Make-IT in Africa
Title: Make-IT in Africa – The Tech Entrepreneurship Initiative
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Kenia: Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives; Nigeria: Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning
Overall term: 2017 to 2019
At a time of rapid global change and fast innovation cycles, economies worldwide must make better use of their digital potential to support private sector development and sustainable employment growth. This also applies to sub-Saharan Africa. Linking traditional industries with the ICT sector creates new opportunities to reach the goals set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Tech entrepreneurship is a key driver of the digital revolution in Africa. Entrepreneurs have the potential to modernise their countries’ economy and society, identify innovation solutions to development challenges and create new opportunities and jobs. However, many young tech companies in sub-Saharan Africa are not reaching international market readiness due to a lack of capital, customers, appropriately trained staff and digital infrastructure. For entrepreneurs to be successful, they need a well-functioning business ecosystem with a strong customer base and lead clients, investors, business support and training partners. Many business ecosystems are patchy, meaning that tech start-ups have no access to key contact persons, (follow-on) financing and opportunities to grow.
In two pilot countries, Nigeria and Kenya, the aim is to build business ecosystems that support up to 50 tech start-ups’ evolution into ‘growable’, investable companies and also successfully connect many more tech start-ups with business and investment partners over the project lifetime. Innovative companies with the potential to make major contributions to sustainable and inclusive development are the main focus of interest.
MakeIT in Africa is a pilot project forming part of the Digital Africa and MakeIT initiatives launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Working with the private sector, associations and social enterprises, MakeIT aims to utilise tech entrepreneurs’ growth and employment potential in partner countries engaged in development cooperation with Germany. In November 2016, the MakeIT Alliance was established to support this objective.
MakeIT in Africa is being developed and implemented in two pilot countries, Nigeria and Kenya. The project currently covers three areas of action:
- Fostering the business ecosystem: this benefits all tech start-ups in East and West Africa. Support is provided in cooperation with innovation centres, networks, investor groups, associations and other multipliers. Key measures include the provision of advice manuals on entrepreneurship and the launch of platforms offering information about financing and support services.
- Business contact support: this facilitates access to market and financing partners. Key measures include direct facilitation of contacts, matching events, visits to trade fairs and pitches to investors. All these activities involve intensive cooperation with chambers of trade abroad, investor networks, banks and other organisations.
- The project builds the growth and financing capacities of 50 selected tech businesses in East and West Africa whose digital innovations can play a key role in sustainable development. Innovative training formats and mentoring are used to build entrepreneurs’ management and strategic skills.
The project helps to make better use of sub-Saharan Africa’s digital potential by strengthening the digital industry’s ecosystem and assisting viable new products and services to achieve national and international market readiness.
Innovative products that can make effective contributions to achieving the economic, social and environmental objectives of sustainable development are a particular focus of attention. For example, innovative products that solve key development challenges may assist lower-income groups to gain access to online training and health services, support more efficient production and use of (renewable) energy, or improve agriculture with apps offering advice on issues such as crop protection and appropriate farming methods.
A successful tech sector also boosts incomes and jobs and thus improves living standards, especially for poorer groups, by creating employment in start-ups, supplier companies or along the value chain, for example.