In the past years, there has been a growing focus on developing new funding models and leveraging existing networks to support innovative projects and startups in Africa. One of the main drivers of this trend has been the rise of digital innovation hubs, incubators and accelerators in Africa, which have helped to connect entrepreneurs and innovators with the resources and networks. Additionally, a number of new funding initiatives and programs have been launched in recent years, aimed at supporting the growth of small businesses and startups in Africa.
Despite these efforts, however, many entrepreneurs and innovators continue to face significant challenges when it comes to accessing funding and other resources to support their projects. This is why the workshop on “Building and Using a Network of Funding Sources” organized by Emerging Communities Africa (ECA) as part of the AfriConEU Networking Academy activities aims to provide valuable insights on how to identify and access funding sources, and how to build a sustainable partnership framework for innovative projects.
The workshop held on Thursday, January 26th, 2023, at The Nest Hub, Yaba, Lagos Nigeria and online via zoom and brought together a diverse group of individuals and organizations in academia, business and government, all of whom were interested in learning more about how to access and utilize funding sources to support innovative projects and drive economic growth in Africa.
The workshop began with a presentation by Bankole Oloruntoba, CEO Nigeria Climate Innovation Center (NCIC) on the concept of an innovation lifecycle. He explained how understanding the different stages of an innovation’s development can help entrepreneurs identify the best funding sources for their projects. Additionally, He highlighted the difference in accessing private sector funding, government funding, and funds from foreign sources. He later went on to clarify that accelerator and incubation differ and a startup will need pre-incubation at its ideation phase to produce a prototype after that it needs incubation to gain market entry and will only require acceleration when it needs growth and scaling.
Following Bankole’s presentation, Ireayomide Oladunjoye, Immediate past Head, Lagos Innovates (Lagos State Employment Trust Fund) spoke on the various funding sources available to entrepreneurs, including government grants, venture capital (VC), and crowdfunding. She stressed on the fact that at an early stage, bootstrapping or funding from friends and family is advisable and a business should only consider VCs when they have started making revenue.
The workshop then featured a panel session with Amarachi Nwachukwu, co-founder MendHQ, Mike Rosanje, CEO Cashbuddy, Ibrahim Ajala, co-founder VS Creatives, and Joba Oloba, co-founder The Nest Hub. The panelists shared each of their company’s funding stories and offered valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities of securing funding for innovative projects. One of the panelists mentioned that more than funding, the environment also played a vital role in determining the success of their organization.
Next, Joba Oloba, Co-founder The Nest Innovation Technology Park, discussed the concept of an innovation ecosystem and how to map it. He emphasized the importance of understanding the different players and resources in a local innovation ecosystem and how they can be leveraged to support the growth of innovative projects. He focused on the academia as a driver of research into current problems and innovative solutions and how the academia and DIHs should collaborate on upskilling programs.
To wrap up the event, attendees participated in a group activity session where they worked together to propose a sustainable funding/partnership framework for innovative projects. The goal of the activity was to explore and maximize opportunities that could bring economic growth to target markets. Group A devised a plan to scale the export of high-quality leather from Aba, a city in Abia, Nigeria using technology, while Group B developed a partnership strategy to bridge the institution and industry mismatch using digital innovation hubs as enablers.
At the close of the workshop, participants were able to describe funding sources within their innovation ecosystem, match financing sources to project needs, describe the role of DIHs as reference points, and understand best practices for maximizing funding opportunities and collaboration.