The online campaign phase for the SME Empowerment Challenge East and West Africa has officially started. This Challenge was developed by HiiL Innovating Justice, together with the Global Agenda Council on Justice and the Ford Foundation, as part of the upcoming Innovating Justice Boostcamp in Lagos on 28 October and the 6th Annual Innovating Justice Forum on 3-4 December. Voting for this year’s shortlist of innovations is open until 17 September at www.innovatingjustice.com.
The SME Empowerment Challenge is geared towards finding and strengthening new initiatives that can empower startups and SMEs – specifically, innovations that address regulatory hurdles and bureaucratic red tape faced by youth-led startups in East and West Africa. 21 innovations from across East and West Africa have been shortlisted with representatives coming from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Ghana.
From Kenya, the innovations include the Bits platform which is aimed at combating discrimination by providing a collaborative coding platform where software developers are hired based on contribution rather than other characteristics (such as gender, race or ethnicity). Meanwhile, in neighboring Uganda, the mSME Garage provides a support centre with free legal information and support for micro, small and medium enterprises. The Rwandese innovation, Atikus, presents a solution to a problem facing 60% of the 365-445 million micro SMEs in emerging and developing markets: access to credit. Similarly innovative, SMEUnited of Ethiopia creates market transparency, to prevent corruption, through its online information sharing platform which SMEs can contribute to via both their mobile app and direct SMS feature. See full list here
Commenting on the challenge, Wilfried De Wever, Head of Innovating Justice Innovator observed: “Investing in the business climate from the bottom-up not only increases the sustainability of the flow of capital to the continent, it also contributes to the improvement of the daily lives of the people across Africa.”
After the online voting phase, the top six innovators will be invited to the Innovating Justice Boostcamp in Lagos on 28 October. HiiL Innovating Justice and an expert jury will then select three of the most promising innovations to attend the Innovating Justice Forum on 3-4 December in The Hague, Netherlands. At the Forum, the finalists will compete for seed investments of a total of $70,000, acceleration support and access to funding, networks and expert advice.