Do not be fooled by her delicate ways and soothing voice, Valerie Neim is an iron fist in a velvet glove. After a rich career of over 20 years in major corporate firms, international banks and microfinance institutions, she is now heading a wealth Management and advisory consultancy, Brazza Transactions. A staunch advocate for women in business, her vision is to build an army of female industrial captains to change the face of high scale investment in Africa. Spotlight on a woman who likes to challenge the status quo.
The unflinching determination of a young lady
As she likes to admit herself, being the first daughter to her mum in a very large family gave Valerie Neim a great sense of responsibility and leadership. Born and raised in Cameroon, at 18 years old she flew to the UK to complete her academic study. She holds a B.A in Finance obtained from the South Bank University, then an Msc in information Systems Management. Finally she received an MBA in entrepreneurship from Oxford University.
She successfully landed her first corporate job at ABSA Bank (Santander Bank), and subsequently joined Fujitsu-Siemens, then worked as a Consultant for the Deutsch Company, TNT Logistics.
Convinced that she would be more impactful on the African continent she moved back to Africa and under the wings of her first mentor, the Ivoirian Jean Luc Konan (founder and CEO of COFINA) she joined the United Bank of Africa (UBA) in Gabon in 2009.
As a young professional handling VIP clients for the Central African Region, Valerie felt that she was never criticized for her ability to meet her key performance indicators, but mostly on the fact that she was young and female. Indeed her presence was very soon greeted with open hostility and animosity from her new colleagues. Far from being intimidated, this made her work harder to prove that her competency was beyond gender and age.
She challenged herself to become the best account manager in the entire UBA group. Thus, within 3 months she succeeded in increasing the number of high net worth clients exponentially. To the point that the CEO of the Bank Mr. Tony ELUMELU offered her a life-time position in UBA. She stayed in UBA until she had to return to Cameroon and take over the family enterprise CCPC, a microfinance institution based in Douala. When she inherited the company, the firm was at its lowest level, the management was very unsatisfactory, and the workforce entirely male dominated.
As the Managing Director, she introduced a new business model and implemented a new strategy. While attending job interviews, she was truly shocked by the discrimination faced by women in the recruitment process. Female candidates were rebuked for the simple reason that they were not married, or were newlywed therefore were unreliable enough due to potential pregnancies. Her male colleagues questioned the female candidate’s ability to perform the job if they were on their period. After several enquiries she came to the realization that these discriminatory practices were largely widespread in the country.
Consequently she decided to reshuffle her team and hire 95% of her workforce who were young women for the most part freshly graduated from university. Thus from 2011 to 2019 the company hit the records and increased its turnover by 200%. Her decision to intentionally hire young women was heavily criticized by trade unions and local press in Cameroon who accused her of abusive discrimination against men. This tumultuous episode even earned her the nickname of Margaret Thatcher. Her answer to them was quite ironic: “If all the multinational groups in Cameroon took the liberty to hire far more men than women, she could also take the liberty to recruit women as it pleases her”. To add salt to the injury, Valerie graciously offered to hire the young daughters, nieces and spouses of female journalists provided they were qualified and willing to make a difference.
Boldness is the name of the game
After 8 gratifying years at the head of CCPC, Valerie was hungry for new challenges. Indeed, she noticed a critical gap in wealth management in French speaking African countries. For instance, wealthy clients always had to resort to foreign companies in America or Europe in order to get sound advice as of how to manage their assets and invest their resources efficiently. Thus in 2016, she founded Brazza Transactions an Investment and advisory firm which offers various services such as International Transfer services, Fund raising support and Citizenship by Investment (CBI) which provides support to high net worth individuals in acquiring another nationality in exchange of valuable investment .
Building on her vast experience in finance, banking, microfinance, and advisory services to affluent consumers, Valerie ambitions now is to be the first integrated financial solutions-driven platform in the CEMAC region (Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa).
If there is one thing on which Valerie’s entourage agrees on when describing her personality is that she is extremely bold. When asked about her impressive professional journey, Valerie unequivocally replies that her secret weapon is her boldness. A woman of faith, she does not hesitate to leap into the unknown and to create her own luck.
