UNDP introduces the “timbuktoo” finance programme for African start-ups.

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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched the “timbuktoo” initiative together with African countries, which it said is positioned to be “the world’s largest financing facility,” bringing catalytic and commercial capital together to support Africa’s startup ecosystem.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, African Continental Free Trade Area secretariat secretary general Wamkele Mene and UNDP administrator Achim Steiner presented the initiative in a special session of the World Economic Forum at its 24th Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last week.

Promoted by the UNDP, timbuktoo aims to address critical gaps and work with African governments, investors, corporations, and universities to support the African startup ecosystem. The ambition is to mobilise and invest US$1 billion of catalytic and commercial capital to transform 100 million livelihoods and create 10 million dignified new jobs.

The initiative will blend commercial and catalytic capital to de-risk private investment, with a pan-African approach to supporting startups, while also focusing on the whole ecosystem, engaging and deepening the linkages between government policy, universities, corporations, development partners, catalytic partners, and commercial investors.

“We cannot accept that another generation of African young people do not have the tools to reach their full potential,” said Kagame, who announced an immediate contribution of US$3 million to start the Timbuktoo Africa Innovation Fund, which will be hosted in Kigali. “With Timbuktoo’s billion-dollar target, we can create more opportunities for Africa’s youth to put their talent and creativity to good use.”

Akufo-Addo said that for many African countries, the foremost challenge is to ensure the right structures are put in place to enable young Africans to create innovative and compelling businesses that can contribute significantly to job creation and sustainable economic growth.

“I’m excited about the future of our continent. I look forward to seeing us create a future where innovation is encouraged, ingenuity is supported, and prosperity is shared,” he said.

Steiner said Timbuktoo was a new model of development.

“We are gathering key actors to push on all fronts at the same time. From startup-friendly legislation, global-class startup building, and de-risking capital to increase investment to the UniPods—University Innovation Pods—across Africa, we aim to fill critical gaps and support the startup ecosystem. This will enable innovations to grow and benefit people in Africa and elsewhere on the planet,” he said.