Bridging the gap between North and Sub-Saharan Africa at Afric’Up Tunisia

Sylvana Lewin, Wednesday October 31st 2018

Recently, MEST Head of Global Operations Celine Duros traveled to Tunis, Tunisia for Afric’Up, a Tunisian initiative for the benefit of African startups. Organized by the Tunisian Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy, the event featured speakers and startups from throughout the world, with a focus on Africa.

Featuring workshops, exhibitions, and a startup competition, the two-day conference had something for everyone. Bringing together around 1000 participants, attendees included more than 300 African startups and hailed from countries across the continent. The event not only highlighted the strengths of the Tunisian startup ecosystem, but also promoted further engagement between North African and Sub-Saharan entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Duros explained,

I think what they did really well was having representation of the entire continent. One thing that they wanted to achieve with this conference was to put Tunisia on the map and show that they have a very vibrant ecosystem for such a small country. Most of the interactions are happening with Mediterranean countries, but they understand the importance of interacting with the rest of the continent. The conference did a good job of breaking the divide between North and Sub-Saharan Africa through the diversity of people in terms of background, nationality, and roles in the ecosystem. You could see the links that were happening throughout.

The team successfully facilitated dynamic conversations and shined  a light on the African entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole.

Another important topic of conversation was the recent Tunisian Startup Act. This legislation aims to encourage entrepreneurship, make it easier to start and end a business, as well as promote easier access to funding and international markets. Structured around five main themes, the act delves into defining startups, encouraging entrepreneurship, creation of an environment that allows for the formation and liquidation of companies, access to funding, and access to international markets.

Duros believes that the act could be the type of initiative that can propel more entrepreneurial ecosystems forward. She stated,

This is the type of initiative that Sub-Saharan African countries should be seeing. There is a lot here to learn from a small country that has a very vibrant ecosystem. Tunisia has done a lot to position itself as a key player. This is the type of thing we should be getting inspiration from. The government is playing a key role here, whereas other markets the government is less involved to lack of trust.

It’s important that conversations like these continue in order to propel  the growth of entrepreneurship and create cohesion across Africa.

If you’re interested in learning more about tech in Tunisia, read more here!