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Finnish Government to Fund African Tech Start-ups, Zambian Company Among Recipients

The Finnish government has raised €8.7m (USD$10.4m) to fund technology start-ups in Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania through the second phase of its Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) Programme.

The funds will be allocated to companies from these countries until June 2021.

The Nordic country wanted to invest in start-ups in Africa, which it says offers large, young markets that can sustain mobile phone applications, cyber-security services and health technology, said Juhana Tuunanen of the Finnish ministry of foreign affairs.

Various companies from these countries attended the Slush technology conference, which was held in Helsinki, Finland, in December.

Slush is a non-profit organisation. The largest technology start-up conference in Europe was attended by nearly 20,000 people over two days.

Over the past few years its Asian attendees have been its fastest growing group but there has been growing interest from African start-ups that have attended and/or exhibited, according to Miki Kuusi, one of the co-founders of Slush.

African companies at Slush included Hackers Guild, a Zambian software coding school, as well as Manketti, a forestry consulting group that operates in Finland, Denmark, Zimbabwe and SA.

SAIS believed that many start-ups in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) were positioned to operate together.

"Innovation is increasingly recognised as a key factor for sustainable development in Southern Africa," the Finnish foreign ministry said.

It said that although efforts at building public policies and resilient innovation systems were ongoing, they were often hampered by “modest funding, weak skills and lack of co-ordination and linkages between innovation agents".

The Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) program was initiated in 2011 to strength innovation cooperation in the SADC region.

The second phase (2017-2021) emphasizes youth entrepreneurship, inclusive innovation, and data-driven management of innovation. The partner countries include Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia as well as the secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Established by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Finland together with the governments of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia as well as the SADC Secretariat, SAIS envisions southern Africa as a home of networked communities and test-beds for home-grown innovations driven by young entrepreneurs.

SAIS believed that many start-ups in Southern African Development Community countries were positioned to operate together.

"Innovation is increasingly recognised as a key factor for sustainable development in Southern Africa," the Finnish foreign ministry said.

SAIS was initiated in 2011 to tackle these challenges and to enhance innovation co-operation in the Southern African Development Community region, said the ministry.