The Trademark East Africa Challenge Fund (TRAC) has extended its remit, launching the Fund in Rwanda, with an Introductory Stakeholders’ Workshop in Kigali, to be followed by a similar launch in Burundi this Friday.  While already present in Kenya and Tanzania, the Challenge Fund – which aims to encourage cross-border trading in East Africa – has decided to cover a wider territory, supporting innovative start-up and expanding businesses in the East African states.

The Challenge Fund is an initiative of TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), and provides the opportunity for new businesses lacking the necessary start-up capital to apply for financing through the fund.  Alternatively, businesses in expansion requiring additional funding to implement projects may also be considered for financial assistance.  Parties looking for funding can apply online by submitting their concept description, and will be subjected to a six-month screening process.  The Challenge Fund plans to contribute between 50 and 70 percent of total necessary funds to those enterprises that it selects (with a typical maximum financing of $350,000 per project); and will support the businesses by instating milestones to be met during the project implementation process.

TMEA Country Programmes Manager, John Bosco Kalisa explains that the Challenge Fund hopes to benefit the most innovative business ideas in Rwanda and Burundi, and said: “The focus will be on people with good innovative ideas that can benefit the country and East Africa as a region. We will be providing financial support to implement these ideas.”

Kalisa went on to explain that the Challenge Fund is but one of a number of initiatives being championed by TMEA, which holds as one of its aims the desire to alleviate the number of people living in poverty in East Africa.  TMEA identified that one of the main hindrances to the success of regional existing SMEs and budding entrepreneurs (particularly the youth) is that they are not able to get together the necessary capital to launch and/or carry-out what are often innovative and sustainable business concepts.

TMEA also wishes to grow the power of the region as an open trading space, and businesses catering for a cross-border element will receive particular favour.  TRAC national coordinator in charge of Rwanda and Burundi, Robert Amigo Nkiiko explains that the Fund is looking for: “Innovative projects proposed by private firms that have the potential to boost cross-border trade and international trade”.

The TRAC project is initially expected to last for three years, and is currently planned to inject over $10 million into the East Africa region.


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