JICA and MinT NINJA Accelerator – Ethiopia

Ten-month acceleration program and pitch competition.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MinT) invite Ethiopian innovators to apply for a chance to participate in an acceleration program and pitch competition, delegation program in Japan.

According to the UN World Population Prospects 2022, it is estimated that close to 70% of Ethiopia’s population of 120 million people are under the age of 30, making the country ripe for economic growth through innovation and startups. With that in mind, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Ethiopia office, in collaboration with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MinT) is inviting aspiring entrepreneurs with innovative tech-enabled ideas to apply for the ‘Next Innovation with Japan (NINJA) Acceleration Program in Ethiopia 2022’ competition.

JICA and MinT have several programs to support startups in Ethiopia as part of “Project NINJA (Next Innovation with Japan),” and in addition to exploring that website, more information can be found in this video.

Implemented in partnership with Renew Capital, the ten-month acceleration program and pitch competition are aimed at improving and enhancing the environment of startups by helping entrepreneurs obtain training, improve access to funding and connect them with critical resources to actualize their business plans.

One of the main objectives of Project NINJA is to encourage innovations solving the prominent problems of the society by utilising emerging technologies. Innovative startups contribute significantly to economic growth and employment nationwide,

explained JICA

it also helps develop new and innovative solutions to challenges faced by traditional industries through cross-sector innovation, thereby creating a more dynamic and competitive society.

In the month of January 2023, the NINJA Accelerator Program team will screen applications for the initial round of screening out the 30 startups. These selected startups will spend one week receiving basic training in pitching their projects, then presenting those pitches to a panel of evaluators. From this round, a total of 15 startups will be advanced to the next level of competition, provided the evaluators will conduct in-person and virtual workplace visits and second-round interviews. From there, the evaluators will make their final decision on which six startups have earned the opportunity to participate in the intensive accelerator program, which will apply best practices from successful acceleration programs, support the startups in creating business networks and/or partnerships, build their capacity and business acumen as entrepreneurs, and address baselined needs.

At the end of June 2023, the six accelerated startups will then present their final pitches to a wide audience of local and international investors, as well as officials from the governments of Japan and Ethiopia, local stakeholders and media outlets during a Final Pitch Event (demo day). The final six startups will get a disbursement amount of ETB 500K each upon delivery of two reports. The funding will be used to further refine their minimum viable product. Additionally, they will get the chance to visit Japan for training and meet with potential investors and mentors.

Selection criteria

The following minimum selection criteria must be met for a startup to apply and/or be reasonably considered for the Phase I – Paper Screening process:

  1. Is a registered and operating company in Ethiopia – required to submit the Certificate of registration.
  2. Has a clear and focused viable product and a business plan.
  3. For profit, post-product, post-revenue business with sizeable potential market size. With the ability and desire to quickly scale (i.e., not a livelihood-sustaining business).
  4. Startups with a tech-enabled innovative solution which are in line with the sectors prioritized in the national development plan of Ethiopia, such as:
    1. Agri-Tech: Smart Agriculture, Smart Irrigation etc.
    2. Digitalization in ICT: Digitization of analogized payment, data storage systems, e-commerce, Health-tech and other IT products/services etc.
    3. Tourism: e-Tourism, VR-Tourism, Hotel etc.
    4. Manufacturing: Productivity by using robotics, textiles technology, processing etc.
    5. Mining: Mining support areas of innovation.
  5. Has a product that solves a unique and important problem for target users, has product-to-market fit and has a strong competitive advantage.
  6. Is at a stage to raise Seed funding and upper level – Seed stage: According to Silicon Valley Bank:
    1. Building and deploying a product with early customers.
    2. Demonstrating market fit for your product.
    3. Proving out the sales dynamics that will support efficient growth.
    4. Ensuring you have the team in place to execute.
  7. Operates in a sector that is open to foreign investors.
  8. Looking for foreign investments, Mergers and Acquisitions opportunities with foreign companies, etc. and are likely to be matched by foreign companies and investors.
  9. Founding team is highly motivated to represent Ethiopia at the acceleration program.
  10. Founding team committed to fully participate in ALL program activities throughout the program.
  11. Founding team works full-time for the SU and are coachable and willing to learn.
  12. Founding team committed to submit two reports during the acceleration program.
  13. Founding team committed to sharing pitch materials, business plan, etc.
  14. The startup has the capacity to create job and wealth.
  15. Ideally, has an annual turnover of USD $5,000 and above for either 2020, 2021 and/or 2022.


December 26, 2022
Organizer Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
Targets Ethiopia
Agritech, Big data, Consumer non-durables, E-commerce, HealthTech, ICT, Information technology, Manufacturing, Tourism, Water utilities