Hillel's Tech Corner: Empower Africa

Bringing the Maimonides model to where it is needed most

Empower Africa (photo credit: Courtesy)
Empower Africa
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If I were to ask any CEO what their most significant challenge is, most would not even hesitate when replying that their biggest challenge is recruiting their team. Manpower is a huge challenge across all stages of the private sector, and companies are finding it increasingly difficult to hire the most talented people, especially when they are competing with companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google, which can clearly pay significantly higher salaries.
If only there was a pool of talent that remains untapped.
Well, on the flip side, there is Africa. Sit down for this statistic. When analyzing the economy across Sub-Saharan Africa, we are talking about a near 40% unemployment rate. 40%! Mind you, according to the World Bank, Africa’s population currently sits at 1.3 billion and is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050. By then, one in four people will be living in Africa!
Over the past 18 years, Africa’s GDP has been soaring, rising from $400 billion in 2002 to over $1.7 trillion in 2018. That incredible growth is being leveraged toward any businesses that can solve and execute projects that support human capital development.
Maimonidies famously said that the best form of charity is not giving someone money, aka aid, but rather, giving them the opportunity to provide for themselves, aka trade. “Trade over aid” could easily be the tagline of a company based in Tel Aviv called Empower Africa.
The thing that Empower Africa understood that Maimonodies forgot to mention is that when you get someone a job, not only is it the highest form of charity, but when you do it at scale, it helps the economy both locally and globally.
Empower Africa was founded in 2018 by Ezi Rapaport, out of the vital need to create significant international awareness and impact during a unique window of opportunity to uplift Sierra Leone and Africa as a whole.
The company is launching a business network that enables established and emerging businesses to connect, partner and create long-term value with Africa-based projects.
The Empower Africa team liaises with government, major corporations and investors to deliver deal flow and research across the network.
The core belief of the company is that business, trade and investment will enhance the quality of life in Africa by creating jobs and enhancing human potential.
Said differently, the team has set out to empower people across Africa to become a driving productive force for sustainable economic development and they accomplish this goal with three different products.
The first product Empower Africa has deployed is the business network that facilitates connections between African businesses and entrepreneurs on the one side, and global experts and investors on the other. The business network offers a dedicated platform to discover and offer proposals, connect to relevant professionals and offer resources to build and expand local operations.
EMPOWER AFRICA’S second product focuses on trade missions and international events. The team produces and hosts international events with the goal of attracting local and global stakeholders and creating opportunities for collaboration through networking.
Finally, the third offering of Empower Africa is project facilitation and consulting. With the highly talented and diverse team, Empower Africa offers businesses an end-to-end process of outlining and overseeing projects between local businesses and global entities in the private sector.
Speaking of the team, the history of Empower Africa is a vital part of the company’s ambitious mission. The Rapaport family’s relationship with Sierra Leone began over 20 years ago when Ezi’s father, Martin Rapaport, chairman of The Rapaport Group, flew to Sierra Leone during that country’s civil war, on a US reconciliation program to help end the war.
Martin was influential in introducing the Clean Diamond Act to the US Congress and later in establishing the Kimberley Process to stop conflict diamonds from entering the international markets and funding terrorism. After the 11-year civil war, the family worked with USAID on developing rehabilitation programs for people returning home to the Kono District.
Empower Africa’s mission stems from the Rapaport family’s values of developing ethical and transparent trade, and from the imperative need to attract a broad range of leaders in the private sector to help drive comprehensive and timely sustainable economic development in Africa.
Other members of the team include Shai Bernstein, VP of business development and operations. Shai brings over a decade of leadership and management experience working for global multimillion dollar businesses, which makes him a unique asset to this company.
What is also unique about Empower Africa’s team is the diverse members of the team. They have experts on agriculture such as Maoz Aviv, experts in marketing such as Jesse Shiff, experts in business development such as Yael Birnbaum and Caleb Zipperstein, experts in research such as Masha Vernik, and experts in the intersection of education and marketing such as Julie Rosenberg.
Not only is the Empower Africa team diverse but the focus of the company is also broad and comprehensive. Empower Africa offers its products and services to companies across many sectors including agriculture, energy, tourism, healthcare, finance, education and infrastructure.
As someone who has the fortune of meeting many entrepreneurs and investors every day, if I were to characterize the trend I am seeing most often in the business sector today, it is the word “mission.”
Investors are not looking to deploy capital into businesses that are able to quickly monetize and make a quick buck, but rather, they are looking to back entrepreneurs who are on a mission. The same is true for leading entrepreneurs. Today, I rarely meet a CEO who talks about their exit strategy. What I am seeing more and more of are CEOs who want to make the world a better place, who want to do well by doing good.
When I first heard of Empower Africa, I assumed it was a non-profit organization because of the nature of its mission. I was very wrong, and this company has extremely ambitious goals to not only create a successful business, but to empower millions of others to do the same.