Total Launches the Startupper of the Year Contest in Africa


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As part of the sweeping contest to support business creation and development being kicked off by Total in 34 African countries, three businesses per country and one hundred continent-wide will win the title of “Startupper of the Year by Total”. Contestants must be under 35 and the creators of a business that is less than two years old. Through the contest, M&S, in cooperation with E&P in four of the countries, is tackling the problem of youth access to employment in a region of the world where more than 50% of the population is under 21. Momar Nguer, Senior Vice President, Africa/Middle East in Marketing & Services, revisits the contest’s goals.

Momar Nguer

This contest clearly broadcasts Total's desire to support business creation in Africa. Is that our role?

Momar Nguer / We've been active in Africa for 80 years. We've been there through thick and thin. We're involved with local partners and our affiliates and joint ventures have shareholders from Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Morocco and other countries. Our service station managers are also local people. So of course we take an interest in how things are in our host countries. One of the problems that caught our attention was access to energy. Our response is Awango by Total. The second problem we want to help solve today through this contest is access to employment. Half of Africa's population is under 21. There aren't enough businesses to provide jobs for them all.

Orange, the ESSEC business school, Canal+ Afrique — there are already several contests like yours in the region. Why add another one?

M. N. / Three reasons. First, because we wanted to sponsor a contest that was open to all sectors. Ours doesn't reward only projects related to our own activities, which is something that sets us apart. We want to spur start-up creation to solve young Africans' problems, not our own. Second, our challenge will be continent-wide. We're talking about 34 countries, including four that Exploration & Production also operates in. In Gabon, Nigeria, Angola and the Republic of the Congo, we worked hand in hand with E&P, and Guy Maurice, its Senior Vice President, Africa, is just as interested as I am in promoting African youth's spirit of innovation and enterprise. Lastly, the third reason has to do with awareness of the Total brand in Africa. Besides financial support, our contest can give winners unprecedented exposure. During our year of planning and preparation, we took the time to talk to young entrepreneurs, especially in Cameroon, South Africa and Kenya. They told us that they want to publicize their business. To do that, they need some resources, a market, but most of all, to be known, to have the local newspaper talk about them. Winners will be able to capitalize on the TOTAL label when contacting their prospects and go to see their bank backed by our recommendation. All this carries weight for a start-up.

In what way do you expect this to benefit Total, since we're already known in Africa?

M. N. / Awareness of our brand is already strong in Africa. Total is known, so we can act as a sounding board. But being known and being perceived as a company that helps solve the country's problems are two different things. We want to be known as a business that engages with local communities.

Besides the exposure they will get from the contest, winners will receive business support and coaching. What exactly will that consist of?

M. N. / Each country will have its own jury, made up of 10 members. It will include the CEO of our affiliate as well as prominent businesspeople. In Mauritius, for example, our individual sponsor will be the country's president, who is very enthusiastic in her support for the project. That means the young winners will gain valuable contacts. Jury members will share their contacts with them. And when they need additional skills and expertise to move their project forward, they'll find people in our affiliates ready to volunteer their time to help them. If they need a financial controller, we'll find them one internally. Everyone across the affiliates is proud of this project. It's important for our employees to know that their company cares enough to tackle issues like this one.

How It Took Shape on the Ground

The contest in the Republic of the Congo, via the personal experiences of Anne-Françoise Degryck, Chief Executive Officer of Marketing & Services affiliate Total Congo, and Pierre Jessua, Chief Executive Officer of Total E&P Congo.


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Pierre Jessua, Chief Executive Officer, Total E&P Congo

"We already work a lot with the M&S affiliate, on both business and community engagement issues. When Anne-Françoise talked to me about the Startupper of the Year by Total contest, I knew right away I wanted to partner with her. After all, we're the leading producer in the Republic of the Congo, a country whose economy is strongly dependent on oil. We have an obligation to participate in projects that diversify the economy and create jobs. This contest does that.

We can provide M&S with both financial and human resources support. But that's not all we do. E&P contributes to other projects, such as the Association Pointe-Noire Industrielle (APNI), which assists and coaches start-ups. This contest’s approach and method are fairly similar, except that it gets involved much earlier. Sharing this experience will let us advance faster and more efficiently. It’s everything a responsible community engagement strategy should be."



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Anne-Françoise Degryck, Chief Executive Officer, Total Congo (M&S)

"As soon as AMO launched the project I told Pierre, who is fantastic to work with, about it, suggesting that we team up if that made sense for them. He agreed to help us out straightaway. The contest should have a really positive impact here, because start-ups in the country have a tough time getting financing, especially from banks.

Since each country has its own jury, we wanted ours to balance business CEOs from various sectors, bankers, people from the world of higher education and young Congolese very active in the start-up ecosystem. Two of them created the first Congolese investment fund and Congo's first business incubator. The jury will keep a special eye out for projects that can diversify the country's economy and replace imports. That's a real issue for the country, where we have to import everything, such as what we need to build our service stations."

What is the "Startupper of the Year by Total" contest?
  • A contest to support the creation or development of businesses less than two years old.
  • Launched by M&S in 34 countries in the AMO region (Africa), with E&P in four of them (Gabon, Angola, Republic of the Congo, Nigeria).
  • Open to people under the age of 35.
  • Not restricted in terms of business field.
How does the selection process work?
  • Projects submitted on line at a dedicated website between November 1 and January 31, 2016 (for the inaugural contest).
  • Three selection steps until the 10 finalists' presentations to the jury, then three winners picked per country.
  • Jury comprising prominent members of the local community and the Total affiliate's CEO.
  • Selection criteria include the project's innovativeness, growth and profitability prospects, contribution to local capacity building and ability to replace imports.
What do the winners receive?
  • Financial support (cash prize).
  • Personalized business support and coaching.
  • Heightened exposure for their project via the contest's media campaign and billboard/poster advertising.