Most of startups die simply because they ran out of money. There is a “Research and Development” period for any business that is generally chaotic, capital intense, stressful, but is absolutely necessary for the founders to learn the business they are in, and also to discover their business model and product-market fit.
Big corporation and universities receive huge amount of money from governments, chambers of commerce, foundations and banks to finance the trial and error period of their new activities. For startups it’s however difficult to get access to these R&D funds, but smart entrepreneurs know how to leverage the hundreds of grants outside there to fund their research and development period. Governments and parents should fund your mistakes!
The easiest way to do so is to start by creating a nonprofit organization that would qualify to get grants from diverse organizations, then in a second steps to transfer any promising product or asset to a commercial entity that would market it. These grants could be channeled through existing organization like universities or public institutions. Facebook, Google, Yahoo and numerous of the celebrated Silicon Valley companies have started leveraging free resources from universities and publicly funded research work.
Here is a list of 20 organizations I found that award grants to African individuals and organizations:
1. The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund
The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) offers grants on a competitive basis to private sector companies to support new and innovative business models in Africa. It is a private sector fund backed by some of the biggest names in development finance. The fund aims to encourage greater participation by Africa’s poor in markets, both as consumers, and as workers and producers. The fund provides grants and “non-recourse” loans on a competitive basis to fund profitable business ideas that also have a developmental impact on the poor.
More information here: http://www.aecfafrica.org/ and here: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Work-with-us/Funding-opportunities/Countries-and-regions/AECF/
2. African development Bank Fund for African Private Sector Assistance
It looks like the African development Bank has lot of funds, loans and grants program to help African entrepreneurs, however their website is a big mess. It’s complicate to navigate and find updated information, but people who have patience will be rewarded. A friend of mine just got half a million dollars grant from ADB to finance the research and development period of his idea.
More information here: and http://www.afdb.org/en/topics-and-sectors/sectors/private-sector-development/working-with-us/ here http://www.afdb.org/en/topics-and-sectors/initiatives-partnerships/fund-for-african-private-sector-assistance/private-sector-development/
3. Engineering Information Foundation
The foundation mission is to improve worldwide engineering education and practice through information technology and the recruitment of women.
More information here: http://www.eifgrants.org/info/progareas.html
4. United States African Development Foundation
USADF has a unique mission to provide funds that promote community-based, self-help economic and development activities in Africa. USADF support focuses on community groups and small businesses that actively involve and benefit the marginalized communities in conflict and post conflict regions in Africa.
The majority of USADF’s funding agreements range between $50,000 and $250,000.
More information here: http://www.adf.gov/funding.html
5. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.
More information here: http://www.knightfoundation.org/what-we-fund/
6. Mo Ibrahim Foundation
The Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships form a selective program designed to identify and prepare outstanding African leaders by providing them with critical experience at the highest levels of multilateral organizations. http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/fellowships/
The Ibrahim Scholarships are a range of programs o support aspiring leaders for the African continent. The scholarships reflect a range of priorities for African development. http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/scholarships/
More information here: http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/overview/
7. Compton Foundation
Mission: “We ignite change. We support transformative leadership and courageous storytelling, inspiring action toward a peaceful, just, sustainable future. We believe that the most effective leaders focus not only on strategizing, organizing, and campaigning, but also on personal relationships. Success in creating a more just and sustainable world will require emotional authenticity in addition to intellectual analysis, and the courage to lead morally, as well as politically.”
More information here: http://www.comptonfoundation.org/what-we-support/
8. Carnegie Higher Education and Libraries Program
The Higher Education and Libraries in Africa Program will support a limited number of core institutions and projects working to strengthen the human capital of selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The Program builds on a decade-long investment in the transformation of African universities and libraries, supported by the Corporation and other funders through a Partnership for Higher Education in Africa.
More information here: http://carnegie.org/programs/higher-education-and-libraries-in-africa/
9. John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford
(This year applications are already closed. Bookmark this for next year application)
Together with a group of fellows from all over the world, you’ll pursue and develop your innovation ideas and practices, with all the resources of Stanford and Silicon Valley.
Knight Fellows get time, funding, and the space to test projects and build on ideas. We keep our program small. Fellows aren’t merely familiar with each other’s work; they truly collaborate on it. And we value fellows’ lives outside work—we welcome partners, spouses, and families, and we help support the move to Palo Alto.
