Africa does offers large, young markets that can sustain mobile phone applications, cybersecurity services and health technology.

The government of Finland has raised €8.7m to fund technology start-ups in SA, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia through the Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) programme. Startups and companies will have access to these funds through SAIS until 2021.

Probably some of you may be wondering what SAIS is all about. Well, the Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) programme is a development initiative that supports the growth of new businesses through strengthened local innovation ecosystems and cross-border cooperation. Since 2011, SAIS has provided capacity-building and funding for networking and knowledge-sharing and supported projects piloting new mechanisms for enhanced innovation and enterprise development in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Juhana Tuunanen of the Finnish ministry of foreign affairs said that he believes Africa’s young population can sustain mobile phone applications, cybersecurity services and health technology.

“Innovation is increasingly recognised as a key factor for sustainable development in Southern Africa.”

Many of these companies attended Slush, one of the world’s biggest startup event held in Helsinki, Finland. Of the African companies that attended include Zambian coding school Hackers Guild and Manketti, a forestry consulting group that operates in Finland, Denmark, Zimbabwe and SA.

“SAIS’ focus is on practical innovation activities operationalized through innovation grants and capacity building. These are provided to projects aiming to demonstrate, pilot and replicate new and/or improved products, services, and processes to the market.” – SAIS

The Southern Africa Innovation Support​ Programme (SAIS)

The Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) programme was initiated in 2011 to strength innovation cooperation in the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) region. In the first four years (2011-2015), the programme stimulated regional policy-making, provided training, created networks, and funded new projects for piloting new models for innovation support.

The second phase (2017-2021) emphasizes youth entrepreneurship, inclusive innovation, and data-driven management of innovation. The partner countries include Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia as well as the secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Established by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Finland together with the governments of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia as well as the SADC Secretariat, SAIS envisions southern Africa as a home of networked communities and test-beds for home-grown innovations driven by young entrepreneurs.