Rwanda and UNDP Launch Africa’s Largest Innovation Fund at WEF in Davos

Rwanda, the Hub for Timbuktoo, Aims to Ignite Africa's Startup Revolution

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

Rwanda is set to become the headquarters for the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) innovation financing facility, known as Timbuktoo, following its official launch at the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

The initiative, expected to be hosted at the Kigali International Financial Centre (KIFC), aims to invest over $1 billion in catalytic and commercial capital over the next decade. The goal is to establish a distributed innovation network comprising eight pan-African hubs located in key ecosystems.

UNDP intends to target over 1,000 startups from across the continent, aligning with its efforts to ignite Africa’s startup revolution.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, attending the WEF, hailed the launch as a significant milestone, emphasizing Africa’s potential to address global challenges. He stated, “Indeed, Africa has the labour force to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

President Kagame was joined by Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, and other high-ranking officials during the initiative’s unveiling.

The primary objective of Timbuktoo is to bridge the gap in early-stage risk capital, nurturing global-class startups and unlocking the ‘One Africa market.’

Kagame highlighted that imbalances in human capital development contribute to migration, emphasizing that Timbuktoo’s vision aligns with Rwanda’s innovation ecosystem. He said, “Rwanda is open for anyone to come and test their solutions.”

Rwanda also announced a financial commitment of approximately $3 million to the initiative. Kagame expressed confidence in the positive impact of Timbuktoo, stating, “With the launch of this initiative, I am confident that we are already on a good path.”

Timbuktoo is hailed as the world’s largest initiative to support Africa’s innovation startup ecosystem. With private venture capital investments in Africa surging six times faster than the global average in 2022, the continent is increasingly viewed as a future tech powerhouse.

Key African companies are leading in global digital technologies, such as mobile money, and millions are embracing unconventional development paths.

UNDP’s Timbuktoo initiative is uniquely positioned to address critical gaps and collaborate with African governments, investors, the private sector, and academia to nurture the continent’s startup ecosystem.

President Akufo-Addo echoed the sentiment, stating, “I am excited about the future of the continent and ultimately look forward to us creating a future where innovation is supported, ingenuity is encouraged, and prosperity is shared.”

Steiner emphasized Africa’s untapped potential, with its startup talents being the world’s greatest. Timbuktoo aims to build an ecosystem that fosters ideas and provides hubs of excellence for sustainable development.

The initiative aims to create platforms and ecosystems that attract international investments and transform development pathways. Timbuktoo’s parent fund will finance a venture builder in each of the eight hubs and invest minority capital to de-risk private capital in a subsidiary fund in each hub, specializing in different industry verticals.

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