WE4F East Africa Regional Innovation Hub

Scaling groundbreaking water-energy-food innovations

Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) works closely with the private sector to scale up climate-friendly, energy and/or water-efficient innovations.

The overall goal is to increase the sustainability of agricultural food value chains and address environmental and climate resilience in developing countries and emerging markets – with a particular focus on the poor and women.

Innovations may include technologies (such as weather forecast apps, solar cooling technologies, hydroponic farming approaches), business and finance models (such as pay-as-you-go models for solar pumping, leasing models for e-motorbikes in rural areas), and new modes of cooperation (e.g. sharing economy model, which favours access to technologies and services over ownership).

The objectives of the hub include:

  • Supporting the distribution of innovations (solar technologies, apps, e-mobility, etc.)
  • Strengthening entrepreneurial capacities
  • Informing end-users and multipliers about innovations
  • Improving access to financing for innovators and end-users
  • Improving political conditions for innovations
  • Accelerating the exchange of experiences on the local, regional and global level


The East African region has great potential for food production with a majority of the population living in rural areas and working in agriculture. However, small-scale farmers are often confronted with low productivity and high post-harvest losses, with particular adverse effects on women and the poor.

Further, the food production processes use up high amounts of traditional energy sources (e.g. diesel, wood) and groundwater which exacerbates climate change, depletion of natural resources, and biodiversity loss. In order to address these challenges, innovators (commercial companies or organizations) have already developed numerous approaches and technologies for a climate-friendly, water- and energy-efficient agricultural and food industry. However, innovators often have insufficient entrepreneurial capacities to successfully and sustainably scale upmarket developed prototypes of innovative technologies in local, regional, and global markets.

About Water and Energy for Food

WE4F is a joint international initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the European Union (EU), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Netherlands, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Launched at the Social Capital Markets 2019 signature event in San Francisco, California, WE4F aims to:

  • Increase food production along the value chain through more sustainable and efficient use of water and/or energy.
  • Increase income for the base of the pyramid women and men in both rural and urban areas.
  • Sustainably scale innovators’ solutions to meet the challenges in the WE4F nexus.
  • Promote climate and environmental resilience and biodiversity through the sustainable, holistic management of natural resources and ecosystems.


At least 15 enterprises from the focus countries will be selected for the programme.  Participating enterprises will benefit from:

  1. Be part of the first cohort in East Africa: At least 15 enterprises from the focus countries will be shortlisted to be part of the first regional programme. Support will be delivered over a 15-18 month period.
  2. Receive technical support and mentorship: The programme will provide business advisory and access to finance support to:
    1. Expand your business to other geographies, products, or services
    2. Unlock investments for your business to scale
    3. Increase your business’ annual turnover
  3. Financing Opportunities: Select enterprises may qualify for results-based financing opportunities to help achieve scaling goals. Please click here to read more in our FAQs.

Eligibility criteria

WE4F is looking for innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) who are addressing the water-energy-food nexus in East Africa. The enterprises must offer solutions that increase sustainable food production, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and / or reduce water and energy intensity of the food chain, while increasing income for smallholder farmers, women and youth.

The enterprises should also meet the following minimum criteria:

  1. Geography: Entrepreneurs must be legally incorporated as a for-profit company in one of these 7 East African countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi and Somalia.
  2. Age: Businesses must be operational for at least 18 months.
  3. Size: We’re looking for established enterprises with annual revenue of €50,000 to €500,000 equivalent – not at pilot or prototype stages. Applicants should also have a well-established team of between 5 to 200 employees.
  4. Ambition: Applicants must have an established current customer base with ambitions to scale to new geographies, products, customer segments, and/or increase annual turnover. They should be seeking debt, equity, or blended finance investments to scale the business.
  5. Impact: The best candidates will demonstrate direct/indirect positive impact to the smallholder farmers, the environment, women, and youth.

Please note:

  • The programme specifically encourages applications from women-owned / women-led enterprises.
  • Applications responses must be written in English.
  • Enterprises should be open and willing to demonstrate at least 20% matching funds (either by cash or in-kind contributions) to the overall award if selected.
  • Government entities, non-profit organizations, academic and research institutions, and individuals are not eligible to apply.

Innovation themes

The WE4F East Africa Innovation Call is looking for climate-friendly and resource-efficient solutions, such as the provision of products, processes, services, technologies, or business models addressing the water-energy-food nexus challenges in East Africa. These solutions may be digital or non-digital, organizational, financial, or advisory in nature. The WE4F programme is particularly interested in easily accessible, adaptive, low-cost solutions with immediate impacts and benefits for small-holder farmers and other value chain actors as well as net positive impacts on natural resources, especially water and energy.

The solutions themes to be considered includes –

  1. Energy-farm input
  2. Energy-farm production
  3. Energy-agricultural processing
  4. Energy-energy production and infrastructure in agriculture
  5. Energy-aggregation and storage agriculture
  6. Energy-rural transport
  7. Water-irrigation
  8. Water-capture/storage in agriculture
  9. Water-reuse in agriculture
  10. Water quality/salinity in agriculture
  11. Digital solutions in water and/or energy efficiency in agriculture
  12. Financial solutions


June 15, 2021
Program dates Aug 16, 2021 - Mar 31, 2023
Organizer Intellecap
Website Visit website
Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, United Republic of, Uganda
Agritech, Clean technology, Clean technology and energy, EdTech, Food production, HealthTech, Hydropower, Renewable energy, Water storage, Water treatment, Water utilities, Water, sanitation and hygiene, Wind power