The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund

A fund offering grants to private sector companies to support new and innovative business models in Africa.


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.

Eligibility to apply or access support

The legal obligations of the AECF mean your organisation must be a for-profit company, or other such entity.

The ‘general window’ part of the AECF is open to proposals for business concepts to be implemented in any country in Africa. Multi-country and regional projects are also eligible. Windows have also been developed for specific purposes such as a window for agribusiness and rural finance in Zimbabwe, a window targeting innovative business ideas based on the results of agricultural research, Research into Business, a window targeting Agribusiness in Tanzania and a window on renewable energy and adaptation to climate change technologies.

In normal circumstances, your company must be able to produce 2 years of audited accounts. The amount applied for cannot be less than US$250,000 (minimum) or more than US$1,500,000 (maximum). The minimum amount the AECF requires your company to invest is usually 50% (at least, the more the better) of the total cost of implementing the project. However you must check the particular conditions for the particular window you are applying to.

The process

The AECF proposal application process follows the 2-stage process that is common to all AECF funding windows.

The first stage is the submission of an initial application form that will set out the idea not only in terms of its commercial viability but also on its potential rural development impact.

This will be assessed by a small team of assessors and the fund manager who will shortlist the best applications and then it will be assessed by the AECF’s independent Investment Committee. During the first stage, applications are judged solely on the quality of the written submissions.

The 2nd stage is the preparation and submission of a detailed business plan, which your company will be asked to provide if your application has been selected to move forward by the Investment Committee. During this stage AECF will also engage with and visit all of the companies preparing business plans. The final business plans are presented to the independent Investment Committee for a decision about which business ideas win the competition for AECF funding.

Additional information and how to apply

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