Frequently asked questions to the Acceleration program answered.
By: Emily Nkhambule
How does the Acceleration program differ from the Incubation program?
The Acceleration program is the second component of the Business Acceleration for Youth project. The Acceleration program targets Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that have progressed beyond the business start-up phase and can no longer sustain growth solely through internal reinvestment. To maximize their growth potential, they need external investment. In contrast, the incubation program focusses on supporting idea stage or early-stage youth (18-35 years) owned businesses in nine target districts located in southern Malawi.
I am over 35 years and outside the project incubation target districts, can I still apply?
Certainly! The Acceleration program, unlike the incubation program is designed to be inclusive, targeting SMEs from all districts across Malawi. Further, the Acceleration program specifically targets youth SMEs or SMEs with a youth engagement agenda. To clarify, the SME should predominantly work with Youth either as employees or within their supply chain.
Why should an SME consider participating in the Acceleration program?
Engaging in the Acceleration program provides SMEs with an opportunity to enhance their entrepreneurial capacity. The program offers support that includes technical assistance, coaching and financing. The program has a grant component that comprises of $10,000 for technical assistance, a matching grant of up to $75,000 and the potential for external investments.
Who will provide Acceleration services, and will it include trainings?
The project has engaged Malawian Business Development Services (BDS) providers who have a proven track-record of successfully delivering business acceleration services. The services provided by the BDS will be customised to align with the unique needs of each SME, based on comprehensive business needs assessments.
How many SMEs will the program support?
The acceleration program will support 60 SMEs which are more established firms and have multiple employees. The primary objective is to support SMEs accelerate their growth enabling them to realise their full potential. The support includes technical assistance, coaching and an opportunity to unlock business financing in the form of a matching grant. Currently, the project is supporting 12 SMEs (25% Females, 75% Males) selected for Cohort 1 through the first call for applications done in May 2023.
How many SMEs will have the opportunity for grants under the Acceleration program?
All 60 SMEs enrolled in the acceleration program will benefit from up to $10,000 in technical assistance grants. Furthermore, 30 of these SMEs will have the additional opportunity to access matching grants of up to $75,000. The SME will be assessed through financial modelling on what would be the appropriate level of investment based upon business maturity and investment needs. The matching grants are in two categories; a one for-one matching scenario if the SME secures an external investor and/or a 30 percent matching if the SME is independently raising funds. To facilitate the matchmaking process and identify suitable investment opportunities, the project has engaged FACS/Metro wall for financial access consulting.
To unlock the project grant, SMEs will be required to present an investment pitch and business plan that will be assessed based on set criteria.
What are the priority business sectors?
The project accepts applications from different business sectors with the exception of Mining, Alcohol and Tobacco. Priority business sectors include Agriculture, Forestry, Conservation, Agro-processing, Sustainable Energy, Sustainable Fisheries, Ecotourism, Education, Health, Communication and Digital products and services.
What is the Structure of the Business Acceleration for Youth Project Acceleration Program?
The acceleration program will involve approximately three months of technical assistance and six months of coaching and post grant support. Due to the bespoke approach this may vary from SME to SME.
What is the eligibility criteria?
In order to qualify for the program, applicant/SME must meet the following;
Must have a registered business.
Must have Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) registration and be compliant.
Must be able to show management accounts.
There should be a product or service that you are providing to the market to demonstrate that the business is post revenue.
Limited previous participation in entrepreneurship development projects.
What are the selection criteria?
Applications are evaluated based on the following criteria.
Product/Service potential - Does the product/service have commercial potential with high growth rate in the market? Is there a market fit?
Team Capability - Is the team profile fit for purpose for the growth of the business?
Invest ability - Understanding of the business numbers, ease of accessing business financials, clear demonstration of what grant financing will be used for.
Growth Potential - Can the business be scaled up? Is there easy access to inputs? Do the founders have the capacity for growth?