Kenya's telecom major Safaricom has entered into a partnership with M-PESA Africa and Japan's Sumitomo Corporation to support early-stage startups.

The three companies will work together to identify quality startups and provide a blend of mentorship, funding and go to market support, they said in a statement.

Known as the Spark Accelerator, the project will seek to provide shortlisted startups with access to market, capital, technology and product development support, the companies said.   

Studies show that entrepreneurs in Kenya face major challenges, with a 30% lifetime survival rate for startups, the companies said. The key hindrances being the inability to secure funding for growth, limited access to market and a gap in knowledge and skills required to scale a business.

Safaricom's CEO Peter Ndegwa said the company's goal is to empower startups. The brand’s M-PESA was founded as a startup mobile money transfer system in 2007 and is now a global leader in the fintech industry.

"We are taking an ecosystem-based approach to provide a platform for bold and visionary founders to grow and scale their businesses,” Ndegwa said.

The trio of companies said the project's aim was to drive innovation and expand the reach of digital financial services to improve e-commerce, insurance, and entertainment in Africa.

(Editing by Bindu Rai)