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Billion-Dollar Initiative to Boost Innovation: Launch of Timbuktu Technology Centers in Africa with Support from the UN and African Governments

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with African governments and private sector partners, is establishing a $1 billion fund designated for the creation of a series of technology centers across the African continent. This initiative aims to stimulate innovation in emerging tech enterprises.

The first of these centers, which is part of “the world’s largest initiative to support tech startups in Africa,” is scheduled to open this week at the UNDP’s innovation center in Lagos, Nigeria.

Ahuna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP’s Africa office, confirmed that the launch of these centers represents a “major milestone in the journey to revolutionize the startup ecosystem across the continent.”

Looking ahead, other technological centers slated for launch in 2024 include a health technology center in Kigali, Rwanda, an agricultural technology center in Accra, Ghana, and a mining technology center in Lusaka, Zambia.

The project, which includes centers valued at $1 billion, will support over 10,000 technology startups and enterprises led by the youth across various economic sectors in Africa. Given that Africa is the fastest-growing continent in terms of population and has the largest youth demographic in the world, these skilled young technologists increasingly use their mobile phones to bridge service gaps, creating significant economic opportunities in sectors such as finance, agriculture, and healthcare.

These investments in technology are crucial, especially after a 31% decline in investment flows last year, which fell to $4.5 billion due to economic challenges such as high inflation and weak local currencies.

The UNDP also announced that these centers will be named “Timbuktu,” in honor of the Malian city once known as a globally renowned trade power. Additionally, university innovation units have been launched in 13 African cities, serving as centers for research and development, providing space for young innovators to transform their ideas into viable and profitable commercial products.

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