Smaller African countries have a tough time making much of an impact on the noisy African start-up news hyper-sphere. It's not easy being innovative in small, tech-poor markets. Russell Southwood looks at how recent initiatives in Mali are seeking to tackle the problem.
Mali's Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Arouna Modibo Toure threw his weight behind a start-up competition called Mali Start-Up at the beginning of the year. The top three start-up winners will get an immersive trip to Silicon Valley and meetings with top companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook. The Minister said:" "We want to assert our desire not to miss the digital revolution."
Candidates will be rated against the innovation of their idea, the scope of the project and its commercialization. The project must address a national or local problem. The selection will also be made based on the argumentation and the demonstration of the project, which focuses on big data, cloud computing (storage and access to data), smart networks, cyber security, data protection etc. Mali Startup intends to recruit 50 Startups, to supervise them, to make an evaluation and to promote them.
Next up was the launch at the beginning of February this year of the "GENESIS Startups MALI" program that is a joint initiative between the NGO Eureka Group and the Institute of Applied Sciences (ISA, USTTB) in partnership with the national employers organization CNPM and the following vocational training institutes: University Institute of Management (IUG, USSGB) and University Institute of Technology (IUT, ULSHB).
The program will provide 100 young graduates with the practical skills needed to significantly increase their (self) employability and their success in the job market in the growth sectors of science, innovation and entrepreneurship. Through the rather elaborate partnership above (of the kind much beloved by development organizations) it hopes to foster entrepreneurship and innovation in the academic sector.
Six startups working in the fields of Agribusiness (Food Tech), clean energy (Green Tech) and technologies will be incubated at Bamako Incubator.
At a recent World Bank-supported event (Rencontres de l'Innovation International et Sud) a new training programme was announced for some 20 incubators supporting innovative entrepreneurship in Francophone Africa was rolled out.
For entrepreneurship training in Mali, workshops have been designed and conducted by CREATEAM and Impact Hub as part of the Skills Development and Youth Employment Project. Also there have been open innovation programmes like the Mali-based hackathon organized by Donilabs, CREATEAM, Jokkolabs, Teteliso and Impact Hub that led to the design of a new urban mobility app for a large local firm.
Mali is a small country market for digital start-ups so it would make good sense to connect its incubation and support networks as closely as possible to the larger Francophone African markets. Some of those involved in the World Bank-funded programme have the reach and networks that can make this a reality.
It provides an overview of: Main Platforms Used and Advertising revenues; Social Media Platforms; Voice and Messaging Services; Media Platforms; Audio-Visual Services; Music Services; Payment and e-commerce Services and Other DigitalServices. It covers the 11 Top Digital Landscapes in Sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria ; South Africa; Kenya; Tanzania; Ghana; Ethiopia; Cote d'Ivoire; Angola; Senegal; Cameroon and Uganda. The report concludes by looking at the new type of business models required to promote new digital content and services.
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