Africa and Provence united around innovation and economic growth

Africa and Provence united around innovation and economic growth
09 December 2021 / doing business in provence, Grow your business, invest in provence

Aix-Marseille-Provence entrepreneurial connections

Youth, creativity and enthusiasm are three common points that unite Provence and Africa today. Talents meet and collaborate on both sides of the Mediterranean, breathing new life into economic relations. A new generation of African entrepreneurs is setting up in the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolis. A network of partners has been built over the years to support these talents. Six entrepreneurs recently chose to settle in the area with the help of Provence Promotion. Their objective is to continue growing in Africa and to conquer new European markets from a base in Provence.

In five years, 17% of companies formed in Africa that expanded to France have chosen Bouches-du-Rhône. It's a naturally appealing choice due to geographic proximity and shared values, driven by communities and local actors.

A true consular and diplomatic stronghold promoting European-African cooperation, Aix-Marseille is now host to several initiatives that stimulate partnerships between Provence and Africa.

Emerging Valley, the Africa-Europe tech leaders summit that has been held in the region for four years, is a great illustration of this. More than 200 start-ups, 72 speakers and 2,300 participants from 50 different countries will take part in the 2021 edition, of which Provence Promotion is a partner, to discuss ideas with major societal impacts, such as climate, sustainability, the sharing economy and environmental protection.

The region continues to deepen its relations with the African community of entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to innovation. Provence Promotion works with a network of incubators and accelerators (Arbois Technology Park, Accélérateur M, Marseille Innovation, ZEBOX, Obratori, etc.), backed by African accelerators such as Connect'Innov, a support agency recently created in Tunisia that is 100% devoted to HealthTech. Provence Promotion took part in the last trade mission to Morocco organized by RisingSUD in October 2021, alongside the Aix-Marseille-Provence Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), which has long cultivated relations with that country.

African start-ups and SMEs orchestrating their growth from Provence

Six start-ups from Benin, Tunisia, Congo, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria recently cemented their activities in the region with the help of Provence Promotion in sectors such as digital, logistics, health and lifestyle.

"I considered Nantes, Rouen and Le Havre but chose Marseille to be close to my markets and develop links between sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb and Europe," explains Driss Jabar, founder and CEO of CloudFret, a digital platform incubated at ZEBOX that connects shippers and freight carriers. The links with Africa offered by the Port of Marseille-Fos and Marseille Provence airport are springboards for exchanges between the two shores.

Mahmoud Belghith is the founder of the Tunisian start-up Smartbox Industry Marseille, which specializes in construction from recycled maritime containers and enjoyed support from the M accelerator. He views Marseille as a strategic location to coordinate all of his business activities in France and Africa. "With the port, we have a huge logistics advantage. We can also grow the company in an environment where it will be easy to recruit employees and forge partnerships," explains the entrepreneur who raised €100,000 in June 2021 on the WE DO GOOD platform.

Some of the other start-ups that have set up in the region include:

  • Goubba, a highly successful platform for aggregating coupons and promo codes in Algeria that aims to conquer French users;
  • Upmyco, a business consulting company created by a French entrepreneur returning from Benin;
  • Katomi, which has implemented a cloud-based solution for storing medical data that is intuitive and secure;
  • Ingenio, a Congolese telecom company founded by a Lebanese entrepreneur who decided to settle in Marseille to open an international decision-making center, along with a purchasing center and a talent unit.

Positive spillover effects for African talents

With its wide access to the Mediterranean, each year Aix-Marseille-Provence welcomes nearly 5,000 students from Africa to study at Aix-Marseille University, AFD, IRD, AVITEM, Grand Port Maritime de Marseille and the Aix-Marseille-Provence CCI schools.

The chamber was also behind the creation four years ago of Africalink, an entrepreneurial community that includes 167 companies, 35% of which are African SMBs. Building on the momentum it created, an outpost in Africa, Afric'Agora, is in the works.

Competitions such as Med'Innovant Africa run by EPA Euroméditerranée and programs like the ones from Anima Investment Network and the Social and Inclusive Business Camp run by Agence Française de Développement highlight projects that successfully unite Africa and Provence. At the Emerging Valley event, the "Provence Africa Connect" contest will recognize an entrepreneur from Aix-Marseille who is making important contributions to strengthening economic partnerships and links with Africa. The recipient will be announced on December 14, 2021, at the Palais du Pharo.