African startups can secure development funding through AfCFTA Vision Challenge


African tech startups have been invited to apply for the AfCFTA Vision Challenge, which offers them the opportunity to secure investment from development finance institutions while also putting them in prime position to benefit from the opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Ratified by 54 African nations, the AfCFTA creates a continent-wide free trade area, and is a strategic framework for delivering on Africa’s goal for inclusive and sustainable development. The start of trading under the agreement is set for January 1, with an extraordinary Summit of Heads of State & Government to take place on December 5 to lay important foundations for this exceptionally crucial development. 

The potential benefits to startups, especially those in the logistics space but in reality any business that imports or exports anything on the continent, is clear (see here and here), but startups are now being offered the chance to further equip themselves to succeed in the new free trade era with a new initiative launched by the AfCFTA Secretariat.

The AfCFTA Vision Challenge, part of the broader Vision Initiative to boost access to funding and technological capacity for startups, SMEs, innovators and entrepreneurs across the continent, has been launched alongside the Sankoree Institute of AfroChampions, and is open to startups working in any one of eight critical issue areas, including education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, good governance, manufacturing and environment. 

Selected startups will be assisted in navigating the complex process of engaging with big development finance institutions, with the end goal being to help these startups secure investment from a major pan-African development finance institution.

“There are many things we must get right to ensure that Africa derives the full range of benefits from the AfCFTA. Some will take a while. Creating powerful connections through institutional partnerships and technology, however, can start immediately, and there is no time to waste. We want to propel SMEs and startups by opening doors for them to places where they could never previously have entered, for capital but also for capacity building,” said Francis Mangeni, director of trade promotion and programmes at the AfCFTA Secretariat.

To apply, startups simply visit the challenge website. Once in the portal, they can obtain an AfCFTA Number from the main AfCFTA App, allowing them to participate in the contest. The AfCFTA Number is a pan-African trusted identity for businesses, while the app simplifies KYC procedures, provides the base for a continental credit referencing system, and allows traders to submit required trade documents electronically, thereby minimising the costs, delays and inconvenience of paperwork obstructing greater inter-African trade.

The deadline for applications is December 22, 2020.


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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