Niger Basin Nexus Acceleration Programme // Article Series N°1: WEF Nexus Accelerator Bootcamp for Niger Basin start-ups
A Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus Bootcamp took place between 26 June and 2 July, at the 2iE campus in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. It was co-organised by GIZ and the 2iE Institute, seeing 12 entrepreneurial projects from the 9 Niger Basin Authority (NBA) member states. Each project had the chance to present their business models and ideas. The objective of the bootcamp was to provide training and individual coaching for the participants to further develop their business and link them with potential investors.
© GIZ/Robert Kranefeld
Selection of participants
The call for applications was launched by the Institut International d'Ingénierie de l'Eau et de l'Environnement (2iE) on behalf of the Nexus Regional Dialogues (NRD) Programme in the Niger Basin. The NRD programme is a GIZ led project, in the name of the European Union and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
160 innovative young companies from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria replied to the call for application to participate in the accelerator program. The competition was open to any small and medium enterprise (SME) which has been in business for more than two years and whose main promoter is a citizen or resident of the member states of NBA. As the bootcamp was part of the Nexus Regional Dialogue in the Niger Basin, the 12 best start-ups to participate have been chosen by using the Water Energy Food (WEF) Nexus selection criteria toolbox, which identifies projects creating positive synergies between the three sectors (water, energy, food) without negatively impacting each other.
The contesting entrepreneurial projects are built around different integrated aspects of the WEF Nexus, with particular interest in solar power solutions, natural fertilizers, and digitalisation. Below are some examples of the portfolio of the start-ups at the bootcamp:
- Recovering agricultural waste to produce natural fertilizers and biochar
- Manufacturing and installing solar-powered products (e.g. refrigerators, solar irrigation kits)
- Running a digital platform for crowdfunding and technical support for agricultural projects
- Designing and selling smart biodigesters
- Processing downgraded or rotten fruits and vegetables using solar energy and biomass from agricultural waste
- Marketing of digitalisation system for poultry farming and agriculture
- Production of green charcoal, biochar and organic fertilizer from water hyacinth
- Marketing of sustainable mechanical means which reduce post-harvest losses
- Operating an integrated agro-fish farm using a solar-powered borehol
Programme of the bootcamp
During the 5-day long bootcamp, the contestants participated at several workshops about how to build a successful business model and enter into the market, what are the expectations of investors, and how to create an impactful pitch for presentation to the jury. The presentation of Res4Africa focused on how to demonstrate the economic value of Nexus projects to public and private investors, and how to mobilize the financing necessary for their implementation.
The 12 entrepreneurs also participated in a Q&A session with experts on the know-how of fundraising and choosing investors and received 1-on-1 coaching sessions with laboratory experts and mentors from 2iE. Before going into the last day of presenting their pitches to the jury, the participants together with students from 2iE engaged in the Nexus Game to better understand the interlinkages between the water-energy-food security sectors. After the game, the project handed over two complete versions of the Game to the institute, which will integrate it into their upcoming curriculum.
The bootcamp was not only about providing training and mentoring to the participants, but it was also a competition. The top 5 entrepreneur finalists won the chance take part in a 9-month long acceleration program which aims to further develop their business, as well as to connect them with public and private investors interested in financing WEF Nexus-related start-ups.
The top 5 start-ups were (in alphabetical order):
- Agro-Eco Services (based in Benin) focused on the production and marketing of organic fertilisers and biochar.
- Clean Energy Service (based in Cameroon) focused on manufacturing 100% solar powered freezers by recycling old freezer shells and retrieving the harmful gases.
- Green Business (based in Niger) focused on green coal, biochar and biofertilizer production using water Hyacinth.
- MOONSOFTbio (based in Guinea) focused on the design and sale of smart biodigesters.
- SAVIP (based in Chad) focused on the collection and treatment of household and agricultural waste.
By the end of the bootcamp, the jury selected the winning candidate based on the pitch presented. The first place and the seed funding of 25,000,000 CFA was earned by Zakari Idrissa representing Niger, whose start-up Green Business uses water hyacinth to produce green biochar and organic fertilizers which reduces deforestation and improves the water storage in the soil.
The technical and financial acceleration program for these high-impact WEF Nexus start-ups will continue in the upcoming months, which will be covered on our NRP website so stay tuned!
Have a look at the Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme in the Niger Basin to learn more about the activities in the region.