Today at the New Africa-France Summit, President Emmanuel Macron announced a renewed financial commitment of € 130 million for the next 3 years and defined Digital Africa’s new ambitions to support entrepreneurship and technological innovation on the continent.
Digital Africa transforms itself to better support the scaling up of African start-ups with high potential impact on the real economy. With a redesigned structure and organisation, better aligned with the way African innovation actors and ecosystems operate, Digital Africa will be more agile to deploy its activities. New funding and capacity building programmes have also been announced, including a joint project with Make IT and the German government.
According to Khaled Ben Jilani, Senior Partner, AfricInvest, “At AfricInvest, we are interested in projects that have already reached a certain level of maturity in order to support their growth. Of course, they cannot come to us if they have not passed the first stages. In 2019, more than 90% of African start-ups reported difficulties in financing their seed stage. By focusing on this segment and building new direct funding capabilities, Digital Africa will provide an effective response to a real need – and will impact the lives of African entrepreneurs at the start of their businesses”.
In terms of financing, the team announced the Fuzé project, that focuses on Francophone Africa and aims to support at least 200 tech start-ups as of early 2022 by launching a new small ticket fund (in stages, from € 10 000 to 200 000) taking the form of repayable loans. In terms of skills, Digital Africa joins forces with Make IT and the German government to set up Talent4StartUps, a fellowship programme designed to meet the needs of talents that have been trained in tech and digital, and whose beneficiaries will be put in touch with start-ups actively recruiting.
More broadly, Digital Africa will continue to develop non-financial activities (knowledge production, training, networking, research, and support for the evolution of regulatory frameworks) while having the opportunity to raise funds from other public or private donors. This will be enabled by its new status as a subsidiary of Proparco, which is the Agence Française de Développement (AFD)’s structure dedicated to the private sector. This ambitious change will give Digital Africa the opportunity to deploy direct seed financing capabilities for high potential start-ups across the continent.
A strategic committee to better represent African innovation ecosystems
As a unique organisation in the development support landscape, Digital Africa also aims to innovate on governance, with an approach that is both partnership-based and rigorous. The objective is to better reflect the diversity of African tech ecosystems, from a geographical perspective, by ensuring that all the major regions of the continent are represented, and from a skills perspective, by bringing together entrepreneurs but also investors, representatives from training and research organisations, incubators and innovation policy experts. A new strategic committee will soon be set up to guide Digital Africa’s action and priorities. Several promising discussions have been happening with respected personalities who are being approached to join this committee.
Digital Africa’s CEO Stéphan-Eloise Gras said:”Digital Africa’s new organisation, redefined with our partners, allows us to reinforce our commitment to ‘made in Africa’ tech innovations and become a factory for future African unicorns. Start-ups need a ‘one-stop-shop’ combining training, research, project-structuring, support to pro-tech and pro-innovation reforms, and financing. From now on, thanks to the merger with Proparco, they will find in Digital Africa a partner capable of offering them support from ideation and seed to growth and hypergrowth. By putting tech at the service of transparency and efficiency in development aid, and by getting closer to the private sector, Digital Africa wants to make a long-lasting difference!”
The Digital Africa team is now preparing a roadshow that will take place at the end of this quarter and will stop in several African regions to strengthen connections with key partners and players in African ecosystems, promote the programmes and invite African start-ups to apply. These field trips will also be an opportunity to finalise new projects, including the ‘product-market fit academy’ designed to improve the suitability of tech solutions for local markets, to be launched in 2022.
According to Gregory Clemente, CEO, Proparco, “Bringing together Proparco and Digital Africa will allow for creating a continuum of investment tools from the earliest stages to the most mature projects and create a kind of ‘investment value chain’ to support African tech entrepreneurs, their scaling up – and their pan-African or international ambitions. We look forward to benefiting from Digital Africa’s on-the-ground expertise in this next phase, which will be positive for African digital innovation.”
“We need to create value from African tech innovations in Africa – and this will only be possible when the innovation ecosystems are strong and structured enough to retain talent and scale up tech solutions. The priority today is therefore no longer, as it has often been the case, to invest in isolated structures and the personalities that run them – but rather to scale the approach by investing in the systems that will create more high-potential projects and build a truly pan-African digital value chain. Digital Africa shares this analysis – and that is why we decided to work with them,” said Bosun Tijani, Co-founder and CEO, Co-Creation Hub.