The thirteenth edition of European Development Days in Brussels ended on Wednesday. The event brought in over 8,000 participants to address continental inequality.
Sandra Ajaja is the founder of Fempower Africa, an organisation that helps women grow innovative and technical businesses. She attended the event to spread her message about investing in women.
“Women are the future of Africa," she said. "The majority of the entrepreneurs on the continent are women. So why is there a gap? I feel like more investment should be channelled into women businesses, through microloans, through venture capital, and more opportunities to learn a technical skill set."
It’s not only grassroots organizations promoting this idea. Prominent African businessmen like Tony Elumelu also attended EDD and said European investors need to realise that investing in Africa is not a risk anymore.
“The truth is, a lot has changed on the continent," Elumelu said. "We hope that through this constant engagement with the rest of the world, we begin to change the narrative. It's a different Africa. It’s a continent of economic opportunities. And it’s fast-growing.”
Outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made African cooperation the centre of his final state of the Union speech. He announced a plan which he hoped would create 10 million jobs on the continent.
However, EU investment projects are still lagging behind those coming from China. Beijing promised 60 billion dollars worth of financial aid last year and said it will cancel the debts it's owed from poorer African countries.
EDD was a step in the right direction to connect EU investors with African projects, but there is still a need for direct investment in the future.