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UNDP launches $1 billion innovation fund to back African startups

The United Nations Development Programme has launched timbuktoo Initiative, a $1 billion innovation fund to invest in African startups.

UNDP launches $1 billion innovation fund to back African startups
timbuktoo $1 billion fund launch in Davos

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched timbuktoo Initiative, a $1 billion innovation fund to invest in African startups. It is arguably Africa's largest innovation fund.

"timbuktoo will turn ideas and nascent innovations into meaningful scaling and disruptive pan-African enterprises that attract global and local investment, generating wealth and wellbeing for millions of people in Africa and beyond, focusing on innovative solutions for people and planet," says Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Africa Bureau Director.

The fund was launched during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda committed $3 million to the fund which will be hosted in Kigali, Rwanda. "We cannot accept that another generation of African young people do not have the tools to reach their full potential," Kagame said.

According to UNDP, Africa accounts for only 0.2% of the global startup value, contrasting with its 2% share in global trade value. The predominant portion, 89%, of venture capital entering Africa is of foreign origin, and 83% is centred in four specific countries: Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt. Moreover, more than 60% of the capital is directed to a single sector, fintech.

According to Eziakonwa, "A knowledge-driven African economy can transform the continent, far beyond even the wealth of the resources that lie beneath its ground and on its land. It is a true revolution."

In the next ten years, timbuktoo intends to back startups in specific sectors across eight African cities centred. This includes focusing on fintech in Lagos, trade, logistics, and e-commerce in Cairo, healthtech in Kigali, Cleantech in Nairobi, and the creative sector in Cape Town. In addition, other cities will see targeted efforts in smart city/mobility in Casablanca, edtech and traveltech in Dakar, and agritech in Ghana.

This investment is projected to transform 100 million livelihoods and create 10 million new jobs on the continent. "What makes timbuktoo unique is its design, which blends commercial and catalytic capital to de-risk private investment, with a pan-African approach to supporting startups, while also focusing on the whole ecosystem, engaging and deepening the linkages between government policy, universities, corporates, development partners, catalytic partners, and commercial investors," the UNDP said in a statement seen by Bendada.com.

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