French President Emmanuel Macron has made a new EUR130 million (US$150 million) commitment to support 500 African startups as part of a rejigged Digital Africa initiative.
Launched in 2018 with the mission to equip African tech entrepreneurs with capabilities to design and scale up ground-breaking innovations for the real economy, Digital Africa brings together startups, academia, incubators, institutional financiers, venture capitalists and technology clusters to help develop the African startup space.
President Macron’s renewed financial commitment of EUR130 million, made at the New Africa-France Summit last week, covers the next three years, while a reorganisation means Digital Africa is now part of Proparco, the private sector subsidiary of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).
At the event, Digital Africa also unveiled a host of new programmes. In terms of financing, it announced the Fuzé project, which focuses on Francophone Africa and aims to support at least 200 tech startups by early 2022 via a new small ticket fund. This will provide, in stages, funds of between EUR10,000 (US$12,000) to EUR200,000 (US$230,000) in the form of repayable loans.
In terms of skills, Digital Africa has joined 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 put them in touch with startups actively recruiting.
More broadly, Digital Africa will continue to develop non-financial activities such as 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.
“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. Startups need a one-stop-shop combining training, research, project-structuring, support to pro-tech and pro-innovation reforms, and financing,” said Digital Africa’s chief executive officer (CEO) Stéphan-Eloise Gras.
“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, promote the programmes, and invite African startups 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.