Apply for SME Empowerment Innovation Challenge 2015

HiiL Innovating Justice, together with the Global Agenda Council on Justice and the Ford Foundation, has embarked on a pioneering new endeavor to accelerate justice ventures in East and West Africa. The SME Empowerment Innovation Challenge is geared towards finding and strengthening new initiatives that can empower startups and SMEs. We want to support the best innovations and address regulatory hurdles and bureaucratic red tape faced by youth-led startups in East and West Africa.

Participants, who submit their innovative ideas and innovations at,  can win up to $70,000 in seed funding. The deadline for submission is 1 August 2015.

In the most challenging environments, SMEs face a stifling range of interconnected injustices and challenges such as harsh regulations, insecurity, high levels of taxation and corruption, a lack of transparency, demanding registration procedures and a lack of information. In some places it is practically impossible for local businesses to flourish because of lengthy and costly procedures to set up a business, obtain the necessary licenses or meet international standards. All too often, the growth opportunities are hampered by regulatory barriers or the lack of access to basic necessities or credit. Last but not least, for female entrepreneurs the challenges can seem truly insurmountable due to discrimination.New_Challenges

The obstacles to setting up, and scaling up SMEs can be found around the developing world, but in some regions, the potential for progress is particularly striking. The potential in East and West Africa definitely warrants closer attention. Nigeria is a case in point. Whereas the Nigerian population is growing at a fast pace compared to most other regions in the world, one would be hard pressed to make the argument that there are fair, equal opportunities for Nigerian entrepreneurs. They not only struggle to compete with vested business interests within Nigeria, but also with their counterparts in other (more competitive) countries.

We can help change this. With our partners we want to unlock the potential of East and West African SMEs by finding and empowering the governance and justice innovations they truly need. The opportunities for investment and growth in that region are immense.


We assess innovations based on four criteria:

  • Uniqueness: How innovative is your idea? What is your unique selling proposition?
  • Scalability: Is there potential for scaling-up? Locally, regionally, internationally?
  • Sustainability: Is the innovation financially sustainable? Is it commercially viable?
  • Impact: What is the (potential) impact of the innovation?

HiiL and the Ford Foundation will use their regional and local networks to find the best innovations. We are searching for two local Innovating Justice Agents to hire in Lagos and Nairobi. Please contact us if you are interested in working with us on this exciting project.


From 1 to 17 September 2015 innovations will campaign online on The top three of the online campaign will be invited to the Innovating Justice Boostcamp in Lagos. Three wildcards will also be invited.

All Comments