Selected African SMEs in Agriculture that can create employment for the youth of varied backgrounds are set to get funding in an initiative launched by Mastercard Foundation Fund.

The SMEs, through the Agribusiness Challenge Fund unveiled by Mastercard Foundation Fund for Resilience and Prosperity, will get grants between USD500,000 to USD2.5 million.

SMEs with innovative and commercially viable agribusinesses in 20 Sub-Saharan Africa countries will qualify to be funded to scale their businesses to create sustainable jobs for the youth, especially young women.

The fund will be disbursed over three years, according to the development stage of the applicants, scalability and business model, as agreed based on periodic milestone targets.

The funding structure for successful applicants will be on a case-by-case basis after proposal and organization evaluation, with extra support including tailored technical aid aligned with FRP objectives.

The Agribusiness Challenge Fund is the first of several sector-focused calls for proposals that the Fund is set to unveil that focus on the potential of the SMEs to create jobs at scale.

The fund targets SMEs in Kenya, Benin, Burundi, Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

“The agriculture sector presents great opportunities for innovative SMEs in Sub-Saharan Africa to grow, with opportunities to create dignified and fulfilling work for young people, especially young women, young persons with disabilities and refugee youth,” said Mastercard Foundation Fund for Resilience and Prosperity Engagement Partner Smita Sanghrajka.

Sanghrajka noted that agri-SMEs in Sub-Saharan Africa lack sufficient financial support to scale and need to be enabled to adopt better business practices and investor readiness.

“The Mastercard Foundation is collaborating with a network of partners to create job opportunities for young people across Sub-Saharan Africa, in line with our Young Africa Works strategy,” said Mastercard Foundation Executive Director of Pan-African Programs Daniel Hailu.

He added: “The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Resilience and Prosperity offers a fantastic opportunity for SMEs looking for support to expand and simultaneously generate employment for the youth.”

The Agribusiness Challenge Fund call for proposals is currently open and will terminate on November 22, 2024, with periodic collections of applications to be assessed every 12 weeks.

The challenge will be open to SME applications as long as they meet the eligibility criteria and their projects are being implemented in at least one of the 20 focus countries targeted.

On the other hand, unsuccessful applicants will get an opportunity to refine and resubmit their applications for subsequent collections.

The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Resilience and Prosperity is a new fund created after the successful conclusion of the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity, which operated 2014-2023 and supported 38 participant businesses from 15 African countries.

Through innovation, the selected businesses scaled financial products and services targeting the rural folk and further enabled financial inclusion for more than 5.3 million people.

Potential applicants for the Agribusiness Challenge Fund can register and access the application platform through the Agribusiness Challenge Fund website

The USD126 million Mastercard Foundation Fund for Resilience and Prosperity runs for seven years and seeks to support SMEs across 3 sectors in 20 Sub-Saharan Africa countries.