Grant and Subsidy Opportunities that Can Fund Your Venture

Research and development is a critical part of establishing a sustainable business. Knowing how to obtain funding to support this segment of your venture will help you improve your business model and better position your products and services. The key to increasing funding opportunities is to register your venture as a nonprofit. This makes your business eligible for specific grants that can be applied toward evaluating viability in a specific market. Once out of the research and development stage, you can create a commercial entity to support products and services to sell. If you follow this approach, consider the following organizations that offer grants and subsidies:

The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund

AECF LogoThe Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) supports private-sector entrepreneurs in in sub-Saharan countries. The organization specifically targets ventures in the agricultural and agribusiness sectors as well as those focused on climate change and renewable energy. Candidates must contribute to the growth of rural African economies to be considered.

AECF can award a single entity a grant up to $1.5 million; however, a grant or repayable grant totaling $750,000 is more typical. Candidates must submit an application and a detailed business plan to be considered. If selected by the investment committee to receive an award, the recipient must take part in an induction workshop and undergo a contracting and disbursement process to ensure he or she comprehends the stipulations of accepting a grant.

Following disbursement, grantees need to report their business progress at least semi-annually. Additionally, they must keep in contact with an AECF-designated project manager throughout the life of a grant.

The Ford Foundation

ford foundation logoDistributing approximately half a billion dollars in grants annually, the Ford Foundation lives by the statement, “all people deserve the opportunity to fulfill their potential, contribute to society, and have their voices heard.” The foundation supports the public good by supporting organizations worldwide that positively influence the advancement of human knowledge and creativity, and the promotion of accountable governance. Additionally, it advocates ventures that tackle poverty, social injustice, and education. The grant process is very competitive. Out of the approximately 40,000 applicants the foundation receives each year, it typically approves only 1,400 for funding.

The foundation also works with a program team to discover organizations with bold ideas and scalable solutions, and offer them financial backing and business services. Funding is only available to approved individuals, whose companies comply with US laws enforced by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Further, the foundation takes into consideration anti-terrorism financing rules as it assesses candidates. If chosen, a grantee should expect to keep in close contact with his or her program officer and attend meetings that require written reports outlining progress.

Google Ad Grants

Google ad grants logoThrough its online advertising tool division and the Google for Nonprofits program, Google offers $10,000 grants in in-kind AdWords each month to help nonprofits build awareness of their mission. Recipients of the credit can plan ads to appear alongside Google search results, thus making more people aware of their cause.

To ensure the ads benefit the user, the company gives the grantees access to conversion tracking and Google Analytics. Since its launch, the program has positively impacted more than 20,000 nonprofits in more than 50 countries, including South Africa, Kenya, and Botswana.

To qualify for the grant, organizations must meet the requirements listed in the Google for Nonprofits Eligibility Guidelines. Candidates must also abide by Google’s rules regarding nondiscrimination and donation practices. Once awarded funds, grantees must avoid utilizing the service for commercial advertising, unless all of the proceeds it earns from the products and services sold support its cause.

The Global Greengrants Fund

global greengrants fund logoCatering to grassroots activists, the Global Greengrants Fund aims to promote environmental and social justice around the world. The fund distributes small grants in order to make a difference in more locations. Areas of support include climate change, fresh water, biodiversity conservation, women’s rights, agriculture, and forest and land rights.

Its flagship program is Green Grantmaking, which supports thousands of projects spread across 163 countries with grants averaging $4,800. Referred to as Greengrants, the funds support initiatives that pay equal attention to the care of people and the environments in which they live.

The Global Greengrants Fund doesn’t accept unsolicited applications. Parties eligible to receive a Greengrant must be recommended by a Grant Advisor. However, the fund realizes that many groups will not have access to an Advisor, so it lists alternative funding opportunities on its website, Suggested organizations include The Guardian International Development Achievement Award, the Yale World Fellows program, and The Equator Prize, among others.


