Tunisia has set itself the task of getting 1 000 labelled startups into its national ecosystem by 2024, and it is more than three-quarters of the way there. This is according to Alaya Bettaieb, the general manager of Smart Capital who is in charge of implementing the country’s Startup Tunisia initiative.
Bettaieb was speaking at the opening of the AfricArena North Africa Summit, part of a series of events that bring together promising start-ups from the subcontinent with venture capitalists and other players in the regional start-up ecosystem. Smart Capital is a sponsor of the summit, which is in its second year.
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“We’re looking for a unicorn, like Skype was for Estonia,” Bettaieb said. One such global success story, with a local start-up being acquired by a global giant, would energise founders and the rest of the ecosystem, he said. And it should more than justify the country’s strategic push to support the tech sector.
This support includes the Startup Act, which provides a legal fast-track for startups that qualify for an official label. Smart Capital – a private company – also administrates the governmentally supported ecosystem that provides supporting structures to founders and companies all the way from startup through to series A funding.
The last element to the Startup Tunisia programme is a funder fund, backed by the World Bank, which will eventually see 13 local VC funds investing in companies at seed, early and later stages.
A pipeline for African startups
The AfricArena North Africa Summit is a series of events that also included a venture capital unconference attended by 24 VCs from the United States, Europe, Japan and the rest of Africa over the weekend.
According to Christophe Viarnaud, founder of AfricArena, the gathering of investors yielded exciting ideas that contribute to the open-sourced Digital Collective Africa initiative to build and develop the venture capital ecosystem in Africa.
A second event in the series – the North African Founders’ Bootcamp – ran in parallel with the VC unconference. This saw 22 founders and key team members from startups from Tunisia, Algeria, Marocco, Egypt and Sudan go through a training process that included coaching to refine their pitches.
“Startup collaboration is a great enabler for company scaling,” said Viarnaud of the bootcamp. “There is no better friend for a founder than another founder.”
The companies will get the opportunity to pitch to a room full of international investors and representative of the entire regional ecosystem later today and tomorrow. Apart from the opportunity to secure investment, a few of them will also get the opportunity to attend the AfricArena Grand Summit in Cape Town, South Africa in November.
That event is the culmination of a series of regional summits that included events in South Africa, Senegal and the upcoming East Africa summit in Nairobi, Kenya on 4 and 5 October.