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 Choose Africa initiative.
Choose Africa offers AFD Group’s complete range of financing and support, tailored to start-ups, microenterprises and SMEs in Africa, and at every stage of their development.
Financed with EUR 2.5bn by PROPARCO and AFD for 2018-2022, this initiative will help over 10,000 companies play their key role in job creation, economic growth and innovation in Africa.
Djalal Khimdjee, Deputy Chief Executive of PROPARCO, tells us about the initial results of this initiative, which will continue to develop new tools for start-ups and SMEs in Africa in 2020.
Are PROPARCO’s current financial commitments in line with the objectives of the Choose Africa initiative?
Djalal Khimdjee: We are very pleased about the fact that for 2018-2019, some EUR 1bn have been committed (with a target of EUR 2.5bn by 2022) to finance African start-ups, microenterprises and SMEs: EUR 300m in equity (with a target of EUR 1bn by 2022) and EUR 700m in dedicated credit lines and guarantees allocated to banks to cover the SME risk (with a target of EUR 1.5bn by 2022). So, we are well on track to achieving the objectives.
2019, the year of the official launch of the initiative, was a particularly active year as it alone accounts for some 60% of commitments for these two years. In the same year, we also had the launch of the Digital Africa seed fund and the third consecutive edition of the Social and Inclusive Business Camp, which are both part of the continuum of support offered by Choose Africa.
Choose Africa thereby reflects not only quantitative growth in AFD Group’s financing for African start-ups and SMEs, but also a qualitive extension of the Group’s range of tools to develop Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
How have you implemented the initiative on the ground?
D.K.: Choose Africa is first and foremost an active presence on the ground mobilizing the entire France team and especially the embassies, AFD Group and PROPARCO’s local offices. 14 Choose Africa events – including 9 in Africa – have been organized in 10 months. These events, which are often supported by France’s highest authorities, have provided the opportunity to present the initiative, announce the latest developments (launch of the Digital Africa seed fund, Call for Expressions of Interest for the creation of a fund dedicated to Africa…) and discuss directly with business leaders and project initiators. The mobilization is also continuing with several Choose Africa events planned in Benin, Angola and South Africa in the coming months.
But Choose Africa especially reflects AFD Group’s capacity to establish dozens and dozens of partnerships with incubators, investment funds and local banks, as it is through these players that AFD Group is able to finance African start-ups and SMEs. I believe it is very important to make this point clear to all our stakeholders, as this initiative is indeed achieved through our partners on the ground.
What tools are developed to inform about and promote the initiative?
D.K.: A dedicated web platform, www.choose-africa.com, is available to entrepreneurs and AFD Group partners to give them updated information about the initiative and, depending on their profile, direct them towards the appropriate partner and tool.
Indeed, from the homepage, Internet users are directed towards appropriate information through a differentiated user path. To date, the current users of the platform mainly consult solutions for start-ups (17% of the pages visited), the pages explaining the initiative and projects (11%) and the list of our local partners (5%).
So the results are generally positive…
D.K.: Yes, the initial results of this initiative are positive. Choose Africa is well on track to achieving the commitments made. It has a very good sounding board with African entrepreneurs and presents, in a clear and concise manner, AFD Group’s range of tools on this major issue in Africa which, according to some estimates, will need to create some 1.5 million new jobs per month from now until 2050. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the PROPARCO and AFD teams on the ground, who have shown an unfailing mobilization for the past year. We now need to continue to monitor and measure the impacts on the targeted SMEs with our local partners.