As they join ENRICH in Africa (EiA), innovation incubators and accelerators from Africa and Europe are granted access to an online marketplace where they can seal partnerships and connect with other high-potential innovators. “We have a well-rounded membership programme that effectively creates what we call ‘EiA Champions’,” says Sandrine Doretto, coordinator of the project on behalf of Steinbeis Europa Zentrum.
Besides the opportunity to virtually connect with others, members get access to a list of EiA services, including bootcamp training courses, a virtual academy, mentoring support and twinning opportunities.
“EiA is also helping entrepreneurs directly, through options such as Open Innovation challenges, advisory support services, incubation and acceleration programmes and networking opportunities,” adds Doretto.
Since the project started in January 2021, the partners have created multiple programmes with great benefits to participants. The ‘Bees soft-landing programme – Africa goes to Europe’, for instance, welcomed 10 start-ups from six African countries active in healthtech, foodtech, retail, fintech, logistics, cleantech and digital to ease their access to the French market.
The start-ups travelled to France and explored opportunities in Paris for 3 months, and all of them have already kick-started projects thanks to EiA.
Another example is the EuroQuity Community, which provides innovation actors with a trustworthy infrastructure that they can use to network and explore co-creation, entrepreneurship and sustainable development opportunities. The community has 284 members including businesses, investors and business support organisations.
“Our first bootcamp training was a great success too,” Doretto remarks. “Over 3 days, 12 EiA champions from 11 countries could learn what makes a successful start-up programme or how to develop a programme structure that addresses the needs of entrepreneurs. They acquired skills, tools and methodologies, and they could develop their own programmes while receiving EiA guidance.”
Bringing sustainable innovation
The EiA’s work is already bearing fruit, with one of the start-ups participating in the soft-landing programme recently winning a USD 100 000 prize in the YouthADAPT competition. This competition – which is run jointly by the African Development Bank and the Global Center on Adaptation in the context of COP26 – aims to strengthen inclusive growth and broaden investment and economic opportunities for youth and women in Africa.
“Winning enterprises provide climate adaptation and resilience solutions in critical social and economic sectors affected by climate change. These include agriculture, waste management, water resources and sanitation, renewable energy and energy efficiency and ecosystem restoration. In addition to the prize, each winner could participate in a 12-month accelerator programme to grow their businesses, deepen their impact and create decent jobs,” Doretto notes.
EiA for Africa is set for completion in December 2023. Until then, the project will keep running programmes for entrepreneurs and incubators / accelerators. “At the end of the day, we hope that the ENRICH in Africa centre in Cape Town will become the bridge between African and European innovation ecosystems. We want it to be the go-to platform for innovators, incubators, accelerators, investors, businesses and policymakers looking to strengthen the EU-African tech and innovation ecosystems,” Doretto concludes.