Senegal becomes 2nd African nation to pass Startup Act

Senegal has become the second African country after Tunisia to pass a dedicated Startup Act after 90 per cent of parliamentarians voted in favour last week.

Disrupt Africa reported in August 2018 more than 60 key players in the Senegalese innovation ecosystem came together to draft a startup act at the i4policy hackathon in Dakar.

President Macky Sall’s Council of Ministers considered and adopted the bill last month, and it has now been approved by the National Assembly.

The Senegal Startup Act – bill number 17/2019 – aims to promote innovation that can have a ripple effect on the national economy in accordance with “Digital Senegal 2025” strategy. It contains a number of frameworks that aim to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.

Specifically, the law creates a specific support and governance framework for startups, as well as a suitable legal regime for the registration and labelling of Senegalese startups. It also creates a resource centre dedicated to startups, and a package of incentive measures.

Senegal is the second country on the continent after Tunisia to pass such an act, with the country establishing itself as a leader when it comes to government support of the startup space. The Délégation de l’Entrepreneuriat Rapide (DER), formed with the goal of helping innovative local tech startups overcome constraints such as the lack of strong early support structures, accelerators, and access to early-stage funding, has invested more than US$2 million in more than 40 Senegalese startups.

The first specific startup law globally was passed in Italy in 2012, and Africa is increasingly catching on. A host of countries, with Mali also at an advanced stage, are working towards Startup Acts, with Jon Stever, co-founder and managing director of Impact Hub Kigali and catalyst at i4Policy, saying at least 10 African ecosystems are working on putting such laws together.

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“I think that in a few years the question will be, “how many countries don’t have Startup Acts?”,” Stever said.

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