Start-ups: Does Algeria want to compete with Rwanda for African leadership?

By Quentin Velluet
Posted on Monday, 12 December 2022 15:42, updated on Wednesday, 14 December 2022 12:29

The commitments of the first edition of the African start-up conference echo the work carried out for several years by the Smart Africa Alliance, an initiative originally supported by Kigali.

30 countries represented, 1,000 participants, 150 experts, 100 exhibitors, 50 business angels, 26 ministers, representatives of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Algiers put forward its best foot on 5 – 6 December for the first edition of the African start-up conference. The initiative was sought by Yacine Oualid (minister of the economy of knowledge, start-up and microenterprises), organised by the incubator Algeria Ventures and supported by President Abdelmajid Tebboune.

Commission for start-ups at the AU

At the end of the two days of discussions, a joint communiqué was issued, which presented the commitments and ambitions nurtured by the various countries present. The “continental roadmap on start-ups” provides for the creation of a permanent secretariat of the African Start-up Conference, “to activate and monitor the implementation” of the “coordination of activities and policies at the continental level to improve the position of Africa in the global ecosystem”, it says.

In addition, an “African Ministerial Council on Start-ups” is to be established within the AU. It must, still according to the statement, represent a “space for dialogue for the various ministers operating in the sector”. The conference also provides for the creation of incubators and gas pedals sponsored by governments “to serve as a point of contact and connection between the various ecosystems of African startups”.

A priori, this is a very good initiative if it is well managed, because the challenges are enormous.

Above all, the various delegations agreed to start working on the creation of a fund of funds to invest indirectly in startups on the continent. “A priori, this is a very good initiative if it is well managed, because the challenges are enormous,” said a member of President Macky Sall’s cabinet.

Senegal was represented in Algiers, as well as Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Niger, Sudan, Chad, Tunisia, Cape Verde, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Egypt, DRC, Mali, Uganda and Burkina Faso.

“It is a very important initiative, but the most important thing is to see how to achieve the fund of funds,” said an adviser to the minister of digital of the DRC.

What synergy with Smart Africa?

The project, which promotes pan-African cooperation for the standardisation of public policies on start-ups and digital entrepreneurship, echoes the work already undertaken for several years by the Smart Africa Alliance.

The latter also brings together some 30 countries on the continent, with the aim of creating the conditions for the development of a “single digital market”. A fund called Smart Africa Network of Incubators and Accelerators is to be created in a few months.

I remain convinced that there is room for one or two important initiatives.

Lacina Koné, director general of the Smart Africa Alliance says, although he declined the invitation of Algiers officially because he was training in the United States, believes that the structure of the latter is able to assist and coordinate projects that will result from the African start-up conference.

“We already have the support of the states and a defined framework and methodology to implement projects, but to have impact, it will have to go through Smart Africa, and we are ready to assist them,” he says, pointing out the difficulties that could face the Algiers initiative on the creation of a start-up commissioner at the AU. “The start-up file is not carried by the AU’s digital sub-commission, but by the employment commissioner’s office, with which we already work.”

“I remain convinced that there is room for one or two important initiatives,” said the Congolese official, who regrets the absence of Smart Africa at the meeting in Algiers, while appreciating that a new leadership on the issue of start-ups appear in Africa against a Smart Africa “too influenced by Rwanda”, according to him.

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