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World Bank to support Africa’s digital entrepreneurs
November 26, 2017, 2:47 pm

Last week the World Bank Group announced the launch of ‘XL Africa’, a five-month business acceleration program designed to support the 20 most promising digital start-ups from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Global and local experts will mentor the start-ups as part of the program that uses a tailor-made curriculum designed among other things to increase the regional visibility of the entrepreneurs and help them get access to potential corporate partners and investors.

The program, with support from prominent African investment groups, will help the 20 selected start-ups to attract early stage capital between US$250,000 and $1.5 million.

“Digital start-ups are important drivers of innovation in Africa,” said Elaborating on XL Africa, the Vice President for the Africa Region at the World Bank, Makhtar Diop, said: “Digital start-ups are important drivers of innovation in Africa. To scale and spread new technologies and services beyond borders, they need an integrated ecosystem that provides access to regional markets and global finance; pan-African initiatives like XL Africa play a critical role by linking local start-ups with corporations and investors across the continent.”

The program comes at a time of increasing interest in the African digital sector. According to a recent report by Disrupt Africa, in 2016, the number of tech start-ups that secured funding increased by 16.8 percent compared to 2015.

“XL Africa aims to put a spotlight on the continent’s growing digital economy by scouting for and supporting the most innovative tech start-ups,” said Klaus Tilmes, Director of the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank Group. “The success of these ventures will create a demonstration effect that can attract much-needed growth investment in the sector and catalyze scaling of transnational businesses in the region.”

The program’s flagship activity includes a two-week residency in Cape Town, South Africa, where the ventures will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from their mentors, peers, and local partners. The Cape Town residency will conclude with the Venture Showcase, a regional event in which the entrepreneurs will present their business models to a select audience of corporations and investors.

By connecting innovative business ideas with the knowledge and resources available in the ecosystem, it is hoped that XL Africa will create a pipeline of investment-ready companies, unlocking better investment opportunities for regional and global investors.

The program, which will collaborate with several prominent African investment groups, is being funded by the governments of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, and administered by the World Bank Group.


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