FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions


1) What is the WE4F programme and what are its objectives?

WE4F is a joint international initiative of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the European Union (EU), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Netherlands, the Government of Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)   and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Building on the lessons learned from PAEGC (Powering Agriculture: an Energy Grand Challenge for Development) and SWFF (Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge), the WE4F programme aims to scale up innovative water and energy solutions to help increase food production and thus address the challenge of food security.

2) Why implement a WE4F programme in West Africa?

The WE4F programme is structured around a number of regional innovation hubs, notably in South and South-East Asia, the Middle East/North Africa, East Africa and West Africa. West Africa offers a significant pool of companies developing innovative solutions for sustainable water and energy use in the agri-food sector. Furthermore, the population in West Africa is expected to double by 2050, which will increase food needs and pressure on resources. The WE4F programme in West Africa therefore seeks to support companies that develop innovations to address these challenges. Through the call for innovations, 15 entrepreneurs in West Africa will receive technical and commercial support to enable them to develop their activities and thus contribute, more generally, to improving the productivity of small-scale farmers.


3) Who can apply to the WE4F innovation call in West Africa?

The WE4F programme is aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have an innovative, climate-friendly and water and/or energy efficient solution that contributes to increasing food production and consequently improving the income of small-scale farmers. These innovations are no longer at the pilot stage but must already be distributed on the market. They must be based on a sustainable business model and sold at a socially acceptable price.

The companies targeted by this call for innovations must have their headquarters in one of the following nine countries: Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Niger, Benin and Nigeria, and distribute their solutions in at least one of the nine countries mentioned.

These companies must also certify:

  • A legal existence (registration in the commercial register of their country and tax register);
  • A presence on the market for the distributed solution for at least 24 months (i.e. the innovative solution is available since August 2019);
  • A minimum of 5 employees;
  • An annual turnover of between $14,300 USD and $357,000 USD ;

These companies must have the ambition to scale up their solutions and expand their business activities by reaching new customers or new geographical areas.

4) I am an entrepreneur and my activity started several months ago, but I am still in the process of formalising my statutes (declaration to the chamber of commerce, declaration of my income). Can I apply ?

No, you cannot apply because you do not have a legal existence.

5) My enterprise has been operational for 2 years, but I only registered in 2020. Am I eligible for the innovation call ?

If your turnover shows that you’ve had a strong customer base and a market for at least two years, and if you are registered at the time of application, you are eligible.

6) What do you mean by "the company's proposed solution has been on the market for at least 24 months and in at least one of the nine countries" ?

This means that the solution proposed by the company must have been available on the market since at least August 2019 and in at least one of the nine countries concerned by the innovation call. If your innovation was launched later and/or is distributed in a country other than those listed, your application is not eligible.

7) Which years must have a turnover between $14,300 USD and $357,000 USD?

 The last two years of the company’s activity, i.e. 2019 and 2020, must have an annual turnover of between $14,300 USD and $357,000 USD. The 2020 turnover will be assessed with a lower weighting due to the international situation caused by COVID.

8) My turnover is higher than $357,000 USD, can I still apply?

If your turnover exceeds $357,000 USD in one or two of the last two years, you cannot apply.

9) Given the COVID, my turnover does not really reflect my potential, can I still apply ?

Of course and we encourage you to do so. The situation created by COVID will be taken into account in the evaluation of applications!

10) What kind of innovations are being sought ?

The WE4F innovation call in West Africa concerns climate-friendly and innovative solutions in the water and/or energy sector, thus enabling savings of these resources and promoting their sustainable use along the agri-food value chains. These solutions can be of different natures, namely physical, technological, digital or financial. The programme specifically targets innovative solutions that are financially accessible, easily replicable and usable. These solutions should ultimately contribute to improving the living and working conditions of small-scale farmers, especially women and youth, who are the end-users, by increasing their income.

11) What problems must these innovations solve ?

These innovations must respond to the challenges of food production and food security through the provision of a product or service that allows the optimisation of processes and resources along the agri-food value chains. The innovations sought must contribute to the protection of the environment and the sustainable use of resources, and thus allow water and energy savings at the various stages of this value chain. They must also enable small producers to optimise their productivity.

12) What legal status are you looking for? If I am an association or a cooperation that wants to apply, can I ?

Associations are not eligible.

13) I am an individual, can I apply?

Only established businesses with at least five employees are eligible. This includes sole proprietorships, if they meet all the eligibility requirements.

