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UNDP Launches $1bn Fund To Boost African Tech Startups

IN a groundbreaking move for African innovation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has announced plans to raise $1bn in collaboration with African governments and the private sector to support startup innovation across the continent. This ambitious initiative gained momentum with the recent launch of the Timbuktoo fintech hub in Lagos, Nigeria.

The Lagos hub, led by the UNDP, is the first of several planned technology centres in 13 African countries, including Kigali, Cairo, Cape Town, Accra, Casablanca, Dakar, and Nairobi. This launch represents a significant step towards positioning Africa as a global leader in fintech and technological innovation.

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At the unveiling ceremony, former Nigerian vice president Yemi Osinbajo highlighted the potential of Africa’s young population to drive economic growth and innovation. He cited the success of Nigerian unicorns such as Flutterwave and Interswitch, which were founded by entrepreneurs under 30 and have achieved billion-dollar valuations, illustrating the region’s capacity for technological advancement despite high unemployment rates of around 50 percent.

‘In recent times, we have seen dramatic proof of the power of innovation to bring remarkable prosperity,’ Osinbajo stated. ‘In Nigeria, we have at least five unicorns, including Flutterwave, valued at over $3bn, and Interswitch, valued at over $1bn. All founders were under 30 when they started. The energy and spirit of innovation in our young population will drive the Africa of our dreams. This is why the Timbuktoo initiative of the African innovation fund is vital for our continent’s innovation ecosystem. With 13 unicorn hubs across various countries and numerous innovation hubs, including the Lagos fintech hub, we are set to create job opportunities that will significantly reduce unemployment.’

Osinbajo expressed confidence that Africa’s young talents will be crucial in driving growth and innovation across the continent.

Olatunbosun Alake, the Commissioner of Innovation, Science, and Technology, represented Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the event. Alake emphasised the importance of government support in fostering innovation. ‘Innovation cannot happen without government backing. The Lagos State government has been integral to this development, providing robust infrastructure and creating an environment conducive to innovation. We will continue to engage with lawmakers and policymakers to drive positive policies that will sustain this transformative journey,’ Alake remarked. He added that the fintech hub aligns with the Federal Government’s goal of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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