The next BIG idea is timbuktoo – sentiments from the Africa CEO forum

June 6, 2024

timbuktoo and UNDP recently participated in the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, where they engaged Africa's business leaders on driving innovation and investing in the ideas of Africa's youth to spark a startup revolution across the continent. With over 2,000 participants gathered, the forum was a dynamic convergence of thought leaders, business executives, and decision-makers, all focused on shaping Africa’s economic future.

The forum's theme resonated deeply: "Is Africa on the table or the menu?" For Ahunna Eziakonwa, the Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Director of the Bureau for Africa, the answer was clear – “Africa will no longer be consumed by others but will take its rightful seat, shaping its own destiny through the boundless potential of its youth.” Africa's greatest potential lies in its people, innovative products, and dynamic platforms. These are the consistent strengths we must showcase," she added.

Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Director of the Bureau for Africa, Ahunna Eziakonwa giving remarks during the timbuktoo fireside chat at the Africa CEO Forum

In a fireside chat on investments, infrastructure and reform, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the former Vice President of Nigeria, also the Guardian of timbuktoo said - “We need a vibrant ecosystem that can finance innovation on the continent. It's time to identify Africa's own rhythm. timbuktoo is providing the solutions to do just that.”

H.E Paula Ingabire, Rwanda's Minister of ICT and Innovation praised the initiative -“timbuktoo is the next big idea. It isn't just another project but one that integrates youth into Africa's economic transformation. It is the fuel for Africa's startup engine, providing funding, ecosystem building, and partnerships to empower the continent's innovative minds.”

With over 60% of Africa's population under 25, the continent holds a demographic goldmine. Investing in Africa’s youth is a strategic necessity for unlocking the continent’s vast potential. The energy, creativity, and resilience of young Africans are crucial for fostering innovation, driving sustainable development, and building a prosperous future.

Realizing this potential requires a concerted effort and collaboration across all sectors of society. Governments, private sector leaders, development organizations, and civil society must join forces to create an enabling environment for young people to thrive. 

Cross section of panelists during the timbuktoo fireside chat at the Africa CEO Forum

During the forum, timbuktoo and UNDP held bilateral meetings with key stakeholders to discuss the importance of investing in young innovators. These meetings emphasized the need for collaborative efforts to provide resources, mentorship, and platforms for Africa’s youth to develop their ideas into sustainable businesses. Some of the meetings held were with officials from SwedFund, East Africa Development Bank, VISA, Orange, Proparco, Ecobank and Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank among many others with policy makers and potential partners.

In one of the meetings, Nathalie Jabangwe, Executive Secretary at timbuktoo noted - “timbuktoo is not just about economic growth. We’re building an ecosystem of high-quality startups to respod to Africa’s development challenges and to maximise efforts through existing financing infrastructure.”

But the excitement didn't end with the forum. timbuktoo and UNDP hosted a high-level breakfast bringing together business leaders, policymakers, and development partners to leverage partnerships and collaborations aimed at fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among Africa’s youth. The discussions were focused on creating an ecosystem that supports young entrepreneurs and ensures that their ideas can thrive and contribute to the continent's development.

“If you’re not banking on Africa, then you are not planning for the next generation. With the structure of #timbuktoo, the promise for our youth is huge.” said Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary General and Executive Director for UN Global Compact. Mary Kamari from Trade and Developmnet Bank also noted - “As a banker, I see anything that creates impact as a solution. #timbuktoo's objective aligns with this vision, aiming to create jobs and employment. Investing and projects that support innovation is key for scaling into the impact space.” 

This was no ordinary gathering but a symphony of innovation, where Africa's rhythm would finally be heard and amplified on the global stage. As the meeting drew to a close, one thing was clear: Africa's innovation beat had found its conductor in timbuktoo. The rhythms of change were loud, and a new era of African ingenuity was poised to take the world by storm.

Together, we can build a brighter, more prosperous future for Africa and the world. Join us in empowering the next generation of African innovators today.