14) Why apply to the WE4F West Africa innovation call ?

The benefits offered by the WE4F programme will allow companies developing innovative solutions (for the sustainable use of water and energy) for food production to scale up their products, to reach new customer segments, new geographical areas and to increase their turnover. The selected entrepreneurs will be part of an acceleration programme and will benefit from

  • A personalised diagnosis, enabling them to identify their priority areas of work in order to boost their scaling up
  • Local technical support via our team of business developers and our network of highly qualified partners in the following areas: marketing, communication, knowledge of international markets, strengthening of managerial, administrative and financial capacities, monitoring and control of operations, legal support, etc.
  • Support for the purchase of equipment and raw materials
  • Opportunities to network with other entrepreneurs in the region to encourage the sharing of experiences
  • Coaching to prepare for fundraising and events to meet investors

The value of these benefits is between $41,600 USD and $180,700 USD, depending on the needs of each company.

15) Is a company selected in another call for projects/applications entitled to apply to the WE4F regional call for innovations?

Yes, if the company meets the eligibility criteria, it is entitled to apply to the WE4F regional innovation call. However, it must communicate this information to the WE4F programme during the selection process.

16) Regarding the eligibility criteria: Must all employees be employed by the SME or the group and its subsidiaries employees can be taken into account to reach the number of 5 employees in the SME ?

No, the applying entity (i.e. the subsidiary based in a target country) must fulfil all eligibility criteria on its own.

17) Could you clarify what is precisely meant by our "business having the ambition to scale up solutions and expand their business activities by reaching new customers or new geographical areas." ?

The WE4F innovation call is looking for companies with existing products and/or services who have the ambition to service new markets (e.g. new clients segments and/or new countries).

18) We have already slightly entered a new geographical market but not reached full penetration yet (same for clients) that would still be ok?

Yes, very much so, as long you as fulfil all eligibility criteria.

19) If we want to pursue Proof of concept for new tools and new channels, have I understood it correctly that there will be no funding such as covering certain technical, personnel or marketing costs or purchase of new equipment...?

We will not fund proofs of concept for products still at ideation stage. However, if you have a product/service that has been on the market for at least 2 years but are currently developing new features and/or exploring new distribution channels, markets, etc., our acceleration program is relevant for you.

20) If the product has been on the market for two years, and we are launching a new product variant and/or diffusion throughout new channels, this would qualify ?

Yes! If it is linked to the existing product and allows you to scale up your activities.

Selection process

21) What is the application process?

The application process for the call for innovations will be done via an online questionnaire (on the LezGo platform).

The application will only be valid if the applicant :

  • Answers the questions on the application form ;
  • Enclose all requested documents (trade register, tax identity, business plan, etc.);
  • Certifies the authenticity of the information provided in the questionnaire;

The three-minute video is not compulsory, but it will give the evaluators a better understanding of your innovation.

22) What is asked in the "Development Plan" of the application questionnaire?

The entrepreneur’s business plan should set out his or her financial forecasts, business expansion strategy and business management strategy for the next three (3) years.

23) What is the selection process?

The selection process will consist of three (3) key steps including:

  • validation of applications: at this stage, each application is checked for compliance with the eligibility criteria, the correct completion of the form and the presence of all attachments. Any application that does not meet all of the above criteria will be eliminated
  • pre-selection: at this stage, the first jury will score the questionnaire and analyse all the attachments, and then proceed to a ranking according to the scores obtained
  • the final selection: The applications selected after the pre-selection will be invited to participate in a Bootcamp. At the end of the Bootcamp, candidates will be evaluated on their business plan and on their investor pitch presented to the Final Jury.

24) Who will be on the jury?

The pre-selection jury will consist of two teams of five people from GIZ and GFA.

The final selection jury will be composed of 9 people from independent organisations covering the following fields of expertise: water, energy, agri-food, marketing, finance, investment, innovation. The names of the jurors will be announced at a later date.

25) At the end of the questionnaire, I must certify the "authenticity of the information given", will an audit of my company be planned?

Applicants to the WE4F West Africa programme agree to provide true and verifiable information. Our partners in each country (the incubators), upon request, will be able to come and verify the authenticity of the information.

26) How will my application be assessed?

