Today at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, high-level representatives from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, African Development Bank, Microsoft, Nokia, infoDev, DEMO, and the World Economic Forum launched a new partnership to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa. The Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) partnership seeks to mobilize the knowledge, expertise and resources of leading public and private institutions to encourage and enhance Africa’s innovation ecosystem and to spur entrepreneurship across the continent.
“Building the right partnerships to give Africa a competitive advantage is a huge focus for us, and a shared passion among LIONS@FRICA partners. Microsoft’s investment in LIONS@FRICA is a natural extension of our work to help accelerate the success of entrepreneurs and early stage start-ups on the continent, and to provide promising young African developers and innovators access technology tools, skills and resources they need to realise their full potential,” said Aben Kovoor, Microsoft Area Director, Developer & Platform Group, Middle East & Africa.
Six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies over the past decade are in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, internet usage across Africa has grown faster than on any other continent in the world. The awakening of the African economy provides an opportunity for global and African entrepreneurs and enterprises to forge partnerships for mutual economic prosperity.
LIONS@FRICA seeks to capitalize on this growth and create new opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa by providing a platform designed to inspire and challenge African innovators and entrepreneurs. This partnership will provide African startups with capacity building and training in business development, provide connectivity to global innovation grids, promote access to capital, create opportunities for partnership, and showcase best practices and successes in African-led innovation solutions.
“ICT-led innovation and entrepreneurship are at the heart of rapid socioeconomic development, and Nokia believes initiatives like LIONS@FRICA are essential to spur this progress. In addition, Nokia and its partners will continue to stimulate debate in Africa through forums such as the Open Innovation Africa Summit, and help emerging innovators spin their ideas into success stories at facilities across the continent like the Mobile Application Laboratories,” said Gerard Brandjes, Nokia’s Vice-President for South East Africa
Planned activities for the partnership include a series of programs across the continent featuring promising African startups and entrepreneurs as well as venture capital roundtables and innovation bootcamps, and Startup Weekend events in over 20 African cities. Qualifying startups can join Microsoft BizSpark with access to a range of Microsoft technology for three years at no cost, to the community of BizSpark Network Partners in Africa, and to programs at Microsoft Innovation Centers in the region. LIONS@FRICA will also launch the first-ever DEMO Africa, a global platform to connect African startups to the global ecosystem, where the most innovative companies from African countries come to launch their products and announce to Africa and the world what they have developed.
The Partnership will receive support from business networks and platforms from Business Action for Africa and Startup Weekend. Global Entrepreneurship Week will serve as the coordinating partner, while Business Fights Poverty will serve as an online community partner.
For more information on the partnership and sponsorship opportunities visit www.meetthelions.org. You can also follow LIONS@FRICA on Twitter #meetthelions.