World Bank has committed to supporting the growth of Africa’s digital economy with the launch of XL Africa, a business acceleration initiative that will provide a range of benefits for the 20 most promising startups in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five months.
African digital entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to be mentored by various global specialists, increase their visibility on the continent and receive access to corporate partners and investors. These three key benefits of the program alone would address crucial issues faced by African startups on a daily basis, with lack of progress in terms of mentoring, marketing and access to funding often stalling or stifling African entrepreneurial growth in the digital sector.
The World Bank expects XL Africa to help 20 startups attract investments of $250,000 to $1.5 million from African investment firms, according to Biznisafrica. One of the highlights of the initiative is a two-week residency in Cape Town, South Africa, where all 20 companies will be able to network and receive invaluable mentoring from various international industry experts. At the end of the Cape Town residency, the startups will have the opportunity to present their business models to investors and attract funding at the Venture Showcase.
Part of the African investment groups already involved at this stage include the African Business Angel Network (ABAN), AngelHub Ventures, Goodwell Investments, Knife Capital, Nest Africa, Silvertree Capital, Singularity Investments, South African Business Angel Network (SABAN), TLcom Capital, Zephyr Acorn and 4Di Capital, while cOrange, .Eco, Ringier, and Thomson Reuters are corporate partners.
“XL Africa aims to put a spotlight on the continent’s growing digital economy by scouting for and supporting the most innovative tech startups,” said Klaus Tilmes, director of the Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank Group, according to HTXT Africa.
“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,” he added.
Makhtar Diop, vice president for the Africa region at the World Bank, echoed his colleague’s sentiments as reported by AptanTech.
“Digital startups are important drivers of innovation in Africa,” Diop explained.
“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 startups with corporations and investors across the continent,”
The Scandinavian governments of Finland, Sweden and Norway helped fund the World Bank’s business acceleration initiative to boost African startups. Apart from providing the 20 selected businesses with the aforementioned advantages, the initiative may serve as motivation for other startups across the African continent to move forward with their entrepreneurial ideas in the hope of finding their own path towards sustainable business success. It may also provide a blueprint for other accelerator programs to operate prosperously in Africa, giving rise to a new generation of African startups that will grow the continent’s digital economy substantially.