VIA Water Innovation Challenge a great success: “This is exactly what young entrepreneurs in Africa need”

Recently Africa Funded initiated the VIA Water Innovation Challenge, an intense six week accelerator taking 8 innovative water startups from 4 countries in Africa to a pilot proposal stage. Below are the results of a survey sent out to participants after the VIA Water Innovation Challenge, showing skill ratings doubled during the program and 83% of participants rated the program as ‘outstanding.

VIA Water is a program tracking down and supporting innovative solutions for water problems in African cities. The program originates from the “Dutch Knowledge Platform for Water” and is hosted by UNESCO-IHE. Africa Funded runs the incubator program and seed fund for Aqua for All, the fund manager.

The VIA Water Challenge program, set up by Africa Funded as a short track accelerator program within the scope of the Incubator for Water, Sanitation & Solid Waste, was a great success. In addition to the results of the actual acceleration program, the call improved pipeline to the VIA Water Fund from 75 in a year to 150 in just six weeks time.


The Challenge was open to entrepreneurs from Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda and South Sudan. The selected pioneers who joined the accelerator program included Patrick Apoya and Elliot Abra (SkyFox, Ghana), Dickson Ochieng Otieno (Sanivation, Kenya), Nafisatu Ahmed (Ghana), Kevin Maina Mureithi (Trace Group, Kenya), Isaac Monney (Ghana), Peter Chege Gichuku (Hydroponics Africa Ltd, Kenya), Maurice Abayo, Luc Einstein Ngend Ngend& Philippe Kwitonda (Indogobe Smart Water Ltd, Rwanda) and Sebastiao Inacio Famba (, Mozambique).

83% rated the program as ‘outstanding

The participants were very positive about the contents of the program: 83% of respondents rated the program as ‘outstanding’, and 17% as ‘good’. On average, the participants rated the online weekly sessions in the program with 8.5 points, individual feedback and coaching sessions with 9.3 points, and access to experts with 8.5 points (on a scale to 10).

Especially the coaching and feedback were highly appreciated. One of the respondents noted: “I loved the fact that the program's experts were fully committed in offering support even on weekends. This is a sign of commitment and dedication. We also never missed any single weekly session despite the technical challenges. And the feedback from the experts was ever helpful!”

Skill ratings almost doubled from 4.2 to 8.2

In the survey the respondents were asked to rate their own skills (1 to 10) before and after the program in a number of areas. The feedback was quite impressive, with aggregated average skills rating improving 3.9 points as a result of the program - from 4.3 to 8.2!

                                                                                                                 Before                     After                         Increase

Develop a Business Model                                                                    3.8                             8.7                             (+4.9)             

Define how a pilot should look like                                                       4                                 8.7                             (+4.7)

Identifying relevant partnerships                                                          5                                 7.8                             (+2.8)

Risk Assessment and Mitigation                                                            4                                 8                                 (+4)

Impact & Outcome Assessment                                                            4.7                             8                                 (+3.3)

Defining project budget                                                                         4.5                             7.8                             (+3.3)

Writing a proposal (structure)                                                               4.2                             8.5                             (+4.3)

                                                                                                                 ----                             ----                             ----

                                                                                                                 4.3                             8.2                             (+3.9)

Two thirds already see improvements in their business

67% of respondents said the program had made a major contribution in preparing them to develop a business proposal. An even higher percentage (80%) judged that the program had fully addressed their personal key barriers to developing such a proposal. The other 20% said it had done so to an extent.

On average, respondents rated the perceived relevance of experts they had been introduced to in the program with 8.5 points on a scale from 1 to 10. On enhancing learnings and promoting peer interaction, 50% of respondents said the program had made a major contribution.

A large majority (67%) of respondents said they already saw improvements in their businesses as a result of the VIA Water Innovation Challenge program. One of the respondents said he was sending out invitations for partnership.

Finally, all of the respondents were extremely appreciative of the accelerator team: 100% of them judged they had made a great contribution and a big impact. Respondents stated: “The accelerator team was always available to answer my questions. Apart from providing me with feedback, they also provided me with inspiration and encouragement throughout entire period of the program”; “They covered all major areas that used to be obstacles to my company growth”.

Unanimous recommendations

The respondents were unanimous in that they would definitely recommend the online program to others. One of them remarked: “This is exactly what young entrepreneurs in Africa need. We are in so many cases discouraged to start our own businesses. Having someone to listen to you and guide you to improve your business idea, no matter how weird it may seem at the beginning, is a great opportunity. Please don't give up on people's ideas so easily. Give people the chance to test, probably fail and improve their ideas. That's how all great inventors succeed”.

6 of the 8 program participants filled out the survey. Of the responding entrepreneurs/businesses 50% were based and active in Kenya and 50% in Ghana; 67% of them labelled themselves as registered startup (<3 years), 33% as established firm (>3 years).

The VIA Water Challenge program is one example of the programs managed by Africa Funded. In 2016 Africa Funded will organize more accelerators aiming at supporting innovative business models to improve water, sanitation and waste situation in developing countries.

To learn more about our programs, please contact:

Saskia Reus-Makkink -