The 6th Policy Lab, held on 26th October, organised within the framework of THE NEXT SOCIETY Project, was a unique occasion to learn how Algeria is putting in place policies to boost its innovation ecosystem. In fact, the Algerian Minister for Knowledge Economy and Start-ups is enacting different programs in support of entrepreneurship and tech businesses, such as Algeria Venture, the Algerian Start-up Fund (AFS), Finlabs in collaboration with the Algerian Stock Exchange and COSOB, the Algerian Commission for the organization and supervision of stock market operations. During the round table discussion and the Q&A session, attendants had the occasion to know more about these initiatives and their impact on small businesses and innovators. The best practice was introduced by Giovanni Zazzerini, INSME Secretary General, and the expert panel featured:
- Abdelhakim Berrah, President, COSOB
- Benaissa Fardjellah, Co-Founder, Opticharge
- Noureddine Ouadah, Start-ups & Incubators Director, Ministry of Start-ups
- SidAli Zerrouki, CEO, Algeria-Venture Accelerator
- Yazid Benmouhoub, General Manager, Bourse d’Alger
SidAli Zerrouki, CEO of Algeria-Venture Accelerator, described the project’s development, starting with the release of a clear and complete legal framework for start-ups, continuing explaining the main challenges ahead in relation to the peculiarities of the Algerian countries and region specialisations (agritech, fintech, greentech etc.). The overall objective of Algeria Venture is to create an end-to-end service for startuppers, functioning as a catalyser for their development and growth. Mr. Ouadah, Director of Start-ups & Incubators at the Ministry of Start-ups, shared the main features of the Algerian Start-up Fund, launched during the National Conference of Start-ups “Algeria Disrupt 2020” and which raised $7.2 million to fund start-ups. The fund is aimed at founders who are willing to create their company, which can apply online through this portal in order to register their start-up, ask for the “Start-up Label”. As of October 2021, 63% of applicants obtained the “start-up label”: many of these new enterprises were funded by freelancers or informal entrepreneurs, which took this occasion to make their businesses formal. After the label has been, the new entrepreneurs can join the services of incubation and acceleration offered by Algeria Venture, start benefiting from the fund (in the form of equity and quasi-equity), ask for a 5-year tax exemption. The Algerian institutions are aware of the global issue of lack of financing for SMEs, and the Algerian Stock Exchange is addressing this issue and trying to support businesses to exit from the financial and Covid-19 crisis by creating a strong innovation ecosystem: as explained by the CEO of Bourse d’Alger, Mr. Benmouhoub, the Algerian stock exchange will be ready to welcome the start-ups exiting from the ASF in an ad-hoc compartment called “Excellence Market”, in order to help them to grow even more and become the future Unicorns from Algeria.
The Policy Labs are intended to gather around the table different stakeholders sharing their point of view, during the webinar, Mr. Fardjellah, startupper and beneficiary of the ASF briefly presented his start-up, Opticharge, and reported his successful experience with ASF, and Karim Brouri, co-founder and CEO of Brenco stressed that itis crucial for Algerian entrepreneurs to have more space, to be trusted and to have a voice in the policymaking process: this can be done by building bridges among stakeholders, taking into account the need of startuppers and the peculiarities of the different Algerian regions, simplify the procedures for start-ups and create start-up-centric policies leveraging on the exchange of best practices with European countries. An interesting point raised by the entrepreneur and deepened by the panellists is the lack of specialised human resources since it is not easy to find trained people especially for high-tech sectors: the successful engagement of youngsters in the labour market and society is crucial not only for their own personal well-being and economic prospects but also for inclusive economic growth and social cohesion, especially after the severe shock caused by Covid-19. For this reason, Algeria Disrupt is investing to offer training courses and technology transfer activities to entrepreneurs and young professionals; CEO of Algerian Stock Exchange also addressed an interesting point, related to the role big companies can play in enhancing the innovation ecosystem through systematic partnering with start-ups and SMEs, to develop together services and solutions, through corporate venturing, open innovation, and acceleration programs. In this sense, COSOB has recently launched, together with the Minister of Knowledge Economy and Start-up, the Bank of Algeria, the Union algérienne des sociétés d’assurance et de réassurance (UAR) the finance laboratory “Algeria FinLab”, dedicated to the development of technological innovation in the financial market. FinLab aims to create an ecosystem of FinTech start-ups to develop their solutions modernising banking and insurance services while moving towards financial inclusion, as highlighted by COSOB President, Mr. Berrah.
The interesting roundtable discussion, animated by the comments and questions from attendants, was a great experience to understand how Algeria, the largest African country, is embracing the 5th industrial revolution: through Algerian Disrupt and all the related initiatives, it seems the country, through the Minister of Start-ups, is determined to become a pillar for EMEA entrepreneurs, providing them with a 360° framework for start-ups and small businesses.
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