Supporting innovations in the food system in Rwanda is the goal of a UN-backed initiative launched in the capital, Kigali, on Wednesday.
The IGNITE Food Systems Challenge comes amid worsening food insecurity in East Africa due to rising conflict, climate change, natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both technical support and a total of $300,000 in financing will be made available to help start-ups, cooperatives, and small and medium enterprises, to scale-up locally-driven solutions that contribute to the economy and address different gaps in supplying nutritious food.
Reaching talented entrepreneurs
The programme is an initiative by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Impact Hub Kigali, which offers resources that foster innovation and entrepreneurship, such as incubation programmes and bootcamps.
The partners are supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), specifically its Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The initiative will run simultaneously in Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda, and is being made possible with the support of $2 million from USAID.
“The biggest challenge for many entrepreneurs in Eastern Africa is not only access to funding, but also technical support that furthers their concepts,” said Jeremie Pigé, head of the WFP IGNITE Innovation Hub for Eastern Africa.
“Through this generous support by USAID, we are confident that we will be able to reach many bright and talented entrepreneurs in the region who might have been left behind.”
Providing tailored support
The IGNITE Food Systems Challenge seeks innovative solutions that contribute to food security in areas such as resilience to shocks and stress, access to safe and nutritious food, improved food supply chains, the empowerment of smallholder farmers, and the advancement of food security for all.
The call for applications runs through 4 February.
Those selected will receive grant funding of up to $50,000 and six months “acceleration support”, including connections to experts, mentors and partners, as well as other support to address business gaps.
“With the IGNITE Food Systems Challenge, we will provide tailored support for local entrepreneurs to scale their impact in the Rwandan food system,” said Mafer Betancourt, Managing Director of Impact Hub Kigali.
“Ventures will undergo diagnostics at the start of the programme and will be able to co-design their own acceleration journey, indicating the support they require, from coaching to peer and expert support such as legal or accounting services, among others.”