Partners in Acceleration: Challenge Fund for Innovation Hubs

Call for ESO's in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda

Do you want to take your acceleration efforts to the next level? Are you running an innovation hub or another type of entrepreneurship support organization (ESO) looking to find innovative solutions to a specific problem that can be tackled by digital start-ups? Do you plan to implement this programme with a partner organization or by leveraging existing networks?

Then this Challenge Fund is for you!

The tech entrepreneurship initiative ‘Make-IT in Africa’, implemented by GIZ, invites innovation hubs and other intermediaries to pitch innovative, market-oriented and sector-specific programs offerings support to African start-ups. The proposed programme has to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Selected innovation hubs will receive funding of up to €100,000 to implement the project.

Objectives for the program and background

GIZ aims at supporting local innovation driven by digital start-ups, enabled either by one organization leveraging local networks or by the collaboration of at least two ecosystem actors. Innovation hubs should apply with projects that leads to local innovation, approaches that innovate existing systems, leapfrog solutions, and take incubation and acceleration work to new levels. “Outside the box”-thinking and approaches are encouraged.

For Make-IT in Africa, it is important that the programme, or elements of programme, are an addition to what already exists in the respective market. It is critical that the proposal clearly explains how the programme adds value to the overall support ecosystem for start-ups.

What we offer

  • Funding to finance projects up the following amounts:
    • Rwanda: one grant, up to 100,000 Euro
    • Ghana: one grant, up to 50,000 Euro
    • Kenya: one grant, up to 100,000 Euro for a project with an agri-tech focus
    • Nigeria: one grant, up to 50,000 Euro
  • Use of the VC4A platform and communication channels for the entrepreneur recruitment campaign, free of charge for selected ESO’s
  • Capacity building for selected teams through webinars and virtual masterclasses
  • Use of various self-learning online resources like Africa Cloud ( or VC4A Startup Academy ( and the GIZ Make-IT handbook “Partners in Acceleration” as resources and support around creating a blended learning model (mix of online and offline) as part of your program
  • International visibility through joining the partner network of Make-IT in Africa and access to international networks of corporates, investors, international organisations active in the African startup ecosystem
  • Start-ups part of programme get preferred access to exposure trips and matchmaking facility of Make-IT in Africa
  • Funding might be used to train the organisation’s staff

What we are looking for

Make-IT will support one entrepreneur support organisation (ESO) in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda.

Eligibility criteria

  • Lead applicant based in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria or Rwanda
  • Officially registered NGO or foundation; for-profit company need to partner with a not-for-profit organisation
  • At least two years of business activities and audited accounts
  • At least one finalized acceleration programme implemented
  • At least 20 supported start-ups to date
  • Minimum of 3 team members, including founder team, program manager and accounting
  • Have access to space to host trainings and co-working
  • Programme implemented between May and October 2020
  • Programme approach is new and innovative, adding important components to existing approaches/programmes
  • Activities has not started yet.
  • Grant can be used to co-fund a new activity
  • Grant needs to be used to develop a programme or part of a programme that would not exist without the funding
  • Activity needs to be not for profit; actual costs will be reimbursed
  • Trainers need to have at least 3 years in training and 5 years of experience in linking start-ups with markets and/or investors

Selection criteria

The program should:

  • Have a sector / topic focus
  • Have a specific target group e.g. female entrepreneurs, start-ups from rural areas etc.
  • Aim at supporting start-ups running operations preparing them for growth (yet, before closing a Series-A round of funding)
  • Aim at start-ups with a business model aimed and/or clearly contributing to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Offer a new component and/or approach, strengthening acceleration offerings to a new target group, add innovative elements to existing programs – overall, create and test innovative offerings for startups
  • The program should aim at supporting 10-15 companies
  • Be around 3 months in length
  • Preferably, if it is offered by at least two partners, one of which is a not-for-profit organisation, the other one a private sector company, a sector organisation or (international or local) governmental organization. If only one organisation offers the programme, it should leverage existing local networks

Selection process

  • Webinar to clarify questions happened on January 27th, 2020. Find the answers to the questions raised during the webinar here. (Click to download PDF)
  • Application deadline on VC4A to hand in a brief concept note: February 13th, 2020
  • Shortlisted ESOs will be informed by February 28th, 2020
  • Shortlisted ESOs hand in full proposal by March 13th, 2020
  • Selection of winners byend of March 2020


February 23, 2020
Program dates May 1 - Oct 31, 2020
Organizer GIZ
Website Visit website
Targets Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda
Sectors Sector agnostic