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AU Commission unveils 150 African youth start-ups to attend IATF 2021 in Durban

The African Union Commission and African Electronic (AeTrade) Group have unveiled a list of 150 youth startups selected to participate in the forthcoming African Union Youth Start-Up Pavilion, taking place as part of the 2021 Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF 2021), holding from 15th to 21st November 2021, in Durban, South Africa.



By Adam Alqali

IATF 2021 is a continuation of the first-ever Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) held from 11th to 17th December 2018 in Cairo, Egypt, which attracted over 1,000 exhibitors and over 300 speakers from more than 45 countries, during which US$32 billion trade and investment deals were signed.

According to a press release by the AU Commission, start-ups were critical partners for achieving economic growth and structural transformation hence the decision of the Commission and AeTrade to host the inaugural edition of the AU Youth Start-Up Pavilion which will bring together youth start-ups from across the continent and the diaspora, to participate and co-exhibit their products and services within the Pavilion.

The successful 150 youth startups were selected out of about 5000 startups from across the continent and diaspora who submitted digital applications for the Continental Competition for Youth Start-Up launched jointly by the AU Commission and AeTrade on the 7th of July 2020 – as part of activities commemorating Africa Integration Day 2020. Among others, the competition targets innovative ideas aimed at addressing Africa’s value chain challenges.

It would be recalled that African leaders had during the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 2017 declared the period 2018-2027 as the African Decade for Technical, Professional, Entrepreneurial Training and Youth Employment. Consequently, AU Member States had committed to mentoring and incubating youth-led businesses involved in value addition across agriculture and exploitation of natural resources, as well as promoting entrepreneurship education and supporting skills acquired through non-formal and informal education.

Despite the emergence of several ingenious African innovations focused on addressing Africa-specific and global challenges, there is a prevailing gap in the area of research to back up the emerging innovations and young innovators; lack of expertise to promote knowledge transfer; funding deficit to upscale innovative ideas into full-fledged commercialized products and services; as well as low-level synergy among core components of Africa’s innovation ecosystem.

Against this backdrop, the AU Commission and AeTrade believe the Pavilion would open up new business opportunities for each of the participating startups so as to positively impact Africa’s productive transformation in the coming decades. Accordingly, selection process for the Pavillion was gender compliant as well as ensuring sectoral diversity with a focus on emerging sectors. In addition to the selected 150 youth start-ups, other partners involved in hosting the Pavilion would also be inviting more African youth start-ups to participate in IATF 2021.

IATF 2021 offers a unique platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of over US$2.5 trillion already created under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). By facilitating partnerships and collaborations between key players in the private and public sectors,  IATF provides a platform for boosting inter- and intra- African trade, thereby bringing into reality the single, liberalized continental market of over 1.2  billion people envisioned by the AfCFTA.


Please see here a complete list of the 150 selected youth start-ups attending the forthcoming African Union Youth Start-Up Pavilion at IATF 2021 in Durban, South Africa

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