and the Leasing Program.

IFC’s SME Ventures Program is providing risk capital and advisory services to smaller businesses in the country, which are receiving training support through IFC’s Business Edge and SME Toolkit training products. IFC is also helping strengthen Sierra Leone’s financial markets by supporting the establishment of a Credit Bureau and a Collateral Registry.

CASA has also provided advisory support to the National Revenue Authority, which has authorized all major banks to accept tax payments. In the past, taxpayers could pay their taxes only at tax offices, so this innovation is saving taxpayers a considerable amount of time.

More

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SIERRA LEONE ENTREPRENEURSHIP LEADER WINS PLACE ON PRESTIGIOUS PAN-AFRICAN PROGRAM

GEN Sierra Leone has won a place on a prestigious scheme to help solve the problem of Africa’s ‘invisible innovators’.

We are one of 15 elite ‘entrepreneur support organisations’ on the VilCap Communities Africa training programme, selected from hundreds across the continent.

On the programme we will be introduced to the latest thinking in how to help entrepreneurs in our locations flourish and get funding. Without such support, investors could continue to overlook talented African innovators for what they consider safe bets.*

The program starts in Lagos and then tours two of Africa’s other top ‘startup ecosystems’, Nairobi and Cape Town, for inspiration.

*72% of start-up funding in (East) Africa went to just 3 companies in recent years for example (Source: Disrupt Africa), whilst “impact investors see fewer viable, investable opportunities and have difficulty placing capital”

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September 18th 2018 Sierra Leone Diaspora Agribusiness Investor Forum.

September 18th 2018 Sierra Leone Diaspora Agribusiness Investor Forum. (https://www.slagribusinessforum.com/)
The objective of the Sierra Leone Diaspora Agribusiness Investor Forum is to promote investments and trade for Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora in their country of origin post-Ebola and -mudslide disasters.

As part of the Agribusiness Investor Forum, Freetown Pitch Night is holding a pitch night on September 18th 2018. Investment ready agribusiness will have an opportunity to an audience of Japanese and Diaspora investors.
Save the date. Time 7pm -9pm. More details will follow.

The 5 Ws of an Agribusiness Investment Forum… in Sierra Leone

What is this?
An investment forum that will bring together investors, entrepreneurs, and other diasporas with key roles to play in supporting enterprise development in Sierra Leone to connect, interact, and problem-solve to enhance prospects for development of agribusiness enterprises that can contribute to inclusive growth in Sierra Leone.  A unique group that features our compatriots in the diaspora combined with a rare appearance by a group of Japanese private companies will descend into Sierra Leone.

Preparing for them are Sierra Leone agro-based enterprises (agribusinesses) that have been selected via an independent company and process.  They will offer bankable projects hopefully, to the investors.  The names of those companies will be announced in due time.

Who is doing this?
The IOM with funds from the Government of Japan is sponsoring the exercise and it is being coordinated by two Sierra Leonean consultants hired along with IOM staff to execute on the formation and coordination of the project.  Other participants include some members of the Sierra Leonean diaspora and some private companies from Japan.

Locally run agribusinesses are also part of the puzzle as is the GoSL with the Min. of Trade and Industry, SLIEPA and SMEDA, among others.  The Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture is also strategically involved.  This is a national event!

Why is the IOM doing this?
IOM believes the Sierra Leone diaspora is an integral and important piece of Sierra Leone’s economic recovery.  Engaging this community is considered critical to national development.  The IOM a migration- and by default diaspora-oriented organization is most suited for this kind of work.

As an added value to the overall intentions of an investment forum, typically, the IOM has incorporated the visit of about ten Japanese private companies who will accompany twelve Sierra Leoneans from the diaspora into the project.

When/Where is this taking place?
The investment forum is scheduled to be held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  The dates slated are the 18th and 19th of September, 2018.

How is it being done?
The event itself will be a combination of panel discussions and presentations with a question and answer session that follows.  We will break out into workshops and especially have a speed networking event.  At the end of each day, we will collect, collate and communicate action items that have been committed to.  These will culminate into an action plan that will guide the way forward.  Our hope is that this exercise will help put the private sector on a trajectory for transformation.

https://www.slagribusinessforum.com/

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