10 Small Business Grants in Nigeria and How to Access Them in 2023

Small business grants in Nigeria are essentially free monies from the Federal government, state governments, NGOs, development programs or private organizations dedicated to supporting launch, growth or diversification of the beneficiary businesses.

Unlike small business loans or Venture Capital funds, grants don’t have to be repaid. With the economy suffering from intense pressure since the beginning of 2023, who would say no to free lunch, really?

Refresher on grants, generally

If you have not gotten any form of grants before, it can be hard to believe that grants are actually free money. Although, some of them are largely tied to a course which means that beneficiaries are expected to pay them forward by making meaningful impact or accounting for socially beneficial deliverables in their immediate society. By the way of definition, the term “grant” refers to an amount of money that is not refundable and that is being given by an organization or the government to a company or an individual as assistance or support for a course or project. 

Grants could be for business growth, education, skills acquisition, development of proprietary technology, home improvements, health purposes, marketing, product development, and so on. So, it is safe to put grants in the same conversation as donations, allowances, or even awards. With this post, we will be empowering you with information on 10 small business grants in Nigeria or for Nigerian entrepreneurs running businesses (including startups in some cases), how and where to apply for them in 2023.

International Grants for Small Businesses in Nigeria

1. U.S. African Development Foundation (USDAF): It  is an independent U.S. government agency established by Congress to invest directly in African grassroots enterprises and social entrepreneurs. USADF’s investments increase incomes, revenues, and jobs by promoting self-reliance and market-based solutions to poverty as it creates pathways to prosperity for marginalized populations and communities across Africa.

USADF leverages a community-led development approach and a pan-African network of local implementing partners to support African-designed and African-delivered solutions. It provides grant capital, capacity building assistance, and convening opportunities to develop, grow and scale African enterprises and entrepreneurs who improve lives and livelihoods. Between 2011 and 2022, USADF has supported 233 enterprises and entrepreneurs in Nigeria, to the tune of USD16.8m. How to apply? See the USADF Application 2023 here. 

2. The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI): The ANPI was established by The Jack Ma Foundation in August, 2018 to identify and cultivate 100 outstanding African entrepreneurial talents within a span of a decade. The Initiative’s panel selects 10 African entrepreneurs every year through a rigorous screening process to participate in the “Africa’s Business Heroes” show finale pitch, where they will compete for their share of a USD1 million grant. 

The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) show presents the perfect opportunity to publicize and showcase these entrepreneurs’ stories, thus setting the right atmosphere to promote the entrepreneurial spirit and practice across the African region. Apart from getting a share of the grant and a significant amount of publicity for their businesses, it is also thanks to the show’s cooperation with prominent local partners, service providers and celebrities in Africa that the finalists receive mentorship and entrepreneurial guidance from globally renowned business leaders. 

3. Shell LiveWIRE Nigeria : is an intensive 9-month programme that supports thousands of Nigerian entrepreneurs to access the knowledge, skills, networks and resources to turn their business ideas into successful enterprises which provide a sustainable income, create jobs and drive innovation. Its selection process has been designed to choose companies with the biggest growth potential. The program selects businesses, across the key economic sectors, who have the potential to grow through increased staffing, increase in profit, improved production capacity and export of a product or service. Above all, for you to be selected for Shell LiveWIRE,  you must be adaptable, coachable and eager to learn. Read more on the eligibility and application process here.

4. The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme: The TEF  is the leading champion of entrepreneurship in Africa. It empowers women and men across our continent, catalysing economic growth, driving poverty eradication and ensuring job creation. The TEF’s mission is implemented through programmes, research, communities, advocacy and convenings. These include the annual TEF Forum, the largest gathering of entrepreneurs in Africa, and TEF Connect, Africa’s digital hub for entrepreneurs. In 2015, the Foundation launched the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, a $100 million commitment by Tony Elumelu to empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs over 10 years. 

Building on the Programme’s success and its unique ability to identify, mentor and fund entrepreneurs across Africa, the Foundation is increasingly sharing its robust delivery platform and working in partnership with institutions such as United Nations Development Programme, the African Development Bank, the International Committee of the Red Cross, GIZ, and United Bank for Africa, to create meaningful and permanent impact across Africa. The Tony Elumelu Foundation has trained, mentored, and funded over 15,847 young African entrepreneurs across all 54 African countries. To apply for the next cohort, create an account for more details on the application process. 

Small Business Grants for Women Entrepreneurs

1. Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum: AWIEF is an award-winning pan-African women economic empowerment organization that has been granted a Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It works to close the gender gap by driving women’s business leadership and entrepreneurship in Africa.  AWIEF fosters women’s economic inclusion, advancement and empowerment through entrepreneurship support and development. Its long-term vision is an inclusive and thriving Africa where women-owned businesses are empowered to create and grow high-impact and sustainable businesses, contributing to increasing Africa’s GDP and economic growth.

