KAMPALA – According to key findings from a “Survey on Start-ups Ecosystem Strengthening in the Republic of Uganda” (JICA Task Force, February 2021) indicated that startups in Uganda face challenges of; inadequate accelerator programs, unfavorable government policies, insufficient financial resources, NGO and “Grantpreneurship mindset, unattractive environment for the investor, the complacency of startups and poor quality of business ideas.
In collaboration with Uganda Startup hubs, the Japan International Cooperation (JICA) has launched the Next Innovation with Japan (NINJA) Accelerator Uganda to take high-growth startups to the next level of business growth to attract investment worth US$0.5m.
The program will be implemented for a period of three months in partnership with Outbox, The Innovation Village, Hive Colab, and the Government of Uganda. Registration for interested startups started on July 30th, 2021 and the deadline will be August 22, 2021.
UCHIYAMA Takayuki, the Chief Representative at JICA Uganda Office has said that the program is slated to start on September 13, 2021, with anticipation of about 200 applications from eligible startups. The applicants will be subjected to three critical levels of assessment before qualifying for the NINJA Accelerator Uganda program.
Fifty startups will be selected to proceed to the second level of assessment and the top 15 startups from level two will proceed to the final assessment level to participate in a demo day where they will pitch their solutions to the task force implementing hubs as well as the investment partners. Of the five startups that will be selected, JICA will fund proof-of-concept for each of the selected startups with up to US$18,000. They will also have an opportunity to raise $0.5-1 million in investment, Takayuki added.
Appearing during the launch, Innocent Menyo, a beneficiary of the NINJA Covid-19 Response and Recovery Business Challenge run by JICA in 2020 said, ‘’The NINJA Project has been an avenue for selected startups to thrive amidst unprecedented Covid-19 times. With the negative effects of the pandemic on SMEs, the project served to bridge the funding and investment gap, offered technical support, and facilitated collaborations between M-SCAN & Japanese companies for scale.
“Through the funding obtained from the project, we managed to explore new avenues of innovation to impact. We launched a Home-Based Ultrasound Service (HBUS) to help expectant mothers receive ultrasound services in the comfort of their homes. So far, we have scanned over 350 pregnant women with timely referrals done for rightful interventions.’’ Menyo added.
Requirements a Startup should have to participate in the NINJA program
- Should be a registered startup in Uganda
- Should be at a high growth-stage of development earning approximately $50,000 in revenue and above. Ideas will not be accepted
- Must have been in operation for at least one year
- Must have an economically viable business model
- Should be able to demonstrate a strong promise of building a sustainable and impactful business
- Have a diverse and focused leadership team with at least one team member with strong sector expertise.
How businesses will benefit from the NINJA program
- Advisory sessions – Businesses will receive advisory services from Rakuten, Japanese biggest e-commerce firm
- Business support – Includes feedback on the product and a better understanding of sector issues.
- Upto US$18,000 proof of concept funding
- Mentorship sessions from a strong network of mentors who will provide advice on topics such as; marketing, scaling, legal issues, business strategy, and pitching to partners
- Executive networking – Startups will get exposure to corporate partners (and vice versa) through networking events.
- Partnership opportunities from Japan investment and consulting firms
- Funding opportunities for high growth-stage startups looking to raise 0.5 – 1 million dollars in investment.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency,( JICA) is a governmental agency that delivers the bulk of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for the government of Japan. It is chartered with assisting economic and social growth in developing countries like Uganda, and the promotion of international cooperation.
The JICA program seeks to support growth-stage Startups (SUs) through a custom-made, bespoke approach for each of the businesses selected into the program, particularly those in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector through shaping their business models and value proposition to gain market traction, find unique solutions that address Ugandan challenges, become profitable and grow their business.
This provides an opportunity for Startups to have access to a joint pool of up to $100,000 in experimental grants. Apply ‘NOW’ https://ninjajica.co.ug/