Each year the Westerwelle Foundation in Berlin hosts a group of 25 young entrepreneurs from across the world’s emerging markets. More than 2,000 applicants were screened and interviewed for these sought-after 25 spots. Outsourced CFO founder and MD, Louw Barnardt, was privileged to be the only South African represented among the 2017 cohort. Enjoy a summarised experience by Louw Barnardt MD of Outsourced CFO

“Bangladesh, Kenya, Afghanistan, Uganda, Iraq, Peru, South Africa. These are just a few of the 16 emerging market countries that were represented at the Young Founders Conference in Berlin. Incredibly inspiring young entrepreneurs are building innovative companies in extreme markets all over the world.

Over the course of a few days, the Program included a visit to the German Finance Ministry, a date with the Pitch Doctor, three sessions with emerging market investor firms, visits to local entrepreneurial hubs and accelerators and leadership sessions with experienced businessmen and women. It proved to be incredibly insightful. The best part however was connecting with such incredible like-minded young entrepreneurs.

I’d like to share just a hand full of stories with you, enjoy:

Zinah Alkinani, Iraq “Zinah is the Founder and CEO of Ishtar Handmade Soap, based in Baghdad, Iraq. The Ishtar Handmade soap project was founded in 2014 to provide job opportunities for women in need. It helps to train and hire women in order to support them and their families in a country that is still considered to be a war zone, where people – and women in particular – struggle to find employment. Zinah Alkinani has been part of the “She Entrepreneurs Programme” by the Swedish Institute for Young Emerging Women Social Entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa. Her business to help women has been featured in various media outlets such as Iraqi television and radio programmes as well as on online media platforms. Zinah was one of six women from around the world who were listed as “The Passionate & Purposeful” by the American Story Exchange Organization.”

Zilla Mary Arach, Uganda “Zilla Mary Arach is the Co-Founder and CTO of Akorion Company Limited, based in Kampala, Uganda. Akorion was founded in 2015 and is an agritech company that leverages ICT to provide services and products to farmers and agribusinesses in Uganda. Using a proprietary software suite, EzyAgric, that houses and aids in making critical intelligent business decisions, Akorion has provided agricultural input sales and financial services to 60,000 smallholder farmers through a network of 460 community based agents (village agents) in a space of two years. The village agents are trained and equipped with smartphones containing the EzyAgric platform which aids them in collecting information about the farmers and using the information to provide appropriate services to farmers in Uganda. Akorion has been recognised at the 2016 WFP Innovation Accelerator in Germany, 2016 SEEP Financial Inclusion in Washington and 2017 World Economic Forum in South Africa, as well as by the Agribusiness Magazine in Uganda.”

Anh Duong,  Vietnam “Anh Duong is Co-Founder and COO of MegaNet, based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. MegaNet was founded in 2013 and is Vietnam’s number one company for large-scale Wi-Fi networks. The company uses its technology to provide free Wi-Fi for public places throughout Vietnam such as in cities, airports, stations, universities, and hospitals. Every month, millions of users access their free Wi-Fi systems, thereby saving money on data spending. Following four years of establishment, MegaNet has received a series A funding round and some encouraging awards in start-up competitions such as the gold medal for the “Potential Product Vietnam ICT”, as well as the first prize in the Vietnam Talented Award. MegaNet has been listed as one of the top 36 tech companies in APEC and was featured in the Tech in Asia magazine. Anh currently employs 40 people in Vietnam.”

Peter Kariuki, Rwanda “Peter Kariuki is Co-Founder and CTO of SafeMotos, based in Kigali, Rwanda. SafeMotos was founded in 2014 and uses mobile technology to professionalise African motorcycle taxi drivers. Drivers have a mobile app which connects them to more customers and provides them access to financial services if they follow SafeMotos’ real-time monitored code of conduct. Customers get the convenience of requesting for safe drivers to pick them up at their doorsteps via the app. SafeMotos was ranked  Africa’s 7th most innovative company by Fast Company, and was the first Rwandan company to win East Africa’s PIVOT East competition. It has also been named in Nominet Trust’s 2016 list of the world’s most inspiring social innovations using digital technology, and received praise from international media outlets such as the Economist, the Guardian, CNN, BBC Radio, and Le Monde.”

To read the full profiles of all of these entrepreneurs, have a look at here

It was both humbling and energising to see how these founders think and operate. In spite of different adversities in their home markets, the golden threads of grit and perseverance and leadership connects all of them. Expect to see amazing things from them!”