Digital Africa on Wednesday June 10th announce their appointment of Kizito Okechukwu, co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa and Executive Head of 22 ON SLOANE, Africa’s largest startup campus, as its Board Vice-President and interim President.
A €65m initiative under the auspices of the French Development Agency AFD (Agence Française de Développement), Digital Africa was launched in 2018 by French President Emmanuel Macron to support African digital entrepreneurs (especially high impact startups) in designing and deploying resilient and inclusive innovations that contribute to sustainable development goals and support communities and economies across the continent.
The initiative focuses on skills development, knowledge communities, contributing to the emergence of a regulatory environment conducive to innovation in Africa, technical assistance, project and business financing (debt and equity), as well as market access for Africa’s high impact startups.
Since its launch in 2018, it has dedicated €50m to venture capital and €15m to support early stage startups and local ecosystems. In 2019, €11m was distributed through early-stage funds (with loans of honour ranging from €50 to €300 000) for startups, while €4m was allocated to support accelerators, incubators and hubs. Under the banner of Digital Africa, these funds illustrate the bringing together of pan-African actors supporting digital entrepreneurship in Africa.
Speaking post his appointment, Okechukwu said:
“I am greatly humbled and honoured on my appointment as the Board Vice President & interim President of Digital Africa. I’m looking forward to leading this great entity with CEO Stephane Eloise and to working closely with the continent’s startup ecosystem towards achieving the African Union Agenda 2063, which aims to eradicate the syndrome of always coming up with new ideas, but with no significant achievement for African youth”.
“I am committed to building the Africa we all want that will enhance our impactful France-Africa relations and increase the Global Competitiveness of various African Nations. Together with the strong Digital Africa team, we have many ideas on how to make this possible. So, over the next few months we will be engaging various actors in Africa’s ecosystem to develop a white paper to help us determine exactly how best to achieve our goal in the next three years towards supporting Africa’s high impact startups with programmes, investments in their companies, federating local ecosystems and supporting innovation policies”.
Speaking during Mr. Okechukwu’s appointment, Rima Le Coguic, Director for Africa at the French Development Agency AFD (Agence Française de Développement) said that, “Digital Africa’s vision is one of an Africa where the digital transformation enables inclusive development and where technical solutions improve the quality of life, support the real economy and gradually become global references. The forthcoming white paper produced in a shared development approach will give us the means to achieve our ambition, which is to identify breakthrough innovations imagined in Africa, and support their scale up”.
In this exclusive interview granted to Evolve, Mr. Okechukwu tells us more about his vision and mission during this Mandate.
- Congratulations on your recent appointment as digital Africa’s board vice-president and interim president Sir. Tell us more about your vision under this position.
My vision is to ensure that any African startup has the opportunity to achieve their vision. This is in support of the African Union Agenda 2063 which aims to eradicate the syndrome of the African youth always coming up with great ideas but with no significant achievement.
- At the head of a €65million initiative, what is that one thing you wish to achieve by the end of your mandate?
We will like to ensure that we have provided opportunities for African startups to thrive no matter their background and creed. We will like to create unicorns that will create jobs for Africans, strengthen our local ecosystems across each country in Africa while increasing the global competitiveness of various African countries and work with policymakers to advance innovative policies that will limit bureaucracies and ensure advancement of our startups and their ecosystem.
- Africa is a vast continent with many young people taking more interest in entrepreneurship and innovation. What’s your strategy to get those in the grassroots who have the kind of innovation you are looking for benefit?
Our ambition to get young people in grassroots is to ensure that we strengthen local ecosystems with actors that are in the space already. We will not like to create anything new but will like to support already existing actors in the space that knows the needs to their communities.
- I imagine your work and dream for African startups will be made much easier if the basics for an ecosystem already exist in each country in your target region. What advice do you have for ecosystem stakeholders in their various countries?
We will like for more collaboration within stakeholders. We will like to ensure that our ecosystem is strengthened and is able to support startups to start and scale. My advice is that we collaborate and work together. This is sometimes difficult because many actors lack resources or are chasing same funders which sometimes breeds competition but I believe that if we work together and collaborate better, it will make us stronger and there will be more resources for everyone to support their communities and help startups to thrive.
- What is there for a country like Cameroon in your vision and mission?
I believe there is something there for each country on the continent. Very soon, I will be convening a workshop of selected stakeholders across Africa that will make input to the white paper that will guide our implementation plan. And once this is ready, we will share this widely but I can assure you that we are leaving no one behind and will like to collaborate with each country and actor in the space.
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