Nairobi, 9 December 2020—URBUNX Initiative launched by UN-Habitat one year ago, lived up to its billing by making a timely boost to African startups during the COVID-19 by bridging financial support to innovative business solutions, enriching the continent’s cities and creating better urban livelihoods.
URBUNX is an entrepreneurship initiative, backed by a comprehensive training programme for youth entrepreneurs and a fundraising mechanism to connect African startups with investment. The program received funding from the World Bank as well as extensive support from international institutions and ecosystem enterprises such as Antler, XNode and China Accelerator.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, URBUNX launched an online open call to African youth entrepreneurs (aged from 18-35) in June, attracting more than 600 startups from 18 African countries to submit applications. Thereafter, the team of URBUNX filtered the best and selected 12 young entrepreneurs, who were considered strong founders with convincing business models and profound social impact. These young talented founders were able to participate and receive one month of acceleration training from a global team of mentors brought together by URBUNX. On 19 November 2020, the first cohort of URBUNX successfully showcased on Demo Day to more than 135 potential investors and ecosystem partners in attendance.
“This is one of the best structured startup programs I have been through. The quality of all the mentors and the content is really world class”, said Matthieu de Gaudemar, the Co-founder and CEO of Kudoti—a digital waste management company deploying software to increase efficiency in African waste and recycling industry. URBUNX basecamp became an instrument for these youth entrepreneurs like Matthieu who were eager to improve their financing strategies and to integrate funding opportunities. Through the basecamp, the startup founders expressed positive commentary on individual experiences and learnings gathered through the program. Since the Demo Day, the first startup cohort cumulatively raised a total US $3.3 million capital and generated revenues of US $201,000 during the program.
“I feel very happy to have been selected to join the initial cohort and would recommend the program to my fellow African founders'', said Roy Njoka, Co-founder of Digiduka, a digital payment service company providing digital financial services and networking websites to informal retailers who are underrepresented in Africa. Roy’s words prove that the impact of URBUNX is not only limited to the first cohort. The program is building up African startup ecosystem through enabling a local talent pool for startup employment opportunities for urban youth and also creating a solid network of youth entrepreneurs to allocate useful resources in a more efficient way to support each other’s growth.
While COVID-19 literally brought the world to a halt, disrupting and paralysing urban economies in numerous ways, sustainable urban business provides the opportunity for cities to build back better in the long term and build up resilience against future pandemics.