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30 NEIP entrepreneurship and innovation hubs receive US$4 million grant

National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP)/awards for hubs

The National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) wants to build the country’s first unicorn – a start-up with a value of over US$1billion.

As part of processes towards realising this, NEIP has earmarked US$4 million under its Hubs Acceleration Grant Programme (HAGP) to support 30 entrepreneurship and innovation firms across the country.

The hubs will be supported to run programmes that benefit firms and start-ups, as the NEIP embarks on a journey to produce the country’s first unicorn, its chief executive officer, Kofi Ofosu Nkansah, has said.

A sub-component of NEIP’s programmes under the Ghana Economic Transformation Project (GETP), the HAGP is designed to support development of the private enterprises ecosystem by building capacities of entrepreneurship and innovation hubs to bring the quality of their services up to international standards.

Speaking at the grant-signing ceremony in Accra, Kofi Ofosu Nkansah, said supporting entrepreneurship and small-, medium-enterprises (SMEs) growth is critical to the country’s economic recovery and job creation.

The term “unicorn” refers to a privately held start-up company with a value of over $1billion. It is commonly used in the venture capital industry.

Selection of beneficiaries

After receiving nearly 100 applications when the call for applications opened, the NEIP and its partners, including the World Bank and Deloitte consultants, evaluated and whittled the number down to 40.

This was followed by a comprehensive mapping and classification exercise to trim the number of applicants further to 30, Nkansah said.

“We undertook a due diligence visit to all the 40 shortlisted hubs. There, we took stock of their capacities, programmes offered and challenges faced.

“This was aside from confirming information and picking up more data to aid in the due diligence effort,” he said, adding that the purpose of the mapping and classification exercise was to enhance quality and service offerings by entrepreneurship hubs in Ghana to international standards.

“And the final report provided NEIP with a comprehensive overview of the hub landscape, including locations and key characteristics, while assessing level of collaboration, sustainability of operations, service offering, impact and challenges,” he said.

He added: “The objectives include identifying hubs, classifying them based on specific criteria, analysing their distribution, and offering recommendations for improvement.”

Among the other criteria considered during the selection exercise, hubs were required to be legally registered in the country with 100% indigenous ownership; have operated as an enterprise support organisation in Ghana for at least three years; and have core expertise in entrepreneurship support and business acceleration.

Targeted sectors

According to Nkansah, the HAGP will focus on hubs operating in the following sectors: agriculture, technology and innovation, light manufacturing and processing, waste and green businesses, and technical and vocational-oriented hubs.

Encouraging the active participation of women, youth and persons with disabilities in the grant programme, he said, the disbursement of funds will follow immediately after the contract signing.

“That will not be the end of the process; a period of monitoring and evaluation will commence, wherein we will track key milestones and ensure compliance and use of funds for their intended purpose,” he said.

Under the monitoring and evaluation element, the NEIP will request quarterly and annual reports – all in a bid to grow the ecosystem to world standards on the way to producing Ghana’s first unicorn, Ofosu Nkansah said.

Phase two of the Hubs Acceleration Grant Programme will cover set-up and operationalisation of new hubs, including revitalising hubs which are not more than two years old.

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