in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
African tech startups, including those from Nigeria, will benefit from the recently launched Startup Passport initiative by Digital Cooperation Organisation (DCO), a Saudi Arabian-based organisation.
Startup Passport makes it quicker, easier and less expensive for startups to do business across borders, opening up potentially lucrative markets in Africa.
DCO launched the initiative yesterday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the venue of the maiden edition of LEAP, a technology conference and exhibition organised by the Ministry of Communications and Technology, Saudi Arabia.
During the launch, DCO Secretary-General, Deema Al-Yahya, explained that the Startup Passport would provide expedited entry and support in the markets of eight DCO countries.
Al-Yahya said the initiative would be rolled out first in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria before extending it to other African countries. The founding member nations of DCO are Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The DCO is focused on 10 areas (access to connectivity, cross-border data flows, ethical use of technology, digital identity management, data pooling and user privacy, mobility of skilled ICT labour, accelerating startups and SMEs, adoption of emerging technologies, alignment on digital taxation and cooperation on Research and Development (R&D) and innovation).
Al-Yahya said the initiative would reduce administrative and financial burdens and accelerate corporate registration and other processes for entrepreneurs.
“Through this passport, they will be able to enter the markets of other DCO member states. This will further our mission of coordinating efforts and sharing expertise to grow the digital economy for the benefit of all nations,” she said.
She explained that during LEAP 2022, the DCO also endorsed Elevate50, an initiative launched to support 50,000 small to medium-sized enterprises over the next three years to sell their products online.
The DCO secretary-general noted that the inaugural LEAP was set to become the world’s largest debut technology platform, spotlighting the entire innovation ecosystem, connecting pioneers and disruptors with business and government leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, and more experience and learn about the technologies of the future.
About 10 Nigerian startups are billed to pitch with others from other regions for the $600,000 startup support grant.
On the sideline of the event, Aramco Ventures, the venture capital arm of Saudi Aramco, announced the formal launch of its $1 billion diversified growth fund, called Prosperity7.
The fund backs exceptional entrepreneurs, across the globe, including Nigeria, to build transformative companies and solve some of the world’s toughest problems. Prosperity7 provides its portfolio companies with the funding and connections to scale and enter new markets to attain global reach.
President and CEO of Saudi Aramco, Amin Nasser, said: “Prosperity7 will connect the dots through big ideas, top talents and disruptive technologies from around the world as we look beyond the energy value chain to areas like healthcare, education and blockchain, for viable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”
With Saudi Arabia’s technology sector said to be worth more than $40 billion, the new investments announced at LEAP 2022 are part of the kingdom’s ongoing plans to transform into an innovation-based economy.
Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha said: “Investments and initiatives are manifestation of the kingdom’s push toward the growth of the digital economy for the greater good of people, the planet and the prosperity of the MENA region. They mark the next level of growth for the digital economy in Saudi Arabia, the MENA region’s largest technology and digital market.”
Alswaha said Saudi Arabia remained the regional leader for technology talent, creating over 318,000 jobs in the technology sector in the kingdom and encouraging participation of women in the ICT workforce that has jumped to 28 per cent in recent years.