The World Bank Group and CTIC Dakar launched the Jambar Tech Lab, a business acceleration program to help West and Central African tech start-ups commercialize and scale innovative digital products. First of its kind in the region, the program will connect 40 local high-growth startups with the knowledge, capital, and access to markets they need to grow.
The program is part of a new regional effort to improve competitiveness, attract investment, and create jobs through digital technologies.
“The digital economy plays a key role in many African countries, as part of the broader services sector that drives more than half of the economic growth in the continent,”said Ganesh Rasagam, manager for Innovation & Entrepreneurship in the World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice. The GSMA estimates that last year, mobile technologies and services in Africa supported about 3.8 million jobs and generated about $150 billion of economic value. Those numbers are expected to rise to 4.5 million and $210 billion by 2020.
Despite this growing market potential, many digital entrepreneurs across the region still lack the necessary skills and resources to accelerate the development of their businesses, either by entering larger markets or attracting capital from early-stage investors.
In order to bridge these gaps, Jambar Tech Lab will offer a six-month program designed to improve the capacity of local firms to identify market opportunities, develop and test products and services, and access business mentors and appropriate financing. The curriculum will cover key topics such as investment readiness and investor engagement, diaspora networks, and internationalization of digital enterprises, and will seek to create the capacity and networks necessary to scale high-potential ventures into profitable businesses.
Supported by the governments of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Senegal, Jambar Tech Lab will be implemented by CTIC Dakar. CTIC Dakar, established in 2011 through a joint World Bank and IFC grant, is Senegal and Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa’s first ICT incubator. Since its establishment, CTIC Dakar has trained over 2000 entrepreneurs and supported over 80 companies that have a cumulative revenue turnover of $6 million and 41% average annual revenue growth.
In the coming months, the Jambar Tech Lab will be joined by new regional acceleration programs in eastern and southern Africa. In early 2017, the World Bank Group will also launch the Pan-African Acceleration Program, and select 20 star performers from across the continent to receive additional coaching, mentorship, and exposure to global investors and funds.