Across Africa, entrepreneurs are harnessing technology and creating innovative solutions to tackle some of the most critical issues facing their country — whether it is access to water and energy, health services or financing. The reality is, in a lot of African countries, many services and products to address these issues don’t exist, so filling the need is in high demand.
Yet, many tech startups in Africa that are at the growth stage are facing what is known as the “valley of death”, a period where they are most susceptible to failure. The main challenge for these maturing tech startups is accessing the financing, specifically venture funding, that will help them take their business to scale.
Despite the proliferation of incubator and accelerator programs in Africa set up to support startups with training and mentorship, there is limited support for companies in the post-revenue, growth stage who are ready to expand regionally. In addition, these local accelerator and incubation programs leave these growth-stage companies in need of additional support to secure investment.
In 2017, the World Bank launched XL Africa, a pan-African acceleration program, to overcome the mentoring and investment gap. The goal was to find 20 of the most promising digital start-ups poised for growth and to demonstrate that the continent can produce world-class entrepreneurial talent that is actively using disruptive technologies. XL Africa received over 900 applications. To date, half of the XL Africa portfolio, which includes companies such as CoinAfrique, Rensource, Asoko Insight, Aerobotics and Sendy, has secured almost $20M in funding.
Today, the tech startup boom in Africa is heating up. We are seeing a maturing entrepreneurial ecosystem and a rising interest in the potential of local markets. More venture capital funds are being launched to invest in African startups.
Yet, some startups may be benefiting from this boom more than others. According to Partech Ventures’ report on startup funding in Africa, amid a record-breaking year for the continent, startup funding in francophone Africa dipped in 2018. Only 1% of the $1.16 billion raised in equity by African Tech Startup in 2018 was allocated to francophone Africa.
And yet by 2021, 62.5% of Africa’s fastest growing economies will be in francophone Africa. To harness this potential, the World Bank launched l’Afrique Excelle, to address critical gaps in existing acceleration programs for francophone African entrepreneurs. This segment has been largely underserved since mature entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa are primarily anglophone. L’Afrique Excelle also employs a regional approach — which is critical for entrepreneurs based in smaller markets and internationalization will increase their profitability.
L’Afrique Excelle is an investment-readiness accelerator program designed to support the expansion of 20 startups from francophone Africa, seeking to raise early-stage capital between $250,000 to $5M. It is considered a regional adaptation of XL Africa, using the same online curriculum — XL Academy and robust network of ecosystem stakeholders, and continued engagements with the private sector to source and select l’Afrique Excelle cohort.
After receiving 450 applications, our implementing partners, VC4A, Suguba, and Sahel’innov, along with investors from Partech Ventures, Orange Digital Ventures (ODV), Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P), First Growth Ventures, Brightmore Capital, Breega Capital and Proparco, reviewed, scored, and judged the applications.
The program kicked off in Bamako where the selected 20 startups participated the Mali residency from March 25–29, 2019. The program of the residency consisted of technical workshops on topics important to pre-serie-A startups such as investor readiness, talent management and legal protection.
During this time, the Ministers of Digital Economy for Senegal and Mali held an impromptu town hall with the startups and the investor community to understand how policymakers can scale-up similar initiatives nationally.
The Mali residency then concluded with a Venture Showcase at the Francophone African Investors Summit, where 10 of the startups were selected to advance to the France residency from May 11–18, 2019. They will also be pitching at the Afrobytes and VivaTechnology conferences in Paris.
The World Bank is committed to expanding the digital economy across Africa. The XL Africa and l’Afrique Excelle programs are key to building Africa’s digital entrepreneurship ecosystems — one of the 5 core pillars of the Africa Digital Economy Initiative.
Here is a sneak peek at l’Afrique Excelle’s 10 most promising francophone African startups:
Diool (Fintech), Cameroon
Eyone (Healthtech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger
Firefly Media (Adtech, Transport), Senegal
GiftedMom (Healthtech), Cameroon, Ivory Coast
LAfricaMobile (Connectivity, SaaS, API), Senegal, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso
Paps (Logistics), Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast
Solaris Offgrid (Fintech, SaaS, Solar), Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cameroon, Rwanda
StarNews Mobile (Media), Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast
Sudpay (Fintech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Guinea
Tripafrique (Transport), Ivory Coast
Read more World Bank blogs.