Unlocking Africa’s boundless potential through rapid economic growth and a vibrant youth population is no small feat. The task is complicated because Africa is undergoing an exodus of talented young graduates, many of whom hesitate to return home after studying abroad.
In addition to the exodus of talent, there is a significant mismatch between the capabilities and skills of the youth and the jobs of today. Many young people lack the technical skills needed for the current job market and have little access to readily available and affordable skills training. This has far-reaching implications for their career prospects, the overall productivity of organisations and for the continent’s economic future.
In response, the African Development Bank in 2019 partnered with the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to set up the Boost Africa programme.
Boost Africa will stimulate youth entrepreneurship and innovation across the continent, with a specific emphasis on empowering entrepreneurs and start-ups. The ultimate aim is to enable African youth to create innovative and compelling businesses that can compete regionally and globally, attract domestic and foreign investment and significantly contribute to job creation and economic growth.
The programme is an integral part of the Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy 2016-2025 developed by the African Development Bank’s Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development Department
According to Martha Phiri, the Department’s Director, focusing on fostering innovative and compelling modern businesses in Africa is critical to the continent’s economic growth and competitiveness in the global market.
“Our objective is to enable African entrepreneurs to create businesses that can compete not just locally, but regionally and globally, and attract both domestic and foreign investment. Ultimately, we seek to position Boost Africa as the go-to platform for launching globally competitive companies from Africa, contributing significantly to job creation and economic growth on the continent,” Phiri says.
Through a Bank Group co-financing facility with the European Union, Boost Africa has benefited from a €20 million grant.
Boost Africa has two major components. The first, the Investment Programme, provides seed funding, incubators, accelerators, and other support and resources to support the creation of innovative and scalable start-ups. The EIB and the African Development Bank will both contribute €50 million in investment. Additionally, the programme has attracted more than €200 million from public and private investors and is on track to crowd in more than €1billion in additional investments.
The second component is the Technical Assistance Pool, which enhances capacity building and provide support for first-time local fund managers, providing business and technical training for investee companies and entrepreneurs, and fostering the creation of investor networks, particularly business angels. This component also includes the E-Lab, an innovation and entrepreneurship lab that acts as a catalyst for innovation and knowledge by incubating and pilots promising new ideas, assesses and disseminates best practices, and offers support for ecosystem interventions at the country level.
Boost Africa will focus on sectors where innovation can improve the quality of people’s lives, particularly that of poorer households, by providing access to affordable products and services. These include ICT, agribusiness, financial services and financial inclusion, health, education, and renewable energy. There will be a particular emphasis on intermediaries that focus on youth and women as final beneficiaries.
Overall, Boost Africa is expected to have a significant development impact. This will include support for 1,500 start-ups, the creation of 25,000 direct and at least 70,000 indirect jobs, with an expected size of around €250 million, leveraging €1 billion in investments.
Boost Africa will stimulate youth entrepreneurship and innovation across the continent, with a specific emphasis on empowering entrepreneurs and start-ups. Source African Development Bank Group