Investing in Innovation (i3) – 2023

We are driving scale in data-driven innovation for health product distribution in Africa

What is the program about?

Investing in Innovation Africa (i3) is a pan-African initiative for start-ups building the future of healthcare supply chains. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and sponsored by AmerisourceBergen, Merck Sharpe & Dohme (MSD), Microsoft and Chemonics, i3 is supporting the commercialization of 60 promising early- and growth-stage companies. The program connects African-led supply chain innovators to donors, industry, and government partners, to power start-ups’ growth and impact.

Pillars of the program

Access to Markets: I3’s matchmaking program and flagship event connect innovators to leading local and international industry players, financial institutions, donors, and governments to establish partnerships and pilot projects that fuel impact and scale.

Risk-Tolerant Funding: I3 provides systematic grants of $50,000 to all participating startups. This flexible funding is provided to address key business model needs and advance the startups’ charitable impacts.

Investment Readiness Support: i3 provides participating startups with tailored investment readiness support, delivered by leading innovation experts at CCHub, Startupbootcamp AfriTech, Villgro Africa and IMPACT Lab.


June 26, 2023
OrganizerInvesting in Innovation
Website Visit website
Targets Africa
Sectors Healthcare, HealthTech, Medical equipment and supplies

What do we have to offer to the selected participants?

The consortium of donors, industry actors and African institutions will provide 60 promising early and growth-stage start-ups with risk-tolerant funding and access to markets support to power innovators’ health impact and scale.

What problems would we like applicants to solve?

I3 aims to bring affordable, high-quality health products closer to where patients are, through channels patients want to use by solving supply chain problems such as:

  • Health Product Availability.
  • Accessibility of Health Products.
  • Health Product Quality.
  • Health Product Affordability.
  • Visibility of Health Product Movement.
  • Waste Management in Health Supply Chains.


I3 is operationalized by: 

  • Coordination team: Salient Advisory, SCIDaR, SouthBridge A&I. 
  • Operational partners: CCHub, Startupbootcamp, Impact Lab Morocco, Villgro Africa 

Eligibility criteria

eligibility criteria of the program

To be eligible to apply, startups must fulfill the following criteria 

  1. Representative of the business must be a founder / co-founder, and at least 18 years old with a valid ID document. 
  2. Company must be owned, led, or operated by an African(s). We define this as having an African national with long-term control and management of the business, an equity stake, and an active role in both strategic and day-to-day decision making (to note: all three requirements listed must be fulfilled to qualify). Organization does not need to be headquartered in Africa.
  3. Business must have a legal presence on the African continent. 
  4. Business offerings must be focused serving the needs of African customers.  
  5. Business must be in the early or growth stage as defined below. Nascent/idea stage companies, or mature companies (e.g. mature incumbent distribution businesses) are not eligible.
    1. Early-stage – You must have clearly defined your market, validated customer demand, developed a working prototype and product map, and begun to generate revenue, with a strong plan to scale and sustain growth.
    2. Growth Stage – You must have strong, well-defined revenue model, sales, and operational capabilities. Your Products and service must be primed to scale, and customer acquisition costs must be declining. You must have evidence of customer acceptance of your products (reflected in sales volumes, beyond early adopters).
  6. Businesses must be technology-enabled and offer data-driven products or services focused on health product distribution. We will also consider non-health businesses with documented plans to offer data-driven products or services focused on health product distribution in the short-term (2-3 months).
  7. Businesses must be able to demonstrate that grant funding will generate direct improvements in one or more of the following areas: availability, accessibility, quality, affordability and visibility of critical health products.
  8. You must show good management and governance.
  9. Non-profit organizations, consulting firms, intermediaries and consortia are not eligible.
  10. The program has a special focus on supporting founders who are traditionally excluded, including women-led companies, and companies operating in Francophone Africa.

How are we going to select innovators?

  • Each region will have its own regional selection committee (i.e. West Africa, East Africa, North Africa and Southern Africa) comprising internal and external members who are familiar with the region’s entrepreneurial and supply chain ecosystems. The North African implementing partner will evaluate applications from all of Francophone Africa.
  • Each regional selection committee will comprise representatives from the implementing (accelerator) partner for the region, investors, supply chain experts, health care industry experts (including from government or donor-funded agencies), and a member of the program coordination team. Some members will be from sponsor organizations.  
  • To ensure equitable representation, each local selection committee will aim to consist of a minimum representation of women (40% of the selection committee).
  • The selection process will be conducted across three levels:
    • All applicants will be screened based on the Eligibility Criteria. All who fulfill Eligibility Criteria will be sent to the regional selection committees for their respective region. 
    • Each local Regional Committee will meet to select the top startups from their respective regions.
    • Thirdly, the Steering Committee will review and harmonize the selected startups to retain a balanced cohort of 30.
  • Following selection by the Steering Committee, the program coordination team will conduct due diligence on each selected innovator to validate the legal status and charitability of each recommended organization to ensure they are eligible to receive grant funding. 
  • Once each innovator has been verified, the cohort will be finalized and selected innovators informed.  


I3 program key dates


Questions about the application process and program can be submitted to on or before May 22nd.

Submitted questions and answers will be posted on the website for all potential applicants shortly thereafter.

If you would like to discuss whether your work is relevant to the I3 program or require any other clarification about the application process, please contact us on

I3 applicants must be:

  • Early-stage and Growth-stage tech-enabled businesses owned or operated by African Nationals, and with a legal presence on the continent.
  • Businesses focused on tech-enabled product distribution with validated proof of concept, recorded revenues and demonstrable potential for growth.
  • Demonstrable potential for social and societal impact

Deadline for application for the 2023 cohort is June 26th at 11:59pm SAST

  • Yes, you can make more than one application provided they are for separate businesses or ventures, if you are involved in both.  
  • Please do not submit more than one application for the same business 

No, the I3 program only accepts businesses with products/services, and customers. The more evidence you can provide to demonstrate the impact of your products or services, the better your chances of being selected as part of the cohort.

All information submitted may be seen by the I3 program team which includes judges and assessors. All members of the program team are bound by confidentiality agreements. We will retain the application materials of applicants (including applicants who are not selected) for up to two years.

There is no fee required to apply for the I3 Program. All you need to do is complete the application form, enclose the relevant supporting documents, and answer any questions we may ask during or after submission. If you are shortlisted, you will need to set out time to participate in our due diligence process prior to final selection.

Yes, applicants who are not selected may apply to join later cohorts provided they meet the eligibility requirements at the time.

I3 reserves the right to publicize your involvement in the program through any communications channel (including but not limited to the program’s website, websites of program partners, social media platforms of program partners as well as other public communications channels). All shortlisted participants may be required to participate in publicity campaigns including but not limited to media interviews.

To maximize the impact of the I3 program, if you are shortlisted or selected for the program, we ask you to not publicize this fact until a date set by our communications team. We will work closely with you to ensure this.

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