IFC, Tunisian government launch startup program to support entrepreneurs and create jobs
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and Tunisia’s Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy are launching a ground-breaking program designed to support high-potential startups and drive innovation across North Africa.
The two organizations are partnering to create the Maghreb Next 60 Start-ups Initiative. The program will select up to 60 promising entrepreneurs based in the Maghreb (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia) and connect them with mentors, investors, and policymakers. The highlight will be a major event gathering the start-ups in June 2019.
The initiative is designed to support the Maghreb's budding start-up culture and create opportunities for entrepreneurs, who often struggle to secure growth capital and have few places to turn for guidance.
“Supporting entrepreneurship is key to Tunisia’s economic growth,” said Anouar Maarouf, Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy. “The initiative presents a great opportunity for startups to connect with mentors, top business leaders and more importantly to network and build relationships with other talented entrepreneurs who come from various backgrounds and nationalities. It will open up markets for Maghreb Youth to unleash their potential, attract investments and create jobs,” he added.
A recent IFC report, What It Will Take to Create the Next Generation of Transformational Entrepreneurs in Africa examined the continent’s nascent startup scene. It found that African startups raised $556 million in 2017, a more than 50 percent jump from 2016. The continent also had 422 incubators and accelerators in 2018, up from 314 just two years ago.
However, financing remains much more difficult to secure than in other parts of the world and entrepreneurs often struggle to get sound advice, which is crucial in the early stages of a start-up’s life cycle. The report found that with more support, startups could create jobs for Africa’s fast-growing population, drive innovation, and help fight poverty.
“Maghreb countries are full of promising entrepreneurs who, with the right support, could build innovative companies, create much-needed jobs, and solve some of the region most pressing problems,” said Sufyan Al Issa, IFC’s Regional Head of Operations for the Middle East and North Africa.
Tunisia, the report found, has embraced the potential of startups. The country ranks first in the Maghreb on the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index, which examines the health of a nation’s startup scene.
The Maghreb Next 60 Startups initiative is part of a push by IFC to support entrepreneurship and create new markets in developing countries. Over the last two years alone, IFC has provided close to $65 million in funding to technology companies and start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa, while working alongside leading accelerators and venture funds, like Wamda, Flat6Labs, and Algebra Ventures.