The World Bank Group has launched a five-month business acceleration programme, dubbed XL Africa, designed to support 20 most promising digital start-ups from Sub-Saharan Africa.
The start-ups will receive mentoring from international and local experts, acquire skills through a tailor-made curriculum, grow their regional visibility, and have access to potential corporate partners and investors.
With support from prominent African investment groups, XL Africa will help the 20 selected start-ups attract early stage capital between $250,000 and $1.5 million, according to a statement.
"Digital start-ups are important drivers of innovation in Africa," Makhtar Diop, the Vice President for the Africa Region, World Bank, said.
"To scale and spread new technologies and services beyond borders, they need an integrated ecosystem that provides access to regional markets and global finance; pan-African initiatives like XL Africa play a critical role by linking local start-ups with corporations and investors across the continent."
The programme comes at a time of increasing interest in the African digital sector.
According to a recent report by Disrupt Africa, in 2016, the number of tech start-ups that secured funding increased by 16.8 percent compared to 2015.
XL Africa aims to put a spotlight on the continent's growing digital economy by scouting for and supporting the most innovative tech start-ups, according to Klaus Tilmes, Director of the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank Group.
"The success of these ventures will create a demonstration effect that can attract much-needed growth investment in the sector and catalyse scaling of transnational businesses in the region," he said.
The programme's flagship activity includes a two-week stint in Cape Town, South Africa, where the ventures will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from mentors, peers, and local partners.
The Cape Town experience will conclude with the Venture Showcase, a regional event in which the entrepreneurs will present their business models to a select audience of corporations and investors.
"The programme's unique combination of targeted mentorship and access to investors represents a vital resource for digital ventures ready to grow," said Lexi Novitske, Principal Investment Officer for Singularity Investments, a venture group based in Lagos, Nigeria.
"By connecting innovative business ideas with the knowledge and resources available in the ecosystem, XL Africa will create a pipeline of investment-ready companies, unlocking better investment opportunities for regional and global investors."
The programme will collaborate with prominent African investment groups, including the African Business Angel Network (ABAN), AngelHub Ventures, Goodwell Investments, Knife Capital, Nest Africa, Silvertree Capital, Singularity Investments, South African Business Angel Network (SABAN), TLcom Capital, Zephyr Acorn and 4Di Capital, and corporate partners, such as Orange, .Eco, Ringier, and Thomson Reuters.
Interested companies can apply online on the XL Africa website www.XL-Africa.com by June 12, 2017.
XL Africa is funded by the governments of Finland, Norway and Sweden, and administered by the World Bank Group.