African technology startups with innovative solutions to problems faced by African leaders have been invited to apply for the AfCFTA Vision Challenge, which offers them the opportunity to secure investment from a major pan-African development finance institution.
Ratified by 54 African nations, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) creates a continent-wide free trade area, is a strategic framework for delivering on Africa’s goal for inclusive and sustainable development.
The start of trading under the AfCFTA is set for January 1, 2021, with an extraordinary Summit of Heads of State & Government to take place on December 5, 2020 to lay important foundations for this exceptionally crucial development.
AfCFTA, a cornerstone of Agenda 2063, maximises Africa’s already considerable advantages: the youngest workforce in the world; abundant natural resources; and exceptional creative, cultural, and intellectual resources. But in order for it to gain rapid traction, the continent’s innovators and entrepreneurs must be equipped with the tools and resources they need to push solutions to the barriers in its way.
With this in mind, the AfCFTA Secretariat is pleased to announce the AfCFTA Vision Challenge as part of the broader Vision Initiative to boost access to funding and technological capacity for startups, SMEs, innovators and entrepreneurs across the continent. The Secretariat launches the Vision Initiative with the Sankoree Institute of AfroChampions on the back of the AVRIVA programme, and in support of the African Union Open Corridor Initiative.
The AfCFTA Vision Challenge is open to startups working in any one of eight critical issue areas: education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, good governance, trade/integration, technology, manufacturing and environment. Pure commercial startups as well as social enterprises are welcome to apply.
Selected startups will be assisted in navigating the complex process of engaging with big development finance institutions, which are usually not familiar with startups. The end goal is to help these startups secure investment from a major pan-African development finance institution.
Some of the Development Finance Institutions and Banks approached by the AfCFTA to serve on the institutional jury include AfDB, TDB, Afreximbank, Equity Bank, Ecobank. BADEA, AFC, and CIB, among others.
“There are many things we must get right to ensure that Africa derives the full range of benefits from the AfCFTA. Some will take a while. Creating powerful connections through institutional partnerships and technology, however, can start immediately, and there is no time to waste. We want to propel SMEs and startups by opening doors for them to places where they could never previously have entered, for capital but also for capacity building,” said Francis Mangeni, director of trade promotion and programmes at the AfCFTA Secretariat.
To apply, startups simply visit the challenge website. Once in the portal, they can obtain an AfCFTA Number from the main AfCFTA App, allowing them to participate in the contest. The AfCFTA Number is a pan-African trusted identity for businesses, while the app simplifies KYC procedures, provides the base for a continental credit referencing system, and allows traders to submit required trade documents electronically, thereby minimising the costs, delays and inconvenience of paperwork obstructing greater inter-African trade.