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Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MinT) are inviting Ethiopian innovators to apply for a chance to participate in an Acceleration Program and pitch competition, with winners traveling to Japan for a delegation program and receiving 500,000 birr in equity-free funding.

According to the UN World Population Prospects 2022, it is estimated that close to 70% of Ethiopia’s population of 120 million people are under the age of 30, making the country ripe for economic growth through innovation and startups.

With that in mind, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Ethiopia office, in collaboration with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MinT) is inviting aspiring entrepreneurs with innovative tech-enabled ideas to apply for the ‘Next Innovation with Japan (NINJA) Acceleration Program in Ethiopia 2022’ competition.

JICA and MinT have several programs to support startups in Ethiopia as part of “Project NINJA (Next Innovation with Japan),” and in addition to exploring that website, more information can be found in this video.

Implemented in partnership with Renew Capital, the ten-month acceleration program and pitch competition are aimed at improving and enhancing the environment of startups by helping entrepreneurs obtain training, improve access to funding and connect them with critical resources to actualize their business plans.

“One of the main objectives of Project NINJA is to encourage innovations in solving the prominent problems of society by utilizing emerging technologies. Innovative startups contribute significantly to economic growth and employment nationwide,” explained JICA “It also helps develop new and innovative solutions to challenges faced by traditional industries through cross-sector innovation, thereby creating a more dynamic and competitive society.”

In the month of January 2023, the NINJA Accelerator Program team will screen applications for the initial round of screening out the 30 startups. These selected startups will spend one-week receiving basic training in pitching their projects, then presenting those pitches to a panel of evaluators. From this round, a total of 15 startups will be advanced to the next level of competition, provided the evaluators will conduct in-person and virtual workplace visits and second-round interviews.

From there, the evaluators will make their final decision on which six startups have earned the opportunity to participate in the intensive accelerator program, which will apply best practices from successful acceleration programs, support the startups in creating business networks and/or partnerships, build their capacity and business acumen as entrepreneurs, and address baselined needs.

At the end of June 2023, the six accelerated startups will then present their final pitches to a wide audience of local and international investors, as well as officials from the governments of Japan and Ethiopia, local stakeholders, and media outlets during a Final Pitch Event (demo day). The final six startups will get a disbursement amount of ETB 500K each upon delivery of two reports. The funding will be used to further refine their minimum viable product. Additionally, they will get the chance to visit Japan for training and meet with potential investors and mentors.

If you are the founder of an innovative startup that: (a) is legally registered and operating a company in Ethiopia; (b) has a tech-enabled product (c) has a clear and focused business plan; (d) has a desire to scale operations; (e) is seeking expansion capital; and (f) is coachable and willing to learn, then please check out the APPLICATION LINK for more details on eligibility criteria and how you can apply for consideration. The Application will open on Monday, December 05, and will close on Monday, December 26 at 05 PM or (11 o’clock – local time).

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