WSIS Prizes Contest 2019 Nominee

XL Africa & L'Afrique Excelle


XL Africa was a pan-African startup acceleration program that provided critical support to 20 high-growth companies seeking to raise Series A financing defined as $250,000 to $1.5 M, considered the “Valley of Death” for African startups. Over a 5 month period, the 20 startups received intensive coaching and mentoring from local and international mentors, paired with an online curriculum called XL Academy. The program culminated in a two week residency in Cape Town, South Africa that included pitching at several major investor events. A majority of these companies are for-profit social enterprises and were courted by numerous investors during the Cape Town residency. In the year since the program concluded, half of the XL Africa cohort has raised a cumulative $18 M in Series A financing.

Lessons from this overall engagement provide WBG project teams important leverage to engage in a few critical corporate mandates, including: (i) the WBG President’s support for use of disruptive/exponential technologies for development; (ii) the Africa Vice President’s interest in “taking Africa digital”; (iii) the Africa Vice President’s interest in promoting growth entrepreneurship, (iv) the WBG’s new Digital Economy for Africa initiative, and (v) the WBG’s jobs and social inclusion agenda.

Project website


Action lines related to this project
  • AL C1. The role of governments and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development 2019
  • AL C3. Access to information and knowledge
  • AL C4. Capacity building
  • AL C6. Enabling environment
  • AL C7. E-learning
  • AL C7. E-health
  • AL C7. E-employment
  • AL C7. E-agriculture
  • AL C8. Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content
  • AL C11. International and regional cooperation
Sustainable development goals related to this project
  • Goal 4: Quality education
  • Goal 5: Gender equality
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
  • Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • Goal 10: Reduced inequalities
  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

  • Angola
  • Burundi
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Botswana
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad (Republic of)
  • Cameroon
  • Comoros
  • Cape Verde (Republic of)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia (Republic of the)
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Mauritius
  • Mali
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Congo
  • Rwanda
  • South Africa
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somali (Democratic Republic)
  • South Sudan
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Sudan
  • Kingdom of Eswatini
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • United Republic of Tanzania
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe



Start date

April 2017

End date

October 2017

Target beneficiary group(s)
  • Youth
  • Women
  • Digital Startups (Technology SMEs)


Following the solid results demonstrated by the pilot, the XL Africa program is currently being rolled out in Francophone Africa, branded as L’Afrique Excelle. Amongst other early implementation lessons, the XL Africa pilot revealed that support to Francophone African entrepreneurs lag in comparison to their Anglophone peers. Within the XL Africa cohort, only one company, CoinAfrique, was sourced from a Francophone country. Additionally, CoinAfrique’s Series A investment of €2.5M represents a significant development for Francophone African digital entrepreneurs. L’Afrique Excelle intends to bridge this gap by providing support to developing the nascent digital entrepreneurship ecosystem in Francophone Africa as well as unlocking sources of startup capital for seed and early-stage entrepreneurs. This project intends to leverage internal and external partners involved in the XL Africa pilot, including the IFC, and members from the XL Africa implementation team.

WSIS values promotion

This project supported growth-oriented digital entrepreneurs, many of whom are leveraging ICT technologies to further economic empowerment or provide much needed services in their local communities. A "soft" program selection criteria included identifying women-led companies, such as Jamii and Sendy. For example, Lynk is an online platform for informal Kenyan workers to source additional employment opportunities, Rensource provides low-cost energy solutions to SMEs and households in Nigeria, and Jamii offers low-cost health insurance in Tanzania and with support from telcos, will be scaling to other East African countries.

Entity name

World Bank Group (WBG)

Entity country—type

United States of America International Organization

Entity website


NORAD (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation), FORMIN (Ministry for Foreign Affairs Finland), SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), AICS (Italian Agency for Development Cooperation), and the Department of Science & Technology for South Africa (DST)