3 of the Best Ventures at the Maiden African StartUp Cup

On April 28, 2016, winners from local StartUp Cup events across Africa gathered in Ghana to pitch their ideas over the course of three days at the first African StartUp Cup competition. The prizes, which were valued at $229,000, consisted of support and technological services, funding, and mentorship. These items will all be crucial to the success of the following three winning companies that will advance to compete in the finals in Silicon Valley:

1. GoMobile

gomobile logoCo-founded by Othmane Bekkari and Abdoullah Tahri Jouti, GoMobile is a Morocco-based company that helps unconnected communities (roughly half of the world’s population) access the Internet. The company targets demographics that do not have Internet-enabled devices and those with data coverage limitations, as well as those who cannot utilize the technology because they cannot read.

OSIX is the company’s vocal communication solution. Enabling users to make phone calls and carry on conversations, the product opens up lines of communication for business professionals to reach shareholders and critical personnel. The tool works well for hosting employee training sessions and making promotional announcements. To enhance the experience, users can press buttons on their phones to interact with content.

GoMobile’s Ziggi is a free, vocal social network that only requires a mobile phone to deliver inbound and outbound calls. Users can customize the calls with to deliver relevant content. Further, Ziggi gives people the option to interact with and share content. People can also suggest particular content.

2. Airsave

air save logoHeadquartered in Uganda, financial technology company Airsave serves the “unbanked” community—individuals who don’t take advantage of services offered by financial institutions. As of the company’s incorporation in 2013, 90 percent of Africans reported not using a bank. This number directly correlates to the high percentage of people failing to meet their savings goals.

In a study published by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers examined the financial behavior of 1,500 people in underserved areas of Uganda. All subjects used an informal savings method. At the end of the study, only 1 percent of the subjects achieved their savings goals. The vast majority either lost their money or had their money stolen. In addition, many gave into temptation and spent their excess funds.

In response to Uganda’s weak savings culture, the founders of Airsave developed a secure mobile savings platform, dubbed “my phone my wallet,” in partnership with LipaMobile, EFC Bank, Airtel, Plaid Technologies, and MTN. Users can set up an Airsave Digital savings account by dialing *270*30# on an Airtel network or an MTN network regardless of whether the phone has Internet capability. Users can then select a savings period from one month to a year, during which time accountholders cannot access the deposited funds.

3. Kawa Moka

Kawa Moka is a social enterprise coffee shop in Ghana. Its coffee, cocoa products, and bistro foods can also be enjoyed at various popup events. The company is named after the “wine of beans,” which is kawa, also known as coffee, and the chocolate aftertaste of Arabian mocha or moka. Moka also reflects a part of the company’s history that started in Yemen. A seaport city, Moka was where its founder, Emi-Beth Aku Oyemam Quantson, began distributing coffee across Europe.

kawa moka logoQuantson, a chartered accountant and tax consultant, discovered her passion for coffee shops while pursuing a degree at Ashesi. During her final year at the university, she launched a canteen that operated for two years. Soon after, she was inspired to launch a chain of Kawa Moka shops across West Africa, with hopes of turning her venture into a commodity.

Her transition from a consulting background to one involving much operational experience was met with many challenges related to infrastructural support, market pricing, product development, and financing. Determined to be successful at launching Kawa Moka, she attended numerous conferences and networked with industry experts to gain valuable information. Likewise, she dedicated much of her time to reading publications about business modeling and sales and marketing strategies.

When she is not working on developing new products, Emi-Beth Aku Oyemam Quantson aims to empower women and young girls. Her company serves as an example of how females from all backgrounds can excel in their family lives and still be contributing members of society. She intends to use her coffee shops to provide training and employment to those wishing to build a successful future.

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5 of the Biggest Startup Victories That Happened in 2016

Africa continues to be a hub for entrepreneurial activity. In 2015, investors poured $185.7 million into startups on the continent, with Kenyan ventures garnering $47.4 million of this amount. Considering the following events, the African entrepreneurial sector looks set to enjoy another active year in 2016:

African startups shine at the MIT pan-Arab Enterprise Forum.

