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World Bank Group Names 20 African Startups to Participate in Digital Acceleration Program

Image credit: Rensource

Selected from a pool of over 900 applicants, 20 promising African digital startups will participate in the XL Africa residency, the flagship initiative of the business accelerator launched by the World Bank Group’s infoDev program last April. Running from November 6 – 17 in Cape Town, South Africa, selected entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to learn from their mentors and peers, increase their regional visibility and get access to potential corporate partners and investors.

“We are pleased by the interest infoDev and XL Africa generated across the continent in just a few months,” said Klaus Tilmes, Director of the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank Group. “XL Africa attracted firms with high-growth potential; many have female co-founders, have already raised early stage investment and have demonstrated significant market traction. The number and quality of applications received are a clear testament to the competitiveness of African startups and the key role they play in Africa’s growing digital economy.”

The residency will conclude with the XL Africa Venture Showcase, a regional event organized in association with the African Angel Investor Summit, during which the startups will present their business models to a select audience of corporations and investors. With support from African investment groups, XL Africa will help the entrepreneurs attract early stage capital between $250,000 and $1.5 million.

The startups chosen to participate in the residency specialize in digital solutions for the African market, including fin-tech, transportation, healthcare, education, human resources and B2B. All companies provide a digital product or service currently available in one or more African markets and show potential to scale across the region.

Electronic Settlement Limited (ESL) is one of the 20 companies participating in the residency. The startup has developed a neighborhood bank that provides branchless banking services to the underbanked and unbanked communities in Africa using its PayCentre product. With a mobile point of sale device and an android application, the fin-tech company’s remote banking locations offer services such as cash withdrawals and deposits, fund transfer, bill payment, airtime top up, account opening etc.

With its sights set on connecting informal laborers with thousands of jobs, Kenya-based Lynk utilizes web, SMS and email to automatically identify qualified workers based on subskills and other signals such as location, language and experience. Users then receive quotes from multiple Pros and can review their profiles and prices in order to decide who to work with.

Meanwhile, Nigerian solar distribution company Rensource is providing innovative solar solutions and financing to consumers and SMEs in urban/peri-urban Nigeria. Solar systems are installed at customers’ premises which are owned and maintained by Rensource for a monthly subscription fee. With their PaaS (Power-as-a-Service) they offer four distinct systems to suit a variety of different households, from those who want to power lights, fans and televisions to those who want to power fridges, freezers and energy efficient air conditioners 24/7/

“We encountered very strong companies, particularly in the transportation, HR and data analytics sectors,” said Danai Musandu, investment associate at Goodwell Investments. “We also observed signals of a nascent pipeline of digital companies beyond the traditional hot spots of Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. These talented entrepreneurs are among those who are going to drive innovation on the continent and offer great opportunities for investors looking at African markets.”

The selection for XL Africa was conducted by a panel of industry experts from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), implementing partners IMC Worldwide, Koltai & Co. and Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A), as well as investors from prominent African funds, including Knife Capital, 4DI Capital LLP, Singularity Investments, TLcom Capital LLP, Goodwell Investments, Nest Africa and Africa Tech Ventures.

XL Africa is funded by the governments of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, and administered by the World Bank Group with implementation support from IMC Worldwide, VC4A, and Koltai & Co.


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