#Africa USAID announces support for African innovators, off-grid projects


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) used this week’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) to announce four new investments totaling more than US$38 million to help mobilise global entrepreneurs and innovators in the fight to end extreme poverty.

There are two Africa-specific programmes within the investments, which aim to connect innovators with investors and capital to increase access to energy and expand food security in developing countries.

“President Obama’s leadership in convening Global Entrepreneurship Summits over the past seven years has elevated the importance of entrepreneurship to building more economically prosperous, secure, and globally connected communities around the world,” said USAID administrator Gayle E. Smith.

“Today’s announcement builds on the Obama Administration’s commitment to harnessing the power of entrepreneurs to advance development goals and spread American values around the globe.”

One of the initiatives is “Scaling Off-Grid Energy: A Grand Challenge for Development”, run as a partnership between Power Africa and USAID’s US Global Development Lab.

The challenge sees USAID make an investment of US$36 million to empower entrepreneurs and investors to grow a market to connect 20 million households in Sub-Saharan Africa that live beyond the reach of the electricity grid with modern, clean, affordable electricity.

In partnership with the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DfID) and the Shell Foundation, the Grand Challenge for Development aims to build a vibrant market across Sub-Saharan Africa by supporting the growth of innovative entrepreneurs that are making off-grid solutions affordable for rural families through profitable business ventures.

USAID is also partnering Silicon Valley-based global venture capital fund and accelerator 500 Startups to host a Geeks on a Plane (GOAP) trip to Africa in March 2017. On this first-ever Africa GOAP trip, Silicon Valley leaders will participate in an 11-day itinerary in Accra, Lagos, Cape Town and Johannesburg to engage with African entrepreneurs and innovators and explore partnership and investment opportunities. The trip culminates with the Global Entrepreneur Congress in Johannesburg on March 13-16.

Also included among the announcements were Feed the Future Call for Cool Storage Solutions, whereby USAID calls for entrepreneurs to apply for up to US$2.5 million in funding and mentoring to help them adapt, pilot and scale their proven cool storage solutions to prevent food loss and waste in countries where the US government’s Feed the Future initiative focuses efforts.

Meanwhile, the Global Innovation Exchange has also been launched, with USAID partnering the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the South Korean and Australian governments to launch a global marketplace to connect entrepreneurs and innovators with resources, funding, collaborators, investors, and customers.

The exchange already contains over 4,200 innovations, has over US$72 million in available funding opportunities, and over 9,000 expert collaborators to help innovators and entrepreneurs accelerate their innovation to impact.

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