SUDAN – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed US$2 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance to foster locally-driven solutions to tackle food systems challenges, driven by the WFP IGNITE Innovation Hub for Eastern Africa.

Part of this contribution will go to the IGNITE Food Systems Challenge, a project focused on supporting South Sudanese entrepreneurs and their businesses.

The programme seeks start-ups with innovations tackling hunger, improving food security and/or strengthening regional food systems.

Selected enterprises receive technical support, training, and mentorship and have an opportunity to receive grant funding of up to US$100,000.

This contribution comes at a time of worsening food insecurity in Eastern Africa due to the compounding effects of rising conflict, climate change, natural disasters like drought and floods, locusts, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eastern Africa is known for the strength of its entrepreneurial ecosystem, but early-stage entrepreneurs looking to prove their concepts and have a clear path to growth and scale face large funding gaps.

The funding environment for local entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) also has gaps in thematic focus, with a heavy emphasis on financial technology and other easily scalable digital solutions while more traditional businesses are left out.

“The biggest challenge for many entrepreneurs in Eastern Africa is not only access to funding, but also technical support to help develop their concepts further.

“Through this generous support by USAID, we are confident that we will be able to reach many bright and talented entrepreneurs in the region who could have been left behind,” says Mr Jeremie Pigé, the head of the WFP IGNITE Innovation Hub for Eastern Africa.

“By supporting them to get their projects to the next level, we not only bring safer, cheaper, and affordable food to the tables of many vulnerable families, but also empower them to create more opportunities for their communities,” he added.

Piloting, implementing and scaling innovative ideas lies at the heart of WFP’s work and this funding will boost the hub’s operations and external programmes geared towards achieving zero hunger in the world.

“With the IGNITE Food Systems Challenge, we hope to both spur growth for promising food system enterprises and to empower local entrepreneurs to deepen their impact in this space,” highlighted Pigé.

WFP IGNITE Innovation Hub for Eastern Africa was launched in December 2020, with help from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, to leverage WFP’s brand, public and private partners, deep field access, and expertise to develop, nurture and scale sustainable innovations for increased food security in the region.

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