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Saint-Gobain and AfricArena partner to launch an open innovation challenge for African tech startups

Saint-Gobain and AfricArena join forces to empower early-stage tech solutions in ecommerce and fintech in Africa

Saint-Gobain places open innovation at the heart of its strategy. That is why this year the Group is joining forces with AfricArena - a African tech ecosystem accelerator and dealflow platform - to launch an open innovation challenge, targeted at ecommerce and/or fintech startups operating in Africa, specifically in Egypt, Kenya and South Africa. This innovation project has come at a time where digital commerce has accelerated in the continent faster than ever before. More and more businesses have adopted a digital approach to commerce and transacting online, allowing easier and broader access to markets.

For over 350 years Saint-Gobain has been designing materials and solutions that have a tangible positive impact on people’s lives. Being present in 18 countries in Africa, the Group works with local partners to imagine solutions which enhance an individual’s quality of life, and address the social, societal and environmental challenges. Research and Innovation are at the heart of Saint-Gobain’s strategy, and in line with this, the Group supports the development of Africa, by providing solutions tailored to local needs.

Saint-Gobain and AfricArena have previously partnered in numerous open innovation challenges since 2018. These challenges have seeked tech solutions ranging from analysis tools to predict climate changes, to digital platforms to enhance the skills of workers.

FinTech has recently dominated the startup space in Africa, fueling demand led innovation which aligns with the ethos of Saint-Gobain. This is why the Group sees fit to once again partner with AfricArena to bring an open innovation challenge targeted at startups using ecommerce and fintech solutions. The Challenge is supported by NOVA, the external ventures arm of Saint-Gobain.

The Challenge seeks a product-market-fit solution already in place that serves as a:

Marketplace, payment platform, community layby or savings (stokvels, tontine or equivalent) that enables consumers, particularly in informal markets, to tokenize vouchers redeemable in Saint-Gobain products at various DIY retailers.

Startups operating in any of the above verticals must be based in any of these markets: Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa. The startups must have proved product-market-fit as well as market validation. In terms of venture maturity, this Challenge accepts applications from startups between Seed and Series A stage.


3 startups (each from the aforementioned markets) will be selected to pitch at the annual AfricArena 2021 Summit in Cape Town in late November - where they will showcase their solutions in front of Saint-Gobain executives as well as investors looking for world class talent to partner with.

Before the Summit, the finalists will also participate in a full day of workshops (The Founders Bootcamp, in partnership with FSAT Labs) on pitching, engaging with investors and business development.

The winning startup (and potential finalists) will have the opportunity to work with Saint-Gobain businesses to deploy a POC solution. Furthermore, AfricArena will award each of the 3 finalist startups US$10,000 worth of Amazon Web Services credit.


Startups that are interested in taking part in the Challenge can submit their application here.


“Through partnering with AfricArena on this Open Innovation Challenge, Saint-Gobain Africa aims to not only drive innovation which answers real-life business needs, but in addition, to fuel complementary innovation in the FinTech space which has the potential to fast track progress in Africa. Ultimately, through this partnership, we aim to make Africa, and in turn the world, a better home,” says Jean-Claude Lasserre, CEO - Saint-Gobain South Africa & Sub Saharan Africa.

“We are thrilled to partner with Saint-Gobain and its corporate venture fund Nova for another innovation challenge this year. Through this new collaboration, we are aiming to identify the best African startups who, through their innovative solutions, will have a real and tangible impact and help the Fintech industry evolve in Africa,” says Bintou Adekoya, COO at AfricArena.


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