The Business Acceleration for Youth project has recently concluded the application period for ‘Window 1.’ of its acceleration program. This program is specifically designed to enhance the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Malawi by empowering and assisting these enterprises in realizing their maximum potential through the provision of technical assistance, mentorship, and access to business financing opportunities.
This new acceleration program serves as an extension to the project's existing incubation program, focusing on assisting 60 SMEs that have surpassed the initial start-up phase and now require external resources to continue growing. To propel these enterprises during their critical growth phase, the program will offer invaluable technical support and facilitate access to investment.
"The program presents a remarkable opportunity for SMEs to enhance their entrepreneurial capacity. Through the Business Acceleration for Youth project, we aim to foster innovative and impactful entrepreneurship by offering tailor-made technical assistance and mobilizing private sector financing for investment-ready enterprises. In addition, the acceleration program will provide mentorship, coaching, networking opportunities, and industry-specific expertise to help SMEs accelerate their growth and achieve long-term success," said David Slane, the project's Chief of Party.
Following the closure of the application process, the project is presently in the screening phase, rapidly reviewing the applications received. Firms passing the initial screening will be assessed further through interviews and other due diligence processes. This is intended to gather more information about the applicants' businesses and ensure a best fit with the Project’s objectives. Firms reaching the final stage will undertake business needs self-assessments to identify their support needs. These processes will ensure that the program delivers bespoke services tailored to match the unique needs of each SME.
The Project recognizes that technical support without access to finance and investment for SMEs is self-limiting. With this in mind, the project incorporates a financing component that will enable SMEs to pitch for matching grants of up to $75,000. These matching grants come in two forms: a 1:1 match if the SME secures an external investor, and a 30% match if the SME raises the funds independently. To unlock these grants, SMEs will be required to deliver investment pitches. This pitching process will occur after SMEs have received technical assistance and have been recommended to the investment panel for potential financing.
Business Acceleration for Youth project stands out as one of the few business acceleration programs in Malawi, offering a supportive environment for entrepreneurs to flourish and creating growth-oriented, sustainable firms capable of securing and effectively utilizing investments.
The project anticipates an application ‘Window 2.’ within, the 2023 calendar year and welcomes applications businesses from various sectors, except for Mining. Priority sectors for participation include Agriculture, Forestry, ICT, Conservation, Agro-processing, Sustainable Energy and Ecotourism among others.
Business Acceleration for Youth is an innovative five-year project funded by USAID Malawi and led by the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).