Announcing the LIONS@FRICA Partnership to Promote Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Africa

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.

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.

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.

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 meetthelions.org. You can also follow LIONS@FRICA on Twitter #meetthelions.

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For media requests and interviews, contact: Lorin Kavanaugh-Ulku, +1 202-647-9302 or +1 202-236-4132, kavanaugh-ulkulm@state.gov.

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Quotes from Supporting Partners:

U.S. Department of State: Kris Balderston, the Secretary’s Special Representative on Global Partnerships, U.S. Department of State: “At the Global Partnership Initiative, we see the LIONS@FRICA platform as an innovative way to build and deploy strategic economic partnerships between African and global players to: strengthen Africa’s startup and innovation ecosystem; promote and facilitate new investments; and foster innovation business models.”

U.S. Agency for International Development: Ben Hubbard, Director of the Development Credit Authority: “Today many of the most transformative business models and technology solutions are coming from the African continent. But it’s also one of the toughest places to find early stage risk capital. USAID is excited to work with LIONS@FRICA to ensure the most promising African innovators can access the financing they need to become catalysts for growth and employment.”

African Development Bank: Donald Kaberuka, President, African Development Bank, “The African Development Bank (AfDB) is pleased to help contribute to the launching of LIONS@FRICA partnership. Later this year, AfDB will help sponsor a startup bootcamp in West Africa; and next year we plan to co-organize with our LIONS@FRICA partners a Meet The Lions event to be held parallel to the Bank’s annual meeting in Marrakech, Morocco. The AfDB also intends to use its network of contacts to invite corporate sponsors from our regional member countries to this innovative partnership.”

Microsoft: Aben Kovoor, Area Director, Developer Platform Group, Middle East & Africa: “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.”

Nokia: Gerard Brandjes, Nokia’s Vice-President for South East Africa: “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.”

DEMO: Neal Silverman, Senior Vice President, DEMO: “Today we are thrilled to be announcing DEMO Africa, the newest addition to our international portfolio of events and our partnership with  LIONS@FRICA, together we are well positioned to identify and foster innovation in Africa.”

Global Entrepreneurship Week: Jonathan Ortmans, President, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) and Senior Fellow, Kauffman Foundation:“ LIONS@FRICA will help inspire a new generation of startup communities on the continent that are committed to unleashing ideas through new firm formation which is vital to economic growth and job creation. Global Entrepreneurship Week welcomes the opportunity to coordinate this partnership as part of its year-round mission to shape a new generation of entrepreneurs committed to doing good and doing well.

infoDEV: Valerie D’Costa, Manager,infoDev (World Bank): “InfoDev is pleased to collaborate LIONS@FRICA, as it underlines our goals of enabling innovative entrepreneurship for sustainable, inclusive growth in Africa. We will do so by leveraging existing incubation centers and other programs such as the infoDev – Nokia Mobile Laboratories for mobile entrepreneurs and the infoDev Climate Innovation Centers.”

About the Partners:

U.S. Department of State: The Secretary’s Global Partnership Initiative (GPI) is the entry point for collaboration between the U.S. Department of State, the public and private sectors, and civil society. Launched by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2009, GPI aims to strengthen and deepen U.S. diplomacy and development around the world through partnerships that leverage the creativity, innovation, and core business resources of partners for greater impact.

U.S. Agency for International Development: USAID is a U.S. Government agency that provides economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States. USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA) works with investors, local financial institutions, and development organizations to design and deliver investment alternatives that unlock financing in support of U.S. Government priorities.

African Development Bank: The African Development Bank has long been involved in the promotion and development of SMEs across the continent by working with African financial institutions, i.e. banks, SME funds, microfinance institutions. Through these intermediaries, the ADB indirectly supplies lines of credit to SMEs. The Bank also provides capacity building resources to financial institutions and technical support agencies such as business associations and business development services providers to help promote and strengthen SMEs.

Microsoft: Since 1992, when Microsoft opened its first office in Africa, it has actively worked to bring the benefits of technology to the region, helping individuals, communities and nations realize their full potential. LIONS@FRICA will leverage Microsoft BizSpark: a global program that helps software startups succeed by giving them access to Microsoft software, connecting them to industry partners and investors, and providing visibility for early stages companies. Microsoft Innovation Centers (MICs), state-of-the-art technology facilities, play a vital role in generating powerful new ideas through training, education and knowledge transfer.

Nokia: Nokia is a global leader in mobile communications whose products have become an integral part of the lives of people around the world. Every day, more than 1.3 billion people use their Nokia to capture and share experiences, access information, find their way or simply to speak to one another. Nokia’s technological and design innovations have made its brand one of the most recognized in the world.

DEMO: For over 20 years DEMO’s mission has been to identify game changing technology from around the world and help entrepreneurs bring their products to market. The DEMO conferences in the United States, Asia and Brazil focus on emerging technologies and new product innovations, which are hand selected from across the spectrum of the technology marketplace.

Global Entrepreneurship Week: Global Entrepreneurship Week is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. During one week each November, thousands of events and competitions around the world inspire millions to engage in entrepreneurial activity while connecting them to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors. In four years, Global Entrepreneurship Week has expanded to more than 120 countries—empowering nearly 20 million people through 95,000 activities over that time. Powered by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the initiative is supported by dozens of world leaders and a growing network of 24,000 partner organizations.

infoDEV: infoDEV is a global partnership program within the World Bank Group which works at the intersection of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship to create opportunities for inclusive growth, job creation and poverty reduction. infoDEV assists governments and technology-focused small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow jobs, improve capacity and skills, increase access to finance and markets, ensure the appropriate enabling policy and regulatory environment for business to flourish, and test out innovative solutions in developing country markets.