Fund targets local SMEs with Sh60 million in grants

A man picking tea at a farm in Kericho. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Kenyan small enterprises have until the end of September to apply for Sh60 million competition grants offered by the US African Development Foundation (USADF).

The Washington-based US government agency is established by the US Congress to support and invest in African-owned and African-led enterprises that improve the livelihoods of people in under-served communities by investing in grassroots organisations, entrepreneurs and SMEs.

"USADF is excited to request proposals for the USADF Accelerate Africa Entrepreneurship Challenge. Proposals are invited from eligible African youth and women-led enterprises. Selected enterprises will receive funding in the form of grant capital of up to Sh30.1 million ($250,000)," said the announcement.

USADF provides seed capital and local project management assistance to address some of the continent's biggest challenges around food insecurity, insufficient energy access, and unemployment, particularly among women and youth.

To be considered for the Accelerate Africa Entrepreneurship Challenge, applicants must be 100 per cent African-owned and managed private companies registered and operating in 18 countries namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

It comes as more details show USADF focuses on fragile states and frontier markets, with an emphasis on the Sahel, the Horn, and the Great Lakes regions of Africa.

"We currently operate in 21 African countries but have made investments in more than 40 African countries. At the core of USADF's programming is our direct connection to African ingenuity and solutions. African Country Program Coordinators lead our country teams and our 100 per cent African network of local partners provide project management support to our grantees," notes USDF.

With recipients of USADF financial and technical assistance including smallholder farmers, youth, women and girls, nomadic and pastoralist populations, ethnic and religious minorities, and persons living with disabilities, the agency has over the last five years invested more than Sh14 billion ($117 million) directly into more than 1,000 African-owned SMEs, entrepreneurs, and community organizations and impacted over seven million lives.

Separately, the Foundation has in the same duration put a request for proposals for the USADF Off-Grid Energy Challenge, where eligible African off-grid energy companies will be selected to receive funding in the form of grant capital of up to Sh30.1 million ($250,000).