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Accelerate Prosperity: Enabling young entrepreneurs in emerging regions

Accelerate Prosperity (AP) is an initiative of the Aga Khan Development Network aimed at supporting start-ups and small and growing businesses. Based in Pakistan, Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, the initiative builds on years of activities and interventions in entrepreneurship, skills development and business investments undertaken by the Aga Khan Foundation and Industrial Promotion Services in this region.

The initiative focuses on women and youth (age 16 to 30) in rural towns and peri-urban settings, where economic opportunities often remain insufficient. It also targets entrepreneurs with low-income earnings, refugees and migrants, the unemployed and those who have not completed primary or secondary education.

Beneficiaries are supported non-financially and financially, and are introduced to innovative tools such as patient and tailored debt and quasi-equity.The initiative combines lean startup business modeling methodologies, mentorship, angel investment networks, a digital deal flow platform, blended learning and gender-lens and youth-lens approaches.

In most cases, AP services reinforce the Network’s wider efforts to address constraints to business growth in rural settings – for example, investments in energy, telecoms and infrastructure – and work on upgrading promising agricultural and non-agricultural value chains as well as employable and soft skills. These investments reduce business risks and expand opportunities for youth entrepreneurship and employment.

Results to Date

As of December 2020, Accelerate Prosperity expanded operations to three regions in Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad), four regions in Tajikistan (GBAO, Dushanbe, Khatlon and Sughd) and three regions in the Kyrgyz Republic (Bishkek, Osh and Naryn), which makes it the only regional enterprise growth accelerator in Central and South Asia.

The initiative has reached over 12,200 aspiring and existing entrepreneurs – of which 43% youth. Around 950 start-ups were incubated to help them launch their businesses, 470 companies were accelerated for growth and 174 companies were provided patient financing of US$ 2.2 million, leveraging an equal amount from entrepreneurs and external financial institutions. The portfolio companies fall in various sub-sectors including textile, agro-processing, livestock, agriculture, IT, health, education, hospitality, waste management and adventure. To date, these companies have created over 1,060 new direct jobs and have sustained many indirect jobs through backward and forward linked businesses.

Accelerate Prosperity is co-financed by the European CommissionUSAIDGiZUNICEFSECOWorld Bank, the Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development’s Industrial Promotion Services.