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EBRD joins forces with other MDBs to support start-ups

By Nibal Zgheib

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Cairo at sunset, Egypt

  • Start-ups from Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt present high-tech solutions to global challenges
  • Start-up ecosystem players gather to discuss key topics and solutions for the sector
  • EBRD and partner institutions discuss cooperation in the start-up space  

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has hosted the first event of the Alliance for Entrepreneurship in Africa in Cairo to deepen cooperation between key policymakers and players in the start-up space and to support start-ups in North Africa.

Six start-ups supported by the Bank’s Star Venture programme in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt presented their innovative business ideas to representatives of five venture-capital firms and development agencies, who evaluated their investment potential: Jad El Boustani (Partner, MEVP), Mohamad Okasha (Founder, Disruptech), Dina El-Shenoufy (Co-Founder and CIO, Flat6Labs), Isadora Bigourdan (CEO, Digital Africa) and Gautier Uchiyama (Head of Strategy and Institutional Relations, Proparco).

From artificial intelligence-driven ultrasound technology to an atmospheric water generator, these start-ups are at the forefront of innovation, sustainability and impact across North Africa.

The event opened with remarks by Heike Harmgart, EBRD Managing Director for the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region, and Sérgio Pimenta, Vice President for Africa at the International Finance Cooperation (IFC), marking an important step in the EBRD and IFC’s collaboration in the Alliance.

It was followed by a roundtable discussions that focused on three main thematic areas in start-up development: policy, financing and advisory support. Participants explored topics from how to improve the supportive ecosystem and regulatory environment for early-stage companies on the continent, including access to seed finance and to how to support start-ups’ adoption of green technologies. 

Heike Harmgart said: “The early-stage ecosystem in North Africa has generated some of the most promising and forward-looking companies in the tech space, which are critical to spurring innovation, job growth and economic development. We’re proud to partner with the Alliance for Entrepreneurship members and to combine our expertise and resources to support start-ups and advance sustainable economic growth.”

“Start-ups are critical to developing a vibrant private sector in Africa and globally, and we must provide the right support to ensure their success,” said Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for Africa. “The IFC’s Start-up Catalyst Platform, which invests in seed funds and accelerators in challenging start-up ecosystems, is a good example of a holistic approach to supporting these important businesses that have the potential to create more meaningful employment and have a positive economic impact in the markets in which they work.”

Founded in 2021, the Alliance for Entrepreneurship is a project-driven, private sector-focused international cooperation platform. It supports investments in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises by developing and scaling up instruments that accelerate growth and competitiveness.

The Star Venture Programme provides advisory, training and mentoring support to cohorts of early-stage companies, accelerators and other business support organisations, helping to link successful candidates to financing options in the venture capital space.

It was first piloted and launched in Egypt and Jordan in 2019 and has since expanded in the region to Tunisia, Morocco and Lebanon. The programme has been made possible with the support of the European Union and the EBRD’s Small Business Impact Fund (donors include Italy, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the TaiwanBusiness-EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund and the United States of America).

The EBRD is a core member of the Alliance for Entrepreneurship for Africa. Other core members include the African Development Bank, the European Development Finance Institutions, the European Investment Bank, the French Treasury, the IFC and Proparco.

Since starting its operations in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region in 2012, the EBRD has invested more than €19 billion in 360 projects there. 

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