How Smart Africa secured operational budget

At a time when a number of continental and regional bodies seem to be struggling with raising operational budgets, Smart Africa, the continental tech alliance seems to have figured it out.

The alliance, with its head office in Kigali and which has 24 member states and 41 corporate members, was founded in 2015.

At the moment, books of the organisation show that it has $1.5m in reserve accounts with $4.5m expected from annual contributions from member states and stakeholders to meet operational budgets.

This is in contrast with regional bodies such as the East African Community which has severally cited issues of inadequate funds to meet operational budgets owing to non-committal attitudes but some stakeholders.

To raise funds sustainably, the outgoing Executive Director of Smart Africa, Dr Hamadoun Toure told Business Timesthat when the organisation started out, they sought ways to raise funds necessary at the same time making sure that partners are committed.

Without a fee, they figured that there was not likely to be the desired commitment and seeking donations from external players solely would affect the focus of the alliance.

Toure said that on his appointment, he convinced heads of states to commit to a $50,000 annual membership fee.

“In 2017, I went to member states and told them that they were not paying anything and when people are not paying, they do not value it much. It is then that they instituted a minimum of 50,000 contribution annually which they are paying. They can also see value for their money,” he said.

He said that Smart Africa also raises money from private sector members and has a number of tiers.

“We began at zero and our leaders wanted to be sure that we were raising funds from our members. We also wanted to attract the private sector. When I started out in January 2016, I had my first platinum member only in April and they paid the membership fee in May. It is then that I had salaries for staff,” he said.

“As of today, we have $1.5m in reserve accounts. A potential of up to $4.5m annual contribution guaranteed from the private sector and governments,” Toure added.

Platinum private sector members pay about $200,000 in membership fees, Gold members pay $100,000 while silver members pay $50,000 annually. Start-ups pay $5000 annually. The organisation is set to soon institute a payment category for academia in the coming days.

This has so far enabled the organisation to raise the operational budget as well as fund initiatives such as Transform Africa Summit.

To attract the private sector to join Smart Africa and play a role, Toure said that the organisation has always invited them to invest on the continent and make profits as long as they are having the desired impact such as creating jobs, speeding up innovation, and availing much-needed solutions.

Currently, the organisation has 41 private sector partners, the Commercial International Bank, Egypt, Tata communications (Indian) and Rohde & Schwarz, a German technology firm.

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