By Metohuey Adoglo
Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is experiencing a remarkable surge, fueled by a wave of innovation and boundless creativity. Yet, in the midst of this exciting growth, significant gaps remain that hinder the progress of startups and aspiring entrepreneurs.
However, Africa is not sitting idly by. The continent is actively inventing solutions to overcome these challenges and foster entrepreneurial development. One shining example leading this conversation is the Afkar incubation hub in North Africa. This dynamic institute has emerged as a trailblazer, passionately working towards bridging these gaps and empowering aspiring entrepreneurs. By offering a nurturing environment, access to resources, and expert mentorship, Afkar is paving the way for a new era of success and innovation. With Afkar and other visionary institutions leading the charge Africa is poised to witness a remarkable transformation in its entrepreneurial landscape.
For this edition of Dreams Talks, we will be discussing the development of implementable solutions, also the level of discourse it takes to cultivate the next generation of decision-makers in Africa.
For that we have Mayssa Mrabet the Chief Incubation Officer of Afkar incubator in Tunisia.
Afkar gathers key stakeholders around a defined problem to develop implementable solutions, and make joint commitments for attending stakeholders to act within their spheres of influence. Afkar also works to raise the level of discourse and cultivate the next generation of decision-makers through public discussions, videos series, and fellowship programs.
Dreams Talks: As the CHIEF INCUBATION OFFICER of Afkar what specific resources and support does your tech incubator provide to startups?
Mayssa Mrabet: Afkar’s mission is to catalyze social, cultural and creative innovation by supporting entrepreneurs to develop their projects. The incubator supports innovators from the ideation stage to the launch stage thanks to programs focused on the acquisition of entrepreneurial soft and technical skills.
The Afkar incubation investment readiness program is based on collective support with workshops, training and on personalized individual support thanks to a multidisciplinary team. Collective support is based on a large network of partners and experts to coach incubees on their value propositions, the validation of their business model and business strategy, they work on their branding and communication strategies, their financial planning and their go to market strategies.
The incubation program allows them in 6 months to be ready to raise funds from accelerators and investment funds of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tunisia and abroad.
We offer our Incubees also access to a large range of perks, free coworking spaces for 6 months, unlimited Google Drive Storage, Creative in residence for their first branding elements and a full production team to produce promotional videos. But also special reductions with Big Corporates.
Since 2019, Afkar supported 287 projects and 500 fellows through 3 sector agnostic programs: A local hybrid Incubation program for Innovators living in Tunisia. Afkar Diaspora For Development Incubation program for Innovators living in Europe. Afkar Mubadirat, Female Incubation program in Tunisian rural regions.
Dreams Talks: What is the selection criteria for startups to join your incubator program?
Mayssa Mrabet: Entrepreneur is key, how is the attitude of the entrepreneur ? Will he or she be coachable? Can he or she bring sth special to the dynamic of the cohort?
Is there a team? Do they have the background/experience/Network needed to succeed in their project? Did they start validating the market? What’s their traction so far? Do they have the needed partners or secured the support of different stakeholders?
Are they agile? Possibly ready to pivot when needed? But of course, we take into account the quality of the submission, the innovation of the project idea and its feasibility.
Dreams Talks: Can you share success stories of startups that have gone through your incubation program?
Mayssa Mrabet: Soul & Planet, one of Afkar’s firsts alumni, started as a marketplace that brings together various food and care products to help people maintain their health while preserving the planet.
Soul & Planet is evolving to one of the most impactful Green initiative in Tunisia by offering Corporates to: Reduce their Carbon Footprint by adopting responsible purchasing processes.
Tackle deforestation by planting trees
In only 3 months 1600 trees were planted and Soul & Planet signed a partnership agreement with the Ministries of Agriculture and the Environment Kumulus, design, manufacture, and operate machines that create drinking water using solar power and the humidity in the air. Kumulus is partnering with large corporations to install machines in elementary schools in rural regions in an arid zone with real problems of access to a source of drinking water.
Kumulus was selected as one of the 15 most promising Climate tech start ups in Africa by Viva Tech last year. Kumulus raised its first Million end of last year and they are getting ready for their next round to scale abroad, especially in Africa.
Dreams Talks: How has the Afkar talks program influenced positive change in Tunisia ?
Mayssa Mrabet: Afkar Talks is an inspirational media for young people. We invite Tunisian entrepreneurs and success stories to share their journeys, successes but also failures and above all the lessons they have been able to learn from them.
It is a platform that was designed for the Afkar community at the beginning but that we made it open up to the entire Tunisian ecosystem when we had to go Online during Covid. We aspire to empower a new generation of changemakers to innovate and develop a positive impact in Tunisia.
Dreams Talks: What are the Challenges Facing “Afkar” and EcoSystem Building in Tunisia and how is Afkar solving these problems, inturn creating a format that younger hubs can follow on as an example Legacy
Mayssa Mrabet: Our next challenge is to help Tunisian Startups and SMEs scale and grow abroad by accessing new funding and access to market opportunities. It is vital to the 727 Startups who started their journey these last 4 years and got their StartupAct Label.
During these last years, we also started incubating new innovation hubs with a special capacity building program to support them from the design, structure of their value proposition to their first fundraising.
DreamsTalks: 20 years from now what do you expect “Afkar” to mean to the next generation of African innovators ?
Mayssa Mrabet: Afkar has been actively empowering hundreds of change-makers since 2010. Our approach was built to detect the under-addressed gaps of the entrepreneurial scene as well as taking the lead in tacklingthem.We hope that Afkar will continue to take part into solving the next challenges that will be facing the country but also participate actively in the development of the African continent. We already started that by helping innovation hubs across Africa digitize their processes with our platform Njano. Today used by 50 innovation hubs across the continent.
Dreams Talks Conclusion.
Through a collective effort to bridge the gaps and support budding entrepreneurs, Africa is paving the way for a prosperous future built on innovation, resilience, and sustainable business ventures.