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Timbuktoo initiative to support Africa’s startup ecosystem

UNDP and African leaders launching the timbuktoo initiative. (Image source: UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched the timbuktoo initiative alongside a number of African countries to bring catalytic and commercial capital together in support of Africa’s startup ecosystem

The initiative was presented at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Switzerland by leading African figures including Rwandan President, Paul Kagame; Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo; and secretary general of AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene, alongside UNDP administrator Achim Steiner. 

Described as a major step in sparking the African Startup Revolution and harnessing the momentum of Africa’s major youth demographic and abundance of innovative talent, timbuktoo aims to mobilise and invest US$1bn of capital to create 10 million dignified new jobs. 

“We cannot accept that another generation of African young people do not have the tools to reach their full potential,” remarked President Kagame, who announced an immediate contribution of US$3mn to start the timbuktoo Africa Innovation Fund which will be hosted in Kigali. “With timbuktoo’s billion-dollar target, we can create more opportunities for Africa’s youth to put their talent and creativity to good use.”

President Akufo-Addo added, “For many African countries, our foremost challenge now is to ensure we put in place the right structures to enable young Africans to create innovative and compelling businesses that can contribute significantly to job creation and sustainable economic growth. I’m excited about the future of our continent. I look forward to seeing us create a future where innovation is encouraged, ingenuity is supported and prosperity is shared.”

The initiative blends commercial and catalytic capital to de-risk private investment with a pan-African approach to supporting startups. At the same time, it will focus on the whole ecosystem, engaging and deepening the links between government policy, universities, corporates, development partners, catalytic partners, and commercial investors. 

Steiner commented, “timbuktoo is a new model of development. We are gathering key actors to push on all fronts at the same time. From startup-friendly legislation, global-class startup building, and de-risking capital to increase investment, to the UniPods – University Innovation Pods – across Africa, we aim to fill critical gaps and support the startup ecosystem. This will enable innovations to grow and benefit people in Africa and elsewhere on the planet.” 

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