The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in partnership with Ghana Enterprise Agency, Accra Digital Center, and MDF West Africa launched the NINJA (Next Innovation with JApan) Programme in Ghana. Supporting eight startups with business incubation support and a financial support of GHȼ240,000 in total, the second cohort of the NINJA ended with a Demo Day.
On Tuesday, October 25, 2022, the 2nd cohort of the NINJA programme concluded their training and coaching with a Demo Day at the Ghana Innovation Hub. The NINJA programme which started after a one-month Brush-Up Programme in April of this year trained 24 shortlisted start-ups to adopt the lean concept to start the business at minimum cost, and encourage a customer-centric approach.
Eight finalists were then selected by the jury (a panel of industry experts), after a pitch competition round at the end of the Brush-Up Programme, with each selected business to receive up to GHȼ30,000 for their activities cost for the next six months.
The six-months programme implemented by MDF West Africa, provided support for the eight entrepreneurs to turn their idea/dream stage into reality by uncovering customers’ pain points and nurture a sense of continuous development. The sessions included in-depth training by industry persons in business operations, lean management and principles, financial management, market opportunity analysis, brand management, packaging, and team and leadership.
Exhibiting their progress over the period at the Demo Day, the entrepreneurs showed their trial-and-error and before-after stories. The entrepreneurs who made a pitch at the Demo Day are Boujie Bakes Vegan, ShipEasi Logistics, Morefit Apiaries, 3Farmate Robotics, Asa Nwura, and Bean Masters.
Commenting on the programme, the Chief Country Representative of JICA, Araki Yasumichi, said “JICA started support for startups in 2020 when the Pandemic hit. We supported 69 startups among around 2,800 applicants in 19 countries in Africa.
This year, in Ghana, JICA launched this NINJA Programme, consisting of a 4-weeks Brush-Up program for the 24 shortlisted and 6-months Incubation Programme for the 8 finalists. The Programme aims to support early-stage startups/young entrepreneurs to uncover the customers’ pain points and nurture a sense of continuous development: the lean behaviour.
The Deputy Chief Executive of the Ghana Enterprise Agency, Anna Armo-Himbson, said the maiden programme saw the participation of young entrepreneurs of different cultural and academic backgrounds, who were selected across the country, therefore GEA was proud to see the significant progress the entrepreneurs had made in their businesses over such a short period. She further encouraged the entrepreneurs to connect with the GEA in their communities to access further government support.
MDF West Africa’s Program Manager, Mrs. Julia Appiah also noted that the youth start-ups that were selected have business focus in significant areas such as agriculture, food processing, waste recovery and recycling, software, edu-tech, fashion, and cosmetics manufacturing. She encouraged the participants to make more use of the Lean models and the rich network created through the programme to access more support for the purposes of scaling up.
Wrapping up the cohort, Mr Naoki Uozawa, JICA Expert – Lead, Startup and Innovation Support Programmes said: “I am glad to hear many trial-and-error stories today. The lean behaviour and the communication skills that startups acquired through this Programme should come in useful.”