The distribution of points will be done by categories of questions corresponding to the table below:

Company profile These questions will assess the profile of the company (number of employees, geographical location of activities) as well as the profile of the entrepreneur (technical skills, business management experience) 09
Innovative capabilities The innovative capacities of the solution refer to the processes concerned by the innovation to meet the challenges of saving water and energy in the stages of the food value chains. In this section, the entrepreneur must demonstrate through the questions the novelty proposed through its product, service or technology directly implemented and responding to the clearly identified needs of the end user. 27
Economic viability Economic viability concerns the economic model adopted by the company in line with the service or product distributed and in order to ensure the sustainability of the activities. In this section, the candidate specifies the operation of the company and the commercial strategy. 34
Impact The impact of the solution refers to the environmental, social and economic benefits (and outcomes) of the solution. In this section, the mechanisms of the solution to participate in the increase of food production and the improvement of the working conditions of the actors of the agri-food value chains will be explained. 30
Score 100

27) What will be asked in the "Business Plan"?

The business plan will allow us to assess the economic strength and viability of your business. The business plan should include all the classic elements of a business plan, including a detailed description of your product or service, an analysis of the market and the competitive situation, a marketing strategy, a description of the procurement, production and delivery process, an analysis of the regulations governing the sector of activity, a financial analysis (annual balance sheet, financial structure, projected profit and loss account, etc.).

28) Regarding the download of the business model, would you accept a canvas business model?

Your business model must be synthetic and fit on 4 pages maximum. It must include:

1) The business case (description of the product/services, market analysis, analysis of the competitive situation, marketing strategy) ;

2) The technical file (description of existing and future equipment, description of the supply process, presentation of the production or service delivery process, regulations)

3) The financial file (estimate of turnover and operating costs, cost of the project, financing scheme, provisional income statement)

The format of the business model is free but must include all the above elements. If your business matrix includes all the expected elements, you may submit it. The business model will not be evaluated during the pre-selection. However, it will form the basis of the final evaluation, so we encourage you to submit as complete a document as possible.

29) What level of precision do you expect in terms of written results?

In general, the answers formulated must be clear, synthetic and contain concrete elements of answers allowing to answer the question asked.

Implementation of the program

30) What level of commitment is required from the selected companies?

The selected innovators will be required to sign an Acceleration Contract in which they commit to implement the coaching plan that will be developed by the WE4F and themselves. The innovators will carry out planned tasks that fall within the scope of achieving the objectives defined in the individual coaching plan. Coaching and capacity building sessions are organised for the innovators, as well as networking sessions with peers or other partners. Innovators will be expected to participate in these sessions and must be committed to the success of the Acceleration Plan within the given timeframe (at least 12 months). They will be reinforced on the tools and methods to be used for monitoring the tasks to be carried out and evaluating progress.

31) How much time will the selected companies have to spend on the programme?

To ensure the success of the programme and the embedding of the knowledge in the companies, regular and intensive work is expected from the selected candidates. The companies will have to invest a number of hours per week, which will be defined in the contract. During bi-weekly meetings with their assigned business developer, they will review their progress and any difficulties. They will also be required to produce brief progress reports every month.

32) How will my company's needs be assessed for the implementation of personalised technical and commercial support?

The needs assessment will be carried out through individual sessions of joint diagnosis and deepening of the needs of the selected innovators. It will be done online but also in person, during a possible field visit, with business developers and partner experts. The innovator will be placed at the heart of this evaluation and will explain his/her needs in depth. The analysis of the needs expressed will allow the identification of the root causes and related needs with the actors involved. This will form the basis for identifying technical and commercial support measures and actions, which will be set out in an individual accelerator plan for innovators.

33) What is the estimated breakdown between valued in-kind support and direct financial support ?

We cannot comment on the estimated distribution between the valued in-kind support and the indirect financial support because this will be estimated following the field diagnosis carried out post-selection and adapted to the needs of each selected entrepreneur to enable them to scale up their solution. We remind you that the project does not propose direct financial support but indirect financial support such as the recovery of certain costs (raw materials, suppliers, materials).

Technical support

34) I can't register my application, what should I do?

If you have any problems registering your application, please write to we4f@gfa-group.de

35) Can I save my application if it is incomplete and complete it later?

It is possible to skip the questionnaire and save your application for later completion. Applications started but not finalised before the deadline of September 01, 2021 23:59 GMT will not be considered!

36) I have further questions, who should I contact?

Send your question until 22 August 23:59 UTC to the email address we4f@gfa-group.de, and we will publish further answers on the website.