Yes indeed, Valerie Neim is always where you don’t expect her. As a part of one of her new projects in Nigeria, Valérie was faced with a serious challenge to get in touch with sought after business leaders who were by no means accessible to their fellow countrymen let alone foreigners. As she found out about the 1st ever Nigeria-Paris International partnership Forum in November 2021, she jumped on the opportunity even though she was not invited. Valerie used her husband’s Air Miles and flew all the way from Douala to Paris. She made sure to book a room in the Shangri La hotel, the prestigious hotel where the event was hosted. Once checking-in in the hotel lobby, she noticed an African man dressed in a Nigerian traditional attire. After introducing herself she asked him if he could get her an invite to the conference. Surprised that she was not invited in the first place, the gentleman (who turned out to be a Minister) gladly offered her to join his delegation and the rest was history.
Once at the forum, and aware that the first question in the room always matters. Valerie took the floor and made a memorable intervention. Despite her profound affection for Nigeria, she was still hungry to see the country embrace its position as an economic role model for Africa. She mentioned that it was a pity that she as an African had to fly all the way to Paris to be able to meet Nigerian officials and industry leaders.
Her audacity paid off, as she was approached by several Tycoons and leaders and received their personal contact details. Not only did she land the introduction she was hoping for but she also benefitted from the event more than the other guests who were invited in due form…
Invictae or the ambition to promote African female industrial captains
Her diverse experience in finance institutions have confronted Valerie Neim with the most frequent obstacles faced by women in the industry. Her passion for empowering women can hardly be contained, she is a mentor, a Member of the IVLP Alumni, and Central Africa Ambassador for Jeune Afrique (Women For Change). Yet Valerie Neim is looking further and beyond …
Africa has the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs in the world. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016/17 Women’s Report the female entrepreneurship rate in sub-Saharan Africa is 25.9%. A large number of female industrialists have accomplished wonders for themselves and for business in Africa such as Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, Divine Ndhlukula and Folorunsho Alakija to only name few. However most of them remain unknown to the continent itself and to the world. If 40% of Africa’s SMEs are run by women, only 1% of African women receive venture capital funding (according to Forbes).
Following countless conversations with high-net-worth Valerie came to the realization that women who are at the top of their industries, still find it difficult to access foreign direct investment. Faced with this African paradox, Valerie Neim founded Invictae, an international impact club, aiming at creating visibility for African female captains of industry while delivering record-breaking opportunities to international investors and partners. Valerie does not only intend to create cutting edge impact for African female industry leaders but she also aims at changing the face of African mega-investment as we know it.
To do so our Cameroonian finance expert has deployed a threefold strategy. First, whilst changing the narrative about Africa as a whole, Invictae brings together Africa’s iconic businesswomen and high-net-worth individuals in order to prompt an elite network and build on world best investment and gender funds available on demand.
Secondly, Invictae promotes affordable and large scale capital inflow by providing creative turnkey investment solutions and raising capital through global angel investors, venture capitalists etc.
Thirdly, Invictae will contribute to re-shape the face of African infrastructure by implementing a portfolio of bankable private-sector projects which will address the key needs in Africa’s current infrastructure gap.
A strong pan African, Valerie Neim firmly believes that it is high time to decluster Africa through the connection of regional tycoons to create synergies and open up a 1.3 billon market as opposed to 20 million. Her ambition is not only to create national and regional champions in female friendly private-sector environment but ultimately to contribute to create global brands that people love and respect without on-going state protection and support.
In spite of critical barriers to major financing in Africa such as project bankability, risk, corruption, policies, leadership, lack of data, ESG compliance (Environmental, social, and Governmental factors), lack of technical capabilities, weak country balance sheets, low implication of women in key sectors, Africa’s economy is expected to grow by 3.8% in 2022 (according to the IMF).
On 20 May 2022, Invictae will launch its flagship annual club gathering both in Geneva and on 2 June in Lagos.
Why Lagos? As Africa’s largest economy with enormous infrastructure projects, Lagos is home to almost half of Africa’s female industrial elite. With the highest number of international organizations specialized in finance, Geneva holds considerable opportunities. This invitation only event, is a first of its kind tour. Indeed, it builds on high level of Africa-Europe collaboration and will bring Africa’s iconic female industrialists, global investors of the highest order, African and international personalities, European and African media.
“The problem is nobody knows that we have proven track-records, that we have built sustainable heavy-industries, or that we have been brave and savvy enough for 10 lifetimes to be where we are”.
Invictae is only beginning and one thing is for sure, Valerie Neim is far from done!