Of the 76 teams participating in this startup competition, five North African ventures secured a significant portion of the $150,000 prize money. The Egyptian company Tutorama took home first place in the ideas category. The company, which connects qualified school tutors with available jobs, received $50,000 in prize money. Second and third place winners in this category were  Moroccan companies Deep OR, a data analytics business, and Ostor Lab, which produces a cloud-based mobile application vulnerability scanner.

In the startups category, the second-place title went to Egypt’s Zamen, which developed a mobile app that feeds real-time filtered news to users. Hydropneumatic Flushing System won first place and a $50,000 award in the social entrepreneurship category. The Tunisian company developed a long-lasting water flush tool that does not leak.

Female entrepreneurs gain a new opportunity.

she leads africa logoShe Leads Africa launched the She Leads Africa Accelerator program, which offers three months of entrepreneurial support to female entrepreneurs in Nigeria. To accommodate women in all capacities and encourage them to establish their own businesses, the program only requires participants to be onsite in Lagos one week per month to take courses, work with mentors, and conduct research. Accommodations and travel expenses to and from Lagos are included.

Participants can complete the remainder of the program from the comfort of their own homes through a She Leads Africa dashboard, which they can use to track their progress and access resources. The program ends with a pitch day, when each participant will present her venture in hopes of winning $10,000 in funding.

The program is now accepting applications from female entrepreneurs between 18 and 35 for its first cohort. Companies must be under three years old, have no more than $50,000 in funding, and have a launched product.

eBay founder funds a South African company.

Through the Omidyar Network, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar extended capital to Giraffe, which promotes a mobile recruitment app that utilizes an algorithm to connect businesses with qualified job applicants. Within two days, the app will source, screen, and schedule interviews with medium-skilled job seekers who have the qualifications and potential to fill a position.

A winner of the Seedstars Global World competition, the Johannesburg company has received more than 90,000 inquiries from jobseekers since its launch in 2015. These inquiries have led to thousands of interviews for jobs in the transportation and retail sector. Giraffe has also scheduled interviews for administrative service and call center positions.

The Columbia Business School mentors South African startups.

Image courtesy Paul Saad | Flickr

This spring, 100 executive MBA students from the Columbia Business School will head to Cape Town as part of its global immersion program. The school and students will meet with select South African entrepreneurs to discuss their businesses, address challenges, and develop strategies to improve the ventures’ chances of success.

Up to four students will work with each business during a half-day meeting. Prior to this, the students will prepare talking points based on their assigned venture’s business plan. Each entrepreneur will receive a comprehensive report detailing recommendations discussed.

In addition to providing business advice, the meeting is a good opportunity for South African startups to learn more about global expansion and create valuable relationships that will benefit them in the future. Organizers of the event stated that it is not uncommon for mentorship to extend beyond the meeting and one-time follow-up report.

The Barclays accelerator program launches in Cape Town.

Barclays opened an accelerator program in Cape Town in 2016. The 13-week mentor-led program, which has been a fixture in the entrepreneurial sector in the United States and United Kingdom for some time, leverages the expertise of Techstars founder David Cohen and Barclays Africa Chief Information Officer Ashley Veasey to help financial-technology (fintech) ventures hone their business ideas.

The program received applications from more than 45 countries. Out of this pool, Barclays chose 10 companies to participate in the first cohort, and six of the 10 are from Africa. iNuka Pap, Edge Point, WizzPass, Asoriba, Social Lender, and Tech4Farmers began the program in March and will work with mentors to prepare pitches for the program’s internal demo day on June 28, which will be followed by an external demo day on June 30.

