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Start-ups, SMEs, investment funds, incubators, accelerators and financial institutions gathered on Thursday 23 January at the Pullman Teranga Hotel in Dakar for the first edition of the Choose Africa Meetings in Senegal. Panel discussions, workshops and networking opportunities allowed AFD Group and its partners to present Choose Africa and the financing and support opportunities offered to Senegalese companies.

Choose Africa, France’s initiative for the continent’s start-ups, microenterprises and SMEs

Start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises play a major role in job creation, economic growth and innovation in Africa, but the lack of appropriate financing remains the main obstacle to their development. Today, only 20% of SMEs in Africa have access to a bank loan and 87% of start-ups do not have access to any financing. To achieve the commitment made in Ouagadougou by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, to support the revolution of entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa, in March 2019, Agence Française de Développement Group launched the French Choose Africa initiative in Dakar.

This initiative was launched in March 2019 in the presence of the French and Senegalese Ministers of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire and Amadou Ba. It will earmark over EUR 2.5bn to finance and support start-ups, microenterprises and SMEs in Africa by 2022. Over 10,000 African companies will be supported during this period by AFD and its private sector financing arm PROPARCO.

A rapid deployment already serving African small and medium-sized enterprises

Since the launch of the program, EUR 1bn of financing has been committed in Africa, including over a third, EUR 370m, in West Africa.

For example, in Senegal, in late 2019 AFD allocated a EUR 20m sovereign loan to the Senegalese State to support the Rapid Entrepreneurship Delegation (DER) and its nationwide action for SMEs.

Still in Senegal, PROPARCO has allocated EUR 12.2m of ARIZ guarantees, an amount that has seen a sharp increase compared to the allocations of the previous year, which stood at EUR 7.2m. These guarantees allow Senegalese financial institutions to develop their range of financing for microenterprises and SMEs by reducing the risk profile associated with these clients.

AFD Group’s support to start-ups scaled up

In late 2019, AFD Group complemented the range of tools of the Choose Africa initiative by launching the Digital Africa seed fund. This EUR 15m support and financing mechanism for innovative start-ups covers 45 Africa countries and allows:

  • Start-up support structures (incubators, accelerators and hubs) to strengthen and professionalize,
  • Start-ups to access financial support of up to EUR 300,000.

In Senegal, CTIC Dakar, the incubator MakeSense, Afrilabs, Jokkolab Dakar and the Teranga Capital and Partech funds are among Choose Africa’s local partners that support digital start-ups, from the start of their activity to their scale-up.

Several Senegalese start-ups have also joined AFD’s Social & Inclusive Business Camp (SIBC), an acceleration program for companies with societal impacts that helps some 60 African entrepreneurs develop their business every year.

In 2020, SIBC will be deployed in Africa and will further develop its position as a program to prepare scale-up and as a community of impact entrepreneurs.