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Emerging Valley makes African start-ups shine under the Provencal sun


The third edition of Emerging Valley provided an opportunity for exchanges between European, Mediterranean and African digital start-ups, their ecosystems and institutions. The event has established itself as the hub for reflection in this field between the two continents.



Elected officials from both continents were present to support the Emerging Valley initiative (photo: F.Dubessy)
Elected officials from both continents were present to support the Emerging Valley initiative (photo: F.Dubessy)
FRANCE / AFRICA. New European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture and Youth, Mariya Gabriel reserved her first public statement during a video message to the Emerging Valley audience on Wednesday 4 December 2019. "Digital is our future, and neither Europe nor Africa can miss this appointment", her statement could launch the debates, even if she was only preaching to the converted.

Like the organiser and master of ceremonies of this third edition, Samir Abdelkrim, for whom "the great disruptions of tomorrow will not emerge from the cold and disembodied visions of the transhumanist utopia and techno-progressivism that are flourishing in Silicon Valley. No. They will emerge from the South of the Mediterranean, building more and more a "Tech for Good" which, thanks to organic innovation, puts technology at the service of people and not people at the service of technology".

After the holding of the Summit of the Two Shores, then the third act of the Mediterranean of the Future, Emerging Valley, located for two days at The Camp (Aix-en-Provence), proved once again the Mediterranean and African vocation of the Aix-Marseille region. "The place in Southern Europe, the link between Europe and Africa, is here, on this territory," declared Jean-Luc Chauvin. For the president of the Marseille-Provence Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIMP), "it is the economy that creates wealth, brings people together and promotes development".

150 start-ups and incubators

With Emerging Valley, Samir Abdelkrim wants to strengthen the links between African and French start-ups (photo: F.Dubessy)
With Emerging Valley, Samir Abdelkrim wants to strengthen the links between African and French start-ups (photo: F.Dubessy)
"Our experience can be used to the benefit of African countries and African decision-makers. Today, the talents of this territory meet the talents of Africa", also indicates Laure-Agnès Caradec, who has just been reappointed president of the Euroméditerranée Public Development Establishment. While Didier Parakian, deputy mayor of Marseille, delegated to the economy and relations with companies, underlines the presence of "fourteen submarine cables" in the Phocaean city to link it to the world.
For Christophe Itier, French High Commissioner for the Social and Solidarity Economy and Social Innovation, "today, our collective history between Europe and Africa is on the edge of the coin. It is up to us to make it fall on the right side".

Over the course of the two days, between plenary sessions, workshops and informal meetings, the participants discussed the financing of start-ups, technological innovation, the strengthening of African eco-systems, agrotech, industry 4.0, science and entrepreneurship... Some 150 African, Mediterranean and European start-ups and incubators were present to exchange ideas.

Skills gap

Plenary sessions and workshops followed one another for this third edition (photo: F.Dubessy)
Plenary sessions and workshops followed one another for this third edition (photo: F.Dubessy)
"Digital technology offers an extraordinary response to the various challenges of climate change and migration. But most of the initiatives are still just a sprinkling. We need to get down to the nitty-gritty, to move more quickly from incubation to acceleration", asks Sarah Toumi, a Franco-Tunisian entrepreneur (Acacias for all) and member of the Presidential Council for Africa created by Emmanuel Macron. Taleb Sid Ahmed, Mauritania's Minister for Youth, regrets the difficulty of developing digital technology. "There is a lot of talk, but we are not seeing a deep transformation and we are not reaching the expected level". He attributes this lack of concreteness to "shortcomings in education and a real skills gap that prevents people from taking advantage of new technologies". Policies have failed to support start-ups," says Taleb Sid Ahmed, who is launching an incubator policy in his country.

"There are so many opportunities in Africa, but this requires technical assistance," acknowledges Bosun Tijani. Co-founder and CEO of the Co-Creation Hub in Nigeria, which provides expertise to start-ups. "The support system is still very weak. What is most important in Africa is partnerships," he says. This is also the opinion of Fatimah Nasser, CEO of Yummy in Libya: "We need expertise and networks. We should not look for money before we have proven ourselves."

"Africa must trust its youth"

Emmanuel Noutary (Anima Investment Network) and Mehdi Alaoui (La Factory) are not only thinking about financing (photo: F.Dubessy)
Emmanuel Noutary (Anima Investment Network) and Mehdi Alaoui (La Factory) are not only thinking about financing (photo: F.Dubessy)
Money is the key to business development. "We must put an end to the valley of death", insists Samir Abdelkrim. The French Development Agency unveiled at Emerging Valley - "When we have an announcement to make as part of the link between our two continents, it is now here that we make it", Samir Abdelkrim likes to say - the launch of a €15 million fund dedicated to African start-ups.

Creadev, the Mulliez family's fund, supports entrepreneurs on the continent over the long term, "so that they become sub-African champions", says Pierre Fauvet. "We provide support with capital, and tickets from €1 to €10 million, but also a toolbox," continues the director of Creadev's investments. He selects African start-ups developing a post-revenue of $1M with a growth challenge. "You need talent, a vision and a plan to move towards that vision," he summarises.

Mehdi Alaoui, founder of the Factory in Morocco, dares to take the opposite view. "Today, start-ups are more in need of a client contract than of financing. We therefore put digital start-ups in touch with large groups that have a digital strategy," he stresses. To date, he has signed around a hundred contracts for €3.5m. "Africa must have confidence in its youth, and this will be done through companies. What France and Europe can do is not necessarily provide funding but sign contracts," notes Mehdi Alaoui. "We must not reduce the debate to just looking for an investor," thinks Emmanuel Noutary.
According to the general delegate of Anima Invest Network, "the leader is one of the elements of the equation, but we should perhaps disconnect the search for leaders from the search for projects. If we have good projects, we will find leaders to connect to them."
 

Frédéric Dubessy


Thursday, December 5th 2019



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