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US government reaches out to African techies

US government reaches out to African techies.

Young people who are innovating and pursuing their entrepreneurship goals within Africa's burgeoning tech startup ecosystem are being encouraged to consider assistance from US government initiatives on the continent.

Christopher Rowan, US Consul General in Johannesburg, says uniquely African approaches and innovative solutions can leverage US programmes to go global.

"The US Department of State, as well as the US Mission here in South Africa and the Consulate here in Johannesburg support innovation Africans bring and that we know exists in bounds across the African continent. It is just a matter of finding ways to tell the story and finding ways to get the ideas out there and advice on those ideas and to show investors and the world that the narrative coming out of Africa is a positive one and that there is a tremendous amount of talent, innovation and creativity. That is important to us because those of us who live here and myself who represents the United States here, we know that sort of innovation is here. We see it everyday in US initiatives such as Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that was initiated by President Obama a few years ago where we send people from around the continent to the US for a fellowship - The Mandela Washington fellowship - and our idea there is to nurture the ideas that young people on the continent have."

Rowan says the YALI application period for 2017 is approaching and this presents a valuable opening for young African entrepreneurs, specifically in the tech sector.

"At the end of this month - tentatively September 23rd - the application period for YALI will begin and technology startups would be excellent candidates for the business and entrepreneurship track. I hope they can all have a look at it - whether they are here South Africa or the other countries. The Embassies there and the Consulates will have information about what YALI is and how to apply for it but it is an exciting programme that involves a - for most people - a six week stay in the United States...another event that the United States supports is the global entrepreneurship summit that took place in Nairobi just last summer. We are looking for ways to nurture entrepreneurship."

Rowan also highlighted the impact of the LIONS@FRICA initiative, founded by the US Department of State, Microsoft, Venture Capital for Africa, Nokia and Startup Weekend.

LIONS@FRICA was launched in 2012 during the World Economic Forum on Africa and set itself the goal of supporting 100,000 tech-focused entrepreneurs up to 2020.

"We sponsor the Lions Africa Innovation tour which is a chance to visit Silicon Valley in California for startups and innovators to improve their network, to get further advice on ideas and not least to show the investors and technocrats and techies in Silicon Valley that there are ideas that originate from all over the world including here in Africa."

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