At the end of 2020, SAIS 2 closed applications for the RE:innovation challenge call for proposals. This was the third call for the SAIS 2 Innovation Fund, and asked for applications to finance projects that offer products and services that improve startup ecosystems’ resilience to external shocks.
The call for proposals was organised as a challenge, and attracted 54 applications from SAIS 2’s five partner countries. Following an intensive screening process, the SAIS 2 Supervisory Board confirmed the selection of five projects from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Tanzania. Each project received matching grant funding of EUR 30,000 to EUR 50,000 to pilot or validate their solutions.
The Five Winning Projects
BeFound Digital Masterclass
This project enables small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to create compelling digital marketing strategies according to their business goals and customer needs. The SMEs will be taught how to build functional websites and how to maintain them as well as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) skills to improve their website’s visibility on locally available search engines. Using these skills, SMEs will be able to attract more clients, leading to improved revenues and helping them to become more resilient.
This project seeks to empower 60 entrepreneurs in low-income communities to increase their business revenues with e-commerce, specifically through chatbot-powered sales channels over Whatsapp. Doing so, the project aims to mitigate losses and closures of businesses due to curfews, lockdowns, and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Edpreneurs: Networking and Empowering Education Entrepreneurs towards a Resilient EdTech Ecosystem in Southern Africa
The purpose of this project is to establish a digital business ecosystem in Southern Africa to leverage the EdTech infrastructure and education software development in the region. Such an ecosystem would help solve capacity building challenges arising due to the lack of digital infrastructure and personnel with digital competencies. This challenge has been exacerbated by the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Integrated Reforesting for Service Providers
The Integrated Reforesting for Service Providers project solves the challenge faced by Tanzanian urban investors, diaspora, and forestry companies seeking transparent service provision for sustainable forestry management. The project’s proposed innovation helps to remotely track the progress of forestry operations on the ground while also ensuring that the appropriate forestry guidelines are being adhered to.
Strengthening Resilience of Botswana’s Innovation Ecosystem through Co-Creation and Foresight
This project will utilise team-based group work activities to provide small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and startups with the skills they need to create innovative solutions that augment their businesses’ resilience to external shocks. The participating companies engage in a co-creation process that defines the future contexts for businesses. This ensures that resources are used for relevant activities from the businesses’ points of view.
The Path Forward
Each of the projects received training in market validation organised by the SAIS 2 Programme Management Office and its knowledge partner Viridian. The projects are now in full implementation for six months until June 2021. The results will be captured, packaged, and shared with SAIS 2’s larger network.