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CNN Highlights 7 of the Top Startups in Africa

As more entrepreneurs launch businesses in Africa, CNN is shedding light on those making significant strides. The following startups have received press for improvements in areas such as health care, Internet connectivity, entrepreneurship, and consumer services:

1. Gifted Mom

gifted mom logoFounded by Alain Nteff in Cameroon, Gifted Mom leverages mobile-based technology to support pregnant women and new mothers. The company, which won the African Start-Up Award and Queen’s Young Leader Award, focuses on reducing maternal and infant deaths by providing an app that monitors pregnancy and baby development, as well as notifying mothers of antenatal care and immunization through short message service (SMS) and voice notifications. Gifted Mom also shares valuable information about sex education, teen health, and family planning.

2. Thundafund

In 2013, South African entrepreneur Patrick Schofield created Thundafund. The crowdfunding platform has gained media attention for its innovative approach. The site not only garners financial backing for new businesses and their ideas, it focuses on building brand awareness through multimedia channels and helping users to understand whether or not their venture is viable. As a result, those permitted to share their projects on the platform are more attractive to investors. Halfway through 2015, the company has selected 160 businesses from a pool of 1,400 projects to publish on its site. Honest Chocolate and Y-Bikes are among the brands that have launched successful campaigns.

3. Peek Vision

In order to raise awareness of blindness that can be cured with proper care, former London resident Dr. Andrew Bastawrous created Peek Vision in Kenya. Also known as the Portable Eye Examination Kit, Peek Vision is a mobile app that gained financial support through crowdfunding, grants, prize money, and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. The app utilizes a test that shows the letter “E” pointing in various directions. Through swipe technology, an examiner records which direction a patient sees the letter pointing based on his or her response. The app produces results that include a recommendation for treatment. The app also supports Peek Retina, an auto-focus camera tool that projects a test taker’s retina on a screen. This allows medical professionals to identify eye concerns, such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, without the need for costly and bulky equipment. While it is initially designed to serve countries that are underserved, the app is expected to revolutionize and improve how eye care professionals handle cases.


brck logoAfrican residents and organizations, particularly those in remote regions, frequently struggle with power outages. The answer to this is BRCK, a company led by chief executive officer Erik Hersman and backed by $3 million in investments. The company aims to improve connectivity throughout the continent with a device that “hops” Internet connections. By hopping from Wi-Fi to Ethernet to 3G and 4G when connectivity is dropped, it is possible for people to stay online longer, which is crucial for businesses to continue operating longer and for schools to provide education without any interruptions. BRCK, which has a battery life of eight hours, is created from material that can withstand rugged terrain. As of 2013, more than 2,500 devices had been sold. People in over 50 countries are using the product.

5. Yoza

For people who have limited time to complete their chores, Yoza alleviates some of the burden. In 2015, the app was launched by young entrepreneur Solomon Kitumba. The app connects people with laundry service providers who complete tasks by hand, the way that many Ugandans typically clean their clothes. The driving force behind the app is its ability to contact providers by phone after a user has selected the service on an app. After the task is assigned and completed, the laundry washer receives 80 percent of the fee charged. The app, which targets single professionals and students, generates additional revenue for washers. The laundry washers, who are primarily women, have reported doubling their income since joining the app’s list of local providers.


Developed by a social entrepreneur with a background in the health care sector, is overseen by Kaakpema Yelpaala. The company provides a mobile platform called amHealth, which improves physician and patient engagement. The easy-to-use tool, which works on both mobile and tablet devices, allows medical professionals to manage patient queues, track payments, record patients’ medical history, send group messages regarding topics like health campaigns and disease outbreaks, and automate appointment scheduling. In addition, the service permits the sharing of medical records with family members at a patient’s discretion. has received press from National Public Radio (NPR), devex, and How We Made It in Africa.

7. Medical Diagnostic

Hundreds of thousands of African citizens die from malaria every year. A majority of the people were once residents of sub-Saharan Africa. With the goal of reducing mortality rates, biotechnologist Ashley Uys developed a malaria self-testing kit through his company, Medical Diagnostic. The kit, which tests blood samples in less than 30 minutes, tells users what strain of malaria they have so that they can work with their health care provider to implement an effective treatment plan. The kit, which costs 30 cents, can also determine the effectiveness of a recommended treatment.