For more than a decade, the continent of Africa has experienced robust economic growth. One of the reasons driving this positive change is the greater availability of support for the African startup community. Both public and private businesses have benefited from venture capitalists, who have invested time and money into new ideas, thus helping to sustain more local businesses, boost economic activity, and create jobs. Businesses in the agribusiness and ecommerce industries have gained considerable traction, as have those in the financial services and computer software sectors. Likewise, enterprises in the media, Internet, and professional services industries are attracting interest from African entrepreneurs and their backers as well. If you are looking for funding and business support for your venture, consider the following organizations.
Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme
Named after its founder, the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme supports businesses across the continent through training and mentorship. The $100 million fund, which has a goal of working with 1,000 entrepreneurs annually for the next decade, also offers crucial grants to help business owners see their concept through fruition. These funds do not need to be repaid. In order to be considered for funding, participants must complete a 12-week program and a two-day boot camp. Additionally, successful completion of the three-day conference, the Elumelu Entrepreneurship Forum, is necessary to receive funding. An additional $5,000 in second-stage seed capital is also available for qualifying companies that demonstrate progress beyond the program.
Investment AB Kinnevik
Sweden-based Investment AB Kinnevik commits approximately eight percent of its $7 billion in assets to African ventures. The company takes primary interest in entertainment, financial services, ecommerce, and communications businesses and has been a crucial supporter of Jumia, Konga, and other African companies. Recently, the investment firm made a statement regarding its performance in 2015. Many of the companies in its portfolio delivered strong performances over the past fiscal year, which helped increase Kinnevik’s dividend per share and share price by three percent. Additionally, the company sold its interest in Avito, which provided exponential returns against its initial investment. To continue its success, Kinnevik looks to add to its existing portfolio by identifying companies that provide innovative solutions for consumer needs and demonstrate the ability to create repeat customers. Prospective investment targets must also have a strong leadership team and a sustainable business model, and they must demonstrate flexibility in managing risk to optimize returns.
Launched in 2011, 88mph is a business accelerator that provides seed funding. It operates in three countries in Africa, and technology ventures are its sole focus. Predominantly, the organization backs entrepreneurs with viable web and mobile solutions. As of 2016, the accelerator has allocated seed cash in excess of $1.5 million to a variety of companies, ranging from Baby Group, which offers products for new parents and their babies; to Byte Money, a startup focused on serving the insurance industry through a mobile payment platform. In 2015, 88mph took a break from funding new ventures. Having already invested in 36 companies, the accelerator transitioned its focus to helping its portfolio companies grow and further develop. The company will continue to monitor promising ventures in emerging markets.
African Development Foundation
Also known as the USADF, the African Development Foundation operates in the United States as an independent federal agency. The organization offers seed funding and technical support to African entrepreneurs who are helping their communities alleviate food insecurity, improve human development needs, increase income levels, and create sustainable employment opportunities. USADF has touched the lives of millions of Africans through an active portfolio of more than 320 grants exceeding $50 million in total.
The organization is currently accepting grant applications from ventures that focus on agriculture and assist low-income communities. Additionally, it is looking for entrepreneurs who are working to provide greater access to sustainable electricity, as well as those who are striving to advance democratic governance and peace in their nations. To these respective groups of entrepreneurs USADF offers the Power Africa and Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) grants. To be eligible for a grant, companies must be completely African-owned and managed. Applicants must also show documentation that states their company operates as a legal entity in the country in which they are based. Other criteria include demonstrating an ability to efficiently use funds and having a clear process to use and manage USADF grant monies.
African Women’s Development Fund
Supporting African women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) has awarded grants to organizations in 42 countries since its inception in 2001. The fund has extended grants of up to $50,000, totaling $26 million, to more than 1,200 organizations to date. The grant program is made possible through partnerships with prominent global organizations, including Match International, Carnegie Corporation, and the Ford Foundation. Private and public foundations as well as bilateral and multilateral organizations, such as UN Women and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), also provide support. AWDF awards grants to organizations operating in six thematic areas, ranging from women’s human rights to economic empowerment.