The Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund (MICF) is currently accepting applications for the Economic Resilience and Recovery Window. In order to respond to this crisis, MICF will deploy a funding window of immediate support to critical businesses in agriculture, manufacturing, as well as those whose failure could have severe systemic impacts on the economy. This could include, for example, businesses that support the supply of food, transport and logistics.
The focus will be on the dual objectives of:
- Helping key businesses to maintain supply chains and adapt production and processes to supply goods that are likely to experience rapid domestic demand and potential for longer term profitable business lines. These interventions will seek to preserve existing jobs and incomes of suppliers, and avoid financial restructuring;
- Supporting businesses that can deliver a fast recovery from the shock. It will do this through complementary actions to directly increase firm resilience to economic shocks, as well as leverage local production possibilities to scale and grow products that are likely to have potential for future exports.
Within this environment the Economic Resilience and Recovery Window will solicit business ideas from private sector organisations operating within Malawi that have a capacity to implement that can:
- Strengthen businesses operating in key supporting functions of value chains, particularly within logistics, distribution and last mile delivery to ensure that domestic supply chains can function and continue to deliver vital supplies even with social distancing measures in place.
- Support critical businesses across value chains that can have the potential to leverage producers and suppliers to scale and grow products that are likely to experience supply shortages but have potential for future exports. These will need to demonstrate: how local production could be integrated, scaled and grown; domestic demand shortages that the product could fill; a relatively quick turnaround time to commence manufacture / processing; and iv) the longer term potential for delivering export growth. These could, for instance, include soaps (from vegetable / sunflower oil-based products); hand sanitizers from sugar wastes and molasses; through to developing virtual marketplaces for different products, etc.
- Support technology-based solutions for tracking movements of goods, supporting aggregation, traceability and delivery. It will support the integration of either innovative or off the shelf technology solutions for creating linkages across various market players especially in supporting aggregation, distribution and last mile delivery.
- The total grant funds requested must be between US$200,000 and US$ 500,000.
Firms wishing to apply to the Economic Resilience and Recovery Window of the Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund (MICF) will need to meet the following criteria:
- The lead organisation must be a private for-profit company. Only in exceptional cases will MICF consider new businesses (start-ups), where there is strong evidence that the new company has credible and experienced investors and a solid management team.
- The business idea must be implemented in Malawi; either by private sector organisations registered in Malawi or externally registered businesses investing in Malawi.
- The applicant company may collaborate with other organizations, including nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and community organisations, and farmers’ organisations. However, it is a condition that the lead applicant and implementer of the business idea must always be a commercial company/business.
- All applicants must demonstrate their capacity to implement their proposed project and will need to demonstrate sound financial performance and clear corporate governance.
Projects applying to the MICF Economic Resilience and Recovery Window are expected to:
- Strengthen businesses operating in logistics, distribution and last mile delivery.
- Support technology-based solutions for tracking movements of goods, supporting aggregation, traceability, and delivery.
- Support businesses that can work with smallholder producers and suppliers to scale and grow products that are likely to experience supply shortages but have potential for future exports. [For those planning interventions in medical and personal protective equipment sectors, additional technical and advisory support could be made available through Engineers without Borders and UNDP’s Technology Access Platform]
- All business projects must be inclusive in nature. They will need to demonstrate their ability to deliver significant benefits to poor households in terms of improved incomes or job creation / retention or by providing affordable products and services, rather than solely benefitting the participating companies / organisations of a particular project.
The funding request must be for a specific, new and innovative business idea. The MICF views innovation in its broadest sense including:
- a new approach, product, idea or service that has not been tested anywhere; ii) an approach, product, idea or service that is new to Malawi; or
- an approach, product, idea or service that has not been applied to the sector in question in Malawi.
- The project promoters including the lead company, collaborating organisations and third parties such as co-investors or banks and other lenders must provide matching funds of at least 30% of the total cost of the business idea. Contributions can be made through a combination of in-kind and cash contributions and will be taken on a case by case basis dependent on the logic of the individual project proposed.
- The project must demonstrate that the activities that will be funded by the MICF will be additional to the company’s existing activities and that the project would not go ahead without MICF funding. The MICF could also consider projects that if they would have gone ahead, it would be at a much-reduced pace or scale in the absence of the MICF support.