French-speaking (Francophone) African countries, which include Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal, among others, are set to benefit from a World Bank initiative aimed at empowering tech startups.
From as early as 2013, investors have recognized the region’s growing potential. In fact, innovators such as Yann Le Beux, Catalyst at CTIC Dakar, the region’s first incubator and accelerator based in Senegal, believe that technology is one of the sectors expected to thrive in the region in coming years.
Francophone Africa has a total population of more than 300 million people. At the end of 2017, the region accounted for 21% of the continent’s 1 billion mobile subscriptions. Tech companies such as Orange have raised the region’s profile in recent months by investing millions in its tech industry.
As a result, the World Bank Group has this month announced a six-month business acceleration program designed to support the 20 most promising growth stage technology startups operating in Francophone Africa.
The initiative, dubbed L’Afrique Excelle, will see entrepreneurs receive mentoring from global and local experts, learn through a tailor-made curriculum, increase their brand visibility, and get access to potential corporate partners and investors. Through collaboration with prominent Francophone Africa-focused investment groups, L’Afrique Excelle will help the selected start-ups attract early stage capital between $250,000 and $5 million.
“The idea behind L’Afrique Excelle is to support Francophone African start-ups that have the potential to become globally competitive, and to have disruptive impacts on our day-to-day life and economy through their tech solutions,” explained Alexandre Laure, Senior Private Sector Specialist at the World Bank Group.
L’Afrique Excelle is the Francophone edition of XL Africa, a successful pan-African accelerator launched by the World Bank Group in 2017. Since the completion of the first edition, half of the XL Africa portfolio has secured almost $18 million in funding.
“I’m happy to see the launch of L’Afrique Excelle. Following the first XL Africa cohort, the team felt that more specialized programming was required to identify, nurture, and support promising Francophone African startups,” commented Natasha Kapil, Senior Private Sector Specialist at the World Bank Group.
The program has partnered with leading Venture Capital (VC) funds and angel groups active in Francophone Africa, including organisations such as Orange Digital Ventures, Investisseurs & Partenaires, Outlierz, TLcom Capital, Accion, Goodwell Investments and Blue Haven Ventures, among others.