More information here: http://knight.stanford.edu/become-a-fellow/getting-a-fellowship/
10. Aid to Artisans
Aid to Artisans has spent 33 years creating economic opportunities for well over 100,000 artisans in more than 110 countries where their livelihoods, communities and craft traditions are at risk.
Over the past 10 years, our efforts have leveraged nearly $230 million in retail sales. This income has empowered 125,000 artisans in 41 emerging regions of the world. About 70% of the artisans we work with are women.
More information here: http://www.aidtoartisans.org/what_we_do/
11. Royal Society-DFID Africa Capacity Building Initiative
This program is for scientists who want to develop collaborative research consortia between scientists in sub-Saharan Africa and a research institution in the UK.
The overall aim of the scheme is to strengthen the research capacity of universities and research institution in sub-Saharan Africa by supporting the development of sustainable research networks.
Opening date: late 2013
Results announced: late 2014
More information here: http://royalsociety.org/grants/schemes/africa-capacity-building/
12. The Rockefeller Foundation Grants
From funding an unknown scholar named Albert Einstein to accelerating the impact investing industry, the Rockefeller Foundation has a long tradition of enhancing the impact of individuals, institutions and organizations working to change the world. In today’s dynamic and interconnected world, The Rockefeller Foundation has a unique ability to address the emerging challenges facing humankind through a 100-year legacy of innovation, intervention and influence to shape agendas and inform decision making.
More information here: http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/grants/what-we-fund
13. Ford Foundation
Each year the Ford Foundation receives about 40,000 proposals and makes about 1,400 grants. In 2011, we distributed $422 million in grants worldwide.
Our grant making focuses on reducing poverty and injustice; promoting democratic values; and advancing human knowledge, creativity and achievement. If your project reflects these priorities, you may submit a grant inquiry using our online form.
More information here: http://www.fordfoundation.org/grants
14. Ramsar assistance programs
The Ramsar Convention maintains three assistance programsfor small projects (or parts of larger projects) for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. The Small Grants Fund supports projects from around the world, both through direct assistance and through seeking donors for additional proposals. The Wetland for the Future initiative, funded by the United States State Department and Fish and Wildlife Services, supports small capacity building projects in Latin America. The Swiss Grant for Africa assists the Secretariat’s Africa regional team in facilitating specific activities in that region.
More information here: http://www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-activities-grants/main/ramsar/1-63-68_4000_0__
15. Africa Exchange
The program is designed to preserve, transmit, and nurture African culture within US communities, create links between African and US-based artists, and explore new artistic forms and mutual influences between cultures. Africa Exchange provides support for African performing artists to travel to the United States and engage with their US-based counterparts in residency programs, workshops, and concentrated creative time, fostering the creation of new, collaborative work.
More information here: www.651arts.org
16. Global Green Grants Fund
Since we were founded in 1993, we have made nearly 6,000 grants to grassroots groups on the front lines of environmental justice.
Over the next five years, our goal is to double our grant making. More small grants means more resources in the hands of dedicated grassroots activists. More resources for the grassroots means global change from the ground-up. See for yourself.
More information here: http://www.greengrants.org/our-grants/
17. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
“We work with a range of partners to achieve our goals as the scale of the problems we are trying to solve is large. Our partners include the nonprofits, businesses, and governments to whom we make grants. Other partners may co-fund work or help us bring together multiple players working toward a common goal.”
More information here: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/programs/Pages/overview.aspx
18. The African Women’s Development Fund
The AWDF funds local, national, sub-regional and regional organisations in Africa working towards women’s empowerment. The AWDF is an institutional capacity-building and programme development fund, which aims to help build a culture of learning and partnerships within the African women’s movement. In addition to raising money and awarding grants, the AWDF will attempt to strengthen the organisational capacities of its grantees.
More information here: http://www.awdf.org/the-process/grant-making/grant-application-guidlines
19. The Africa Grantmakers Affinity Group (AGAG)
AGAG is a network of grantmakers working in or interested in working in Africa. AGAG was established as a forum for foundations to exchange information and work together in an effort to amplify current foundation funding and promote increased and more effective grantmaking in Africa to better address Africa’s development challenges. Includes a list of links to foundation members.
More information here: www.africagrantmakers.org
20. Google Grants
Google Grants is the nonprofit edition of AdWords, Google’s online advertising tool. Google Grants empowers nonprofit organizations, through $10,000 per month in in-kind AdWords™ advertising, to promote their missions and initiatives on Google.com.
More information here: http://www.google.com/grants/index.html