Incubators, technopoles, nurseries and other entrepreneurship supporting institutions are flourishing all over Africa. They are precious and necessary development relays, enabling innovators to strengthen their chances of success and create sustainable businesses that generate employment and value.
But these incubators are mostly young, with varying levels of professionalism, isolated and lacking adequate means. The financing of these structures, like the start-ups they accompany, remains one of the major difficulties and a barrier to innovation.
Faced with this issue, the Agence Française pour le Développement (AFD) and a consortium composed of African incubators (CTIC Dakar, Senegal; CIPMEN Niamey, Niger; Bond’ innov Bondy, France) and French structures involved in innovation (Orange RSE, IRD, Fondation AfricaFrance, OIF) have decided to meet and launch the Africa Innovation Programme (PAI). The aim is to test cross-cutting incubator support services and new seed funding mechanisms.
The PAI will enable incubators to collectively be more attractive, visible and effective by stimulating exchanges between them in order to strengthen their know-how.
The PAI will also reduce the operating costs of each structure and open up new value-added services, with a logic of sharing and optimizing resources.
As a member of the consortium, CTIC Dakar will be contributing to the design of tools and services to improve and optimize support for project leaders.
Two main strands define the main lines of work of the consortium
- Skills development and visibility component. It involves the development of a platform (Afric’ innov) that includes an online resource centre. This incubator “toolbox” provides access to structured and organized educational content, expert services that can be consulted locally or remotely, and databases of qualified contacts. From the idea to the creation of an enterprise, and from the creation to the development of a successful SME, all development phases are covered. Dedicated people in each incubator enable the PAI offer to be deployed at a local and inter-incubator level.
- Financial reinforcement component. It will take the form of a loan from the PAI in the form of repayable advances at zero interest to PAI member incubators. These advances are intended to finance or supplement the seed financing facility implemented by each incubator locally, depending on its context and policy.
AFD will support the Africa Innovation Programme for a period of three years. At the end of this test phase, the PAI will have to demonstrate its interest in the target incubators and their startups, and find an economic model that will ensure its long-term sustainability.