The world is changing, and so is diplomacy and development. Global challenges such as climate change, poverty, terrorism, and disease are often too expansive and complex to be met by any one government or group. Addressing such problems requires innovation, ingenuity and collaboration across diverse sectors.
In 2009, the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships was established at the U.S. Department of State to promote the development of public-private partnerships to leverage the best of public and private sector resources to create practical solutions for such challenges. The office, which has leveraged over $829 million in public and private resources since 2009, engages companies, start-ups, NGOs, foundations, faith-based organizations, universities, research centers and civil society groups as full partners in the process of problem solving.
In Africa, the three-year old Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations partnership, or LIONS@frica (“Lions at Africa”), mobilizes the knowledge, expertise and resources of leading public and private institutions to encourage and enhance technology and innovation by investing in capacity building for startups, providing access to capital, promoting connectivity with global markets, and raising the credibility of the startup culture.
Some 2,000 entrepreneurs have participated in LIONS@AFRICA-supported capacity-building activities. Over 80 startups were launched at DEMO Africa, a signature annual event, and raised more than $10 million in capital financing to date. In 2013, five LIONS innovators won opportunities to present their ideas at the main DEMO event in the United States’ high tech center, Silicon Valley.
Over 30 LIONS won opportunities to compete in South Africa at a global “pitch” event for leading international investors. And 80 children are participating in pilot “AfriCoderDojo” programs in Nigeria and Tanzania that provide free computer coding lessons and mentoring to young people. Many more coding clubs are planned across the continent.
As with our nation’s public-private partnership efforts in other parts of the world, LIONS@Africa leverages the financial and in-kind resources of both the public and private sectors. It brings together leading IT companies, international development organizations, technology associations, and startup accelerators and incubators across the African continent to develop flagship programs and initiatives that deliver widespread results.