In 2022, the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) and the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), an initiative of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), joined forces to drive increased access to finance and markets for women-owned and women-led small and medium enterprises (WSMEs) across Southern, East and West Africa. The programme “Solutions Catalysing Increased Access to Capital for the Success of Women Entrepreneurs” was aimed at accelerating efforts to address gender inequality and drive inclusive economic transformation. To apply for the next cohort, look out for the announcement here. 

2. Government-backed Small Business Grants in Nigeria

Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria: SMEDAN was established by the SMEDAN Act of 2003 to promote the development of the MSME sector of the Nigeria Economy. The Agency positions itself as a One Stop Shop for MSME Development. 

SMEDAN’s mandate includes: 

  • Stimulating, monitoring and coordinating the development of the MSMEs sub-sector;
  • Initiating and articulating policy ideas for small and medium enterprises growth and development;
  • Promoting and facilitating development programmes, instruments and support services to accelerate the development and modernization of  MSME operations;  
  • Serving as vanguard for rural industrialization, poverty reduction, job creation and enhanced livelihoods;
  • Linking MSMEs to internal and external sources of finance, appropriate technology, technical skills as well as to large enterprises;
  • Promoting and providing access to industrial infrastructures such as layouts, incubators, industrial parks

SMEDAN, in collaboration with the African Small Business Catalyst (ASBC) in 2022, announced a $100,000-$1000,000 grant opportunity for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria and Africa at large. To apply for future grants to grow your small business, follow the Conditional Grant Scheme page on SMEDAN’s website. 

3. Lagos State Science and Innovation Council: LASRIC is on a mission to empower research and innovation initiatives in Lagos by supporting entrepreneurs, tech founders, researchers, students, etc, through funding and network access. Its primary goal is to enable the fundamental levers of the research, development, and innovation ecosystem. LASRIC’s grants support business ideas, innovations, patents and early stage Lagos-based companies in Agriculture, Tourism, Housing, Healthcare, Environment, Education, Security, Financial Inclusion, Energy and Power sectors. In 2022, LASRIC cohort 5 admitted:

  • Fund-ready innovative startups with Minimum Viable Products (MVPs)
  • Patentable research & development projects aimed at tackling challenges in Lagos State.
  • Solutions that aid the understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in educational (primary – tertiary) institutions

Successful participants received grants up to NGN5,000,000 each, based on the stipulated terms and conditions. Register on LASRIC’s website in order to stay up to date with the 2023 cohort application process.

4. Small Business Grants for Startups in 2023

Lagos Innovates: This is an initiative of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund that delivers a carefully curated series of programs designed for the benefit of technology and innovation driven startups in Lagos State. By providing access to high quality infrastructure, learning, capital and networks, Lagos Innovates hopes to cement Lagos’ position as the leading destination for startups in Africa. With Lagos Innovates, Lagos-resident founders and operators of co-working spaces and innovation hubs will be able to apply for one of its first three programmes: Workspace Vouchers, Hub Loans and Events Sponsorship, through open, merit-based, online applications processes. Find out how to benefit from the Lagos Innovates’ programs here.

5. The Building Entrepreneurs Today: BET, a collaboration between Diamond Bank and the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC), is a capacity building and business education initiative aimed at generating interest in entrepreneurship and designed to support budding entrepreneurs of all ages. Since its inception in 2010, The BET programme has trained thousands of entrepreneurs, contributing immensely to the pool of skilled Micro, Small and Medium enterprise owners in Nigeria and ultimately, encouraging wealth creation across the populace.

How does Diamond BET work?

It involves a six-month intensive entrepreneurial/business training of 50 budding Entrepreneurs every season from select sectors of the economy. The top five entrepreneurs at the end of each season are awarded financial grants of N3,000,000 each as seed capital to take their business to the next level. Giving support to over 150 businesses and awarding grants to over 20 entrepreneurs, the BET has positioned itself as a forerunner in the MSME led initiative in Nigeria gaining both local and international recognition. Follow the Diamond BET events and updates on its website to monitor the call for application for the 8th edition in 2023 here.

Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI): The African Development Bank (AfDB) backed by its partners, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Agence Française de Dévelopement, the Ministry of Finance of the Government of Luxembourg and the Ministry of the Economy and Finance of the Government of France, established the ADFI to accelerate digital financial inclusion across Africa. ADFI works to address the systemic barriers to Digital Financial Solutions (DFS) growth and uptake by making strategic and catalytic investments in the DFS ecosystem throughout Africa based on four broad strategic pillars- Digital Infrastructure, Policy & Regulation, Digital Product & Innovation, and Capacity Building.

It deploys loans and grants to scale up DFS to various public and private entities, including banks, and non-bank financial institutions, mobile network operators, remittance and payment service providers, FinTech companies, government ministries, regulatory bodies and regional economic organizations. Startups solving for financial inclusion in Africa can access up to USD1.5 million grant. ADFI Call for Proposals 2023, apply now

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