Ghana is set to host a Pan-African AgriTech Innovation Hub of the new and bold innovation initiative, Timbuktoo, of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This was announced during the lively time Accra event held at the Labadi Beach Hotel. The Timbuktoo initiative aims to mobilize and invest one billion dollars of public and private capital over ten years, with the aim of sparking the startup revolution in Africa.
“What UNDP is trying to do with Timbuktoo is good for Africa. We need to create jobs and entrepreneurs are the key sources of job creation. It is time for us to leverage digitalization into innovation and job creation”, noted Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President of the Republic of Ghana.
It is envisaged that eight private-sector driven pan-African Timbuktoo hubs will be established across Africa, each focused on a different priority sector and each housing a Venture Builder and a Venture Fund. The exciting vision behind Timbuktoo is that each pan-African hub will attract top startup talents from across the continent, with the aim of nurturing and growing “One Africa Market and beyond” startups, that receive best-in-class support, partnerships, and local and global investment.
“Timbuktu is an innovative private-driven approach to getting Africa’s innovation ecosystem right and is a massive, bold, and unique undertaking to solve the current gap in early-stage risk capital, to better integrate African innovation players from universities to corporates to investors, and to enable startups to seize the African market opportunity. We are excited to open a Timbuktoo hub in Accra, recognizing the vibrance and positive trends that are emerging from Ghana’s startup ecosystem. The future is bright as we harness Africa’s enormous youth talent to transform the continent into a knowledge and innovation global powerhouse,” noted Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, Timbuktoo Project Head and Chief Innovation Officer of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa.
The ambitious vision set by Timbuktoo is to galvanize Africa’s tech and tech-enabled startups, aiming to achieve over 1,000 startups achieving significant scale and having an impact on over 100 million livelihoods as well as environmental impacts. This, in turn, is to generate a ten-fold return, amounting to over ten billion dollars, in terms of wealth and value creation for Africa’s economies.
UNDP Africa launched this initiative in 2021 and the project aims to engage a large number of private and public sector partners to establish eight Timbuktoo Hubs in recognized leading startup ecosystems, potentially in Accra, Nairobi, Cape Town, Lagos, Dakar, Kigali, Casablanca, and Cairo, among others. Each Hub will be operated privately and will focus on a single industry vertical including Fintech, Agritech, Healthtech, Greentech, Creatives, Tradetech and Logistics, Smart Cities and Mobility, and Tourismtech. The structure of the massive undertaking includes a Parent Fund of catalytic grant capital, in partnership with impact-minded catalytic partners, that would finance the network of Hubs and also a Headquarters. The Parent Fund would also inject a minority share in each of the Hub Venture Funds, which are commercially oriented, in the form of guarantees or first-loss capital.
“Timbuktoo is a new approach for UNDP in line with our vision of a future-smart Africa that transcends old development paradigms. We are proud to work hand in hand with the private sector to embrace a bold new reality in which the future is driven by technology and innovation. Only exceptional achievements made by ambitious and talented young people supported by a vibrant ecosystem will move the needle in Africa and enable us to truly achieve our SDG targets”, stated Dr. Angela Lusigi, UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana.
Since its inception, the Timbuktoo initiative has moved rapidly on several fronts. In addition to resource mobilization and engaging host governments for the setup of eight Timbuktoo pan-African Hubs in leading startup ecosystems, Timbuktoo has also spearheaded the establishment of University Innovation Pods (UniPods), at the national level in ten Lower-Income Countries in Africa (Benin, Guinea Conakry, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Togo, and Uganda), with the objective of encouraging students in universities to engage in innovation and design thinking. The UniPods will become operational by end of 2022, and thus Timbuktu’s reach will extend to eighteen African countries by 2023 when the Timbuktoo hubs are envisaged to become operational.
The time Accra interactive event, held in partnership with Innohub and the Ghana Hubs Network, engaged over one hundred ecosystem actors including government officials, diplomats and development partners, and several startup ecosystem players in solid discussions on Timbuktoo and the Ghanaian startup ecosystem experience. The event signaled UNDP’s strengthened commitment to engaging and working with the private sector.