Boost Africa is an initiative that partnered with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) in 2017. The initiative seeks to identify and realize new ways of supporting job creation, poverty alleviation and sustainable economic growth in African countries to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Boost Africa currently receives funding support from the European Commission and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States Secretariat to help young Africans and help young African entrepreneurs.
Africa, with its young population, houses many of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, graduates choose to work abroad after finishing their studies. This stunts the continent’s great potential for economic progress and people often refer to it as brain drain. Boost Africa seeks to resolve this challenge by creating attractive job opportunities for young Africans and empowering young African entrepreneurs.
In particular, it seeks to tackle the issue of brain drain from the angle of entrepreneurship and innovation. The initiative believes in the possibility of improving living standards by funding affordable access to energy, healthcare, financial services, education and internet connectivity. To do so, the initiative focuses on supporting start-ups, which would further democratize the economy to allow and attract young individuals from all social backgrounds to participate in and benefit from the continent’s growing economy, according to AfDB.
Boost Africa summarizes its mission in the following actionable steps: enabling entrepreneurship and innovation, developing the skills and expertise of young entrepreneurs, creating quality jobs and addressing the financial gap in the early stages of business creation.
The initiative mainly funds sectors where innovation has the greatest potential to improve the quality of life by providing access to affordable services. Such sectors include information technology, agribusiness, financial services, health, education and renewable energy, AfDB stated. Boost Africa has a special interest in start-ups that have youth and women as final beneficiaries.
According to AfDB, Boost Africa has three main components: the Investment Programme, the Technical Assistance Pool and the Innovation and Information Lab.
The Investment Programme covers the entire venture segment, from seed funds and incubators to accelerators and business angel funds. More specifically, the Programme targets ecosystem builders that promote the health of the entrepreneurial ecosystem by promoting creativity and innovation. Both the AfDB and the EIB fund the Programme and collectively contribute €50 million. Third-party investors and investors through financial intermediaries are also eligible to co-invest.
The Technical Assistance Pool focuses on instilling best practices in investing. It seeks to do so by improving the investment readiness of fund managers, training entrepreneurs in the technical aspects of investments and creating investors’ networks for business angels.
The Information Lab is Boost Africa’s incubator for innovation and partnerships. In addition to helping individual entrepreneurs develop their ideas, it will work with local governments to put in place best practices for entrepreneurial ecosystem interventions.
Four years into the initiative, Boost Africa has contributed significantly to job creation and economic growth across Africa and in particular, rendered entrepreneurial finance more accessible. The initiative has provided more than €300 million to fund start-ups and provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs. To date, more than 1,080 businesses and 3,267 business owners have benefited from the initiative’s resources. Boost Africa has moreover enabled many young African women to enter the entrepreneur field, with more than 50% of the created jobs benefiting women.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Union has pledged to commit €60 million to support the sectors that the unprecedented economic, social and health challenges most affected.
From its wide-ranging impact, Boost Africa has proved to be more than a simple financing opportunity for young African entrepreneurs. The initiative deliberately focuses on African youth and specifically, young African women. This makes Boost Africa as socially motivated as it is economically motivated. In addition to advancing the development of the African economy, Boost Africa is reducing socioeconomic and gender gaps in African employment, thereby contributing greatly to the continent’s social progress.
– Emily Xin