In March 2017, SNV and partners (BoPInc and Inclusive Business Sweden) launched the Innovations Against Poverty (IAP) call for proposals (funded by Sida). The call received overwhelming interest from the private sector. During a three month period, a total of 1,051 concept notes were submitted, while 1,359 companies registered at  the on-line platform for project applications.

Out of the total number of concept notes, 93 companies were shortlisted to submit a full business plan. Subsequent due diligence, led to the selection of 38 companies for IAP support. At the time of writing the negotiation stage has been finalised and almost all contracts have been signed (35 are expected in total with 3 withdrawals and 5 still in negotiation).

With booming internet connectivity and increasing mobile phone penetrations in emerging markets, some exciting ICT solutions are becoming part of the IAP portfolio. Upgrading on the mobile wallet, Chap Chap Africa Limited (Uganda) developed a phone-based application allowing those living in poverty to pay bills, save money and get paid. Such a tool offers great potential for financial inclusion of low-income groups. From another angle MEDEEM (Zambia) leverages ICT to formalise private land ownership, thereby protecting the source of income for thousands of individuals.

Amongst the IAP ventures in Energy, innovative business models around existing technologies can be observed but also novel ways to deliver energy at the last mile. In the prior category, with IAP assistance Africa Clean Energy will be expanding its business into Cambodia with the innovation of a chip build into high quality cookstoves, in order to make them more affordable for low income people. In the latter category, Innovati Resources in Zambia envisions a mobile solar powered kiosk. Via this kiosk – available on a rental or ownership mode – the community can access alternative energy solutions. Not only is this solution promoting renewable sources of energy, it also stimulates local entrepreneurship. Overlapping with the dynamic sector of inclusive recycling, Dreamlight Waste Collection and Recycling (Ethiopia) is turning waste into various forms of energy, such as bottled biogas, briquettes and organic compost products.

The winning innovations in the WASH category address a wide spectrum of WASH challenges for those living in poverty. WE Venture (Cambodia) focuses on providing safe drinking water in rural areas via micro-enterprises, leveraging low-cost pipe water supply technology. Desert Rose (Ethiopia) is approaching the access to safe water challenge from a different angle: by embedding the ideation process in the local community, Desert Rose developed innovative water filters designed in Ethiopia for Ethiopians. Finally, the venture Live Clean Initiatives (Zambia) envisions a sustainable model for offering access to clean, affordable public toilet and shower facilities in peri-urban areas in Zambia, something that is particularly interesting after the recent cholera outbreak in the country.

As expected, IAP received the most applications in the Agriculture & Food sector, which also supports most people’s livelihoods in the target countries. Lyly Food Industry in Cambodia will develop a network of smallholder vegetable and fruit growers as suppliers, thereby developing a truly inclusive value chain. In Ethiopia, Dowin Technology created a Custom Hiring Centre where smallholder farmers can rent professional farming machinery at an affordable rate. With IAP assistance, Dowin Technology will develop a system to leverage local existing assets, essentially enabling individual owners to share and rent out their equipment. Insects have repeatedly been hailed as a sustainable source of protein, and ventures such as EntoAfrica (Uganda) farms insects to be turned into nutritious food products.

For a full round-up of selected companies, see the IAP programme portfolio.

What’s next?

Beginning in 2018, the defined investment projects will be implemented by the companies with support of the IAP team, BoPInc, PUM, local IBA trained consultants and a selection of other service providers to deliver specific advisory needs of the companies. At the same time, we have realised that additional financial investments are needed to enable the successful scaling of the selected concepts. IAP programme partners organise investment and pitching events to attract investors.

About IAP
IAP challenges the private sector to develop products, services and business models that can contribute to the fight against poverty and climate change. Through advisory and non-reimbursable funding, innovative Inclusive Business models are supported that deliver developmental benefits for the low income population in both rural and urban areas, while being commercially viable. Target markets for this call were the agri-food, WASH, Energy and ICT sectors in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zambia.