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UK partners with African countries to boost innovation

UK government has launched partnerships in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria to help startups grow and boost technology innovation in the region

Prime minister Theresa May announced a series of innovation partnerships across several African countries during her trip to the continent.

The UK government’s partnerships in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are aimed at helping startups grow and boost technology innovation in the region. 

The countries the UK has chosen to partner all have rapidly growing tech sectors with huge potential, and the government sees it as an “untapped market” where UK entrepreneurs can work and collaborate with African entrepreneurs.

Digital secretary Jeremy Wright said the partnerships will “not only help countries turbocharge their development, but they will also promote the UK as the place to start and grow a digital business”.  

He added: “Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya’s technology sectors are growing rapidly and generating a significant part of their economic output. This means huge opportunities for UK businesses and for future partnerships. 

“New ideas, game-changing research and cutting-edge science are good news for our African partners and good news for the UK’s world-leading scientists, technologists and researchers who are representing the country on a global stage.” 

Under the partnership deals, dedicated UK science, technology and innovation teams will build new and existing relationships with South Africa and Kenya through shared investments in high-end research programmes, and having regional tech experts in Kenya and Nigeria will build links between the UK and Africa’s digital sectors, help to grow startups and create jobs. 

The tech experts will form part of a network of international tech hubs, including Israel, South Africa, India and Brazil, which is being financed by the UK Prosperity Fund.  

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The initiative will also see digital skills training and entrepreneur programmes such as TeXchange and Coders being rolled out in the region, and a £32m Department for International Development programme that aims to accelerate the growth of “promising technologies” through early-stage investment, private finance and connections.   

The accelerator programme wil focus on technologies and innovation supporting the most marginalised people in society, such as those with disabilities, and will also ensure female entrepreneurs get support. 

Julian David, CEO of TechUK, said technology is contributing to the rapidly growing African economy and that the innovation partnerships show the UK recognises the opportunities in the region. 

“This will allow the UK tech community to engage with high-growth markets internationally, and in turn provide an important corridor for international communities to engage with our burgeoning UK tech sector,” he said.

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