Paris-based incubator NUMA has expanded its operations to Africa with the launch of a hub in Casablanca, Morocco, saying the country was an obvious gateway to establishing operations across the rest of the continent.
Originally launched in 2000 as Silicon Sentier, NUMA has become well established in the French innovation ecosystem, launching the country’s first co-working space in 2008 and the first startup accelerator in 2011.
It is now in the process of expanding internationally, with NUMA Casablanca launching in conjunction with local entrepreneurship support organisation Eiréné4Impact. The Morocco launch follows hot on the heels of similar rollouts in Russia – NUMA Moscow – and India – NUMA Bangalore.
NUMA said Morocco was an “important first step through the gateway to the African continent”, highlighting the growth of the country’s innovation ecosystem. It highlighted political stability, the fact the country is Africa’s second biggest financial district, and high internet penetration levels as reasons for this.
The new incubator aims to provide a bridge between French and Moroccan startups, with applications for the first acceleration programme now open. The accelerator will open its doors in January 2016.
“Our ambition is to accelerate the growth of 15 emerging ecosystems by 2019. With this is mind, Africa is of course one of our priority targets: half of the population there is under 25 and they have shown a thirst for entrepreneurship. We are convinced that the innovators of the next decade are to be found on the continent and we aim to set up NUMA branches in two or three African countries,” said Frédéric Oru, head of international development at NUMA.
“Above and beyond any ideas of the ideal strategic positioning that Morocco represents for France and the rest of Europe, at least with regards to Africa and the Middle East, in Morocco’s capital we have witnessed all the tell-tale signs for an uptick in the entrepreneurial ecosystem – the number of startups, public and private investment – the city’s primed and ready for take-off.”
Leyth Zniber, founder and president of Eiréné4Impact, said Morocco had the potential to become the “ideal platform for development and a true laboratory for innovation”.
“To achieve this, it is important for our ecosystem to accelerate its professionalisation and its innovation dynamic as much with startups as with the major stakeholders, public and private alike,” said Zniber.
“Today, with NUMA, we are accelerating our local and regional development. In line with what we’ve been doing here at Eiréné4Impact, this partnership reinforces the dynamic of professionalization within the ecosystem, and will enable us to widen our support for entrepreneurship and also to accelerate our activities in the promotion of innovation, particularly open innovation with Moroccan actors, both public and private.”