The announcement was made at VivaTech held last week in Paris, AFD launches Digital Africa, a platform for innovation support in Africa. More than unlocking funding for start-ups, it’s about creating an ecosystem for digital entrepreneurs … a kind of startup incubator.
Initially, Digital Africa was a start-up contest for young African entrepreneurs. In the face of success, the French Development Agency has decided to move up a gear. Rima Le Coguic is the director of the department in charge of energy and digital transitions. She explains that “AFD will federate startup incubators in Africa. AFD will transform itself, and wishes to become an “AFD platform”. Platform to federate partners like us, donors and financiers, also federate other actors, associations and private companies, and co-build solutions together not to be in a “service offer” approach, the North that teach the South, “she says.
As an aid and exchange platform, Digital Lab is directly inspired by the experience gained by Karim Sy, entrepreneur, and founder of the Jokkolabs platform. This Franco-Malian is convinced that we must revolutionize the ways of working and sharing knowledge, methods and experience. “An ecosystem is many actors: big fish, small fish, sharks, etc. But when we look at it, this ecosystem is virtuous because it helps to preserve itself for the future. So, I would say that it is a question of thinking about a digital ecosystem where we do not only have entities organized next to each other, but an environment where we can reconcile technology and common good. ”
Bridging the shortcomings of African states
But what do the first concerned think about African startups? Good and all the more so as the Digital Lab fills the gaps of African states. Ken Kakena is the co-founder of a Senegalese fintech, Wizall. For him, “unfortunately, the public authorities of our countries are not very committed to the issue of entrepreneurship,” he laments. “So, all these actors, especially the AFD and the incubators help us develop. But he relativizes: “Now, there is still a long way to go. Today’s incubators are mostly coworking and meeting spaces, but not really spaces in which we have quick access to funding, mentoring or financing. So there is still some way to go, but the simple fact that they are there and they believe in us brings us a lot. ”
In 2019, the new Digital Lab will have a fund of 65 million euros to support young African companies.