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Orange targets start-ups with first digital centre in Tunisia

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French telecommunications firm Orange is launching the Orange Digital Centre today in Tunis, to provide wide-ranging support for start-ups, including training in coding as well as guidance in start-up acceleration and investment in early-stage companies.

According to the telco the Centre houses four strategic programmes: the coding school, the FabLab Solidaire, Orange Fab and Orange Digital Ventures Africa.

The coding school is free-of-charge technological centre that offers training and events for the community. It is particularly aimed at students, young graduates and entrepreneurs.

The FabLab Solidaire is a digital production workshop for creating and prototyping with digital equipment, such as 3D printers, milling machines and laser cutters.

Orange Fab is a start-up accelerator with an aim to build national and international business partnerships with the Orange Group and the international Orange Fab network.

Orange Digital Ventures Africa is a €50-million investment fund for financing start-ups in Africa and the Middle East, focused on several key markets including FinTech, e-health, energy, edutech and govtech.

Alioune Ndiaye, chief executive officer of Orange Middle East and Africa, said: "I am very proud to launch the first Orange Digital Centre in Tunis. By the end of this year, we will set-up similar centres in Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Jordan, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone. From 2020 onwards, Morocco, Egypt and the rest of the countries in the Middle East and Africa region will have their own Orange Digital Centre. Functioning as a network, these sites favour sharing experiences and expertise in a way that will benefit not just entrepreneurs but also students, young people with or without degrees, and young people undertaking a career change. We will therefore work in close collaboration with all our stakeholders, including governments and academics, to strengthen the employability of these young people and to encourage them to run businesses and to innovate."

Twenty-seven partner universities make up the system in Tunisia, alongside five centres in the region. Their aim is to offer access to- and support for the best uses of networks to the largest number of people possible.

Thierry Millet, chief executive officer of Orange Tunisia, said: "Through our programme, 16,000 young Tunisians have been trained and given support with digital technologies, 1,800 have benefited from career change work experience courses, 800 secondary school students have been taught coding and 95 % of them have been employed in Tunisia or abroad."

Orange operates in 19 African and Middle Eastern countries and has 120 million customers as of the end of 2018.

In February 2019 the company made headlines after launching Sanza smart feature phones to Africa and the Middle East markets, in collaboration with KaiOS Technologies and mobile baseband chipset supplier UNISOC.

The company also signalled its reinforced interests in cyber security services across the continent after highlighting the value of its acquisition of UK-based cyber security service provider SecureData.

In November 2018 Orange launched the Cyberdefense operations centre in Casablanca, adding to its list of existing centres in Egypt and Mauritius in Africa, as well as in the US, Canada, India, Malaysia and Singapore globally.

Announcing the latest acquisition, Orange described SecureData as "the largest independent cybersecurity service provider in the UK, the first market in Europe."

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