SEATTLE — The U.S. Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) will invest more than $38 million in four initiatives to help innovators fight global poverty.
The pledged investments, which were announced at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, are intended to connect researchers and entrepreneurs with investors and capital to develop ways to expand food security and increase energy access in developing countries, according to a release by USAID.
USAID administrator Gayle E. Smith said the investments reflect the U.S.’s commitment to relying on entrepreneurship to fulfill development goals and build “more economically prosperous, secure and globally connected communities around the world.”
Among the initiatives that will receive funding is Scaling Off-Grid Energy: A Grand Challenge for Development, which aims to address the lack of reliable energy sources in sub-Saharan Africa in an effort to combat global poverty.
Launched by Power Africa and USAID’s Global Development Lab, the project will help entrepreneurs develop a market that can provide 20 million households with affordable and clean electricity. The goal of the Grand Challenge is to spur the growth of enterprises that can supply off-grid energy to low-income consumers across Africa.
USAID is also partnering with 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley-based global venture capital fund and startup accelerator, to host a “Geeks On a Plane” trip to Africa in 2017. As part of the trip, Silicon Valley leaders will visit Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria to potentially offer partnership and investment opportunities to local innovators.
The other two projects that USAID will invest in are the Feed the Future Call for Cool Storage Solutions and the Global Innovation Exchange.
As part of the U.S government’s Feed the Future initiatives, the Call for Storage Solutions will provide up to $2.5 million to fund the development and launch of cool storage technology that will prevent food waste and loss.
The Global Innovation Exchange, which was formed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID and South Korean and Australian governments, is a global marketplace that connects researchers, innovators and investors who can help identify and scale up solutions to global developmental challenges. According to the USAID, the Exchange currently has 9,000 expert developers, 4,200 innovations and $72 million in available funding.
Collaborating with entrepreneurs and private companies has been one of USAID’s main strategies to fight global poverty.
The aid agency has worked with hundreds of innovators, donors and international organizations over the last seven years. In 2015, USAID had more than 350 partnerships with the private sector that leveraged over $5.9 billion to increase food security and energy access around the world.
– Sam Turken