The Challenge Fund: Benin turns its tourism sites into innovation labs

Benin is seeking proposals on innovations to boost its tourism sector. Organised by the World Bank, Benin’s National Agency for Promotion of Heritage and Tourism Development and Sèmè City, the International Knowledge and Innovation City of Benin, this challenge aims to support projects leaders to conceive, incubate and launch on a larger scale their innovative ideas to improve Benin’s travel destinations.

The objective is to ask entrepreneurs to think about new solutions, to advance and exceed the expectations of tourists, and to disrupt a promising economic sector in Africa.

This call for innovative concepts is open to all projects and companies pursuing an inclusive and sustainable tourism. As part of the Challenge Fund, participants will have to demonstrate the viability and impact of their concept, to bring innovative solutions to key issues linked to the attractiveness of tourism in Benin.

The Challenge Fund will focus on major sites currently being developed in Benin, including the Pendjari wildlife park, the museums in Abomey, Porto Novo and Allada, the lacustrian town of Ganvié, the historical city of Ouidah and the coastal resort of Avlekete.

Selected projects will receive funding worth up to 500,000 USD, as well as access to the experts and resources of Sèmè City’s incubators (including services such as access to training modules and to a network of experts and companies).

Tourism is a fast-developing sector in Africa, and a promising source of employment. According to studies conducted by the National Agency for Promotion of Heritage and Tourism Development, Benin  only tapped into between two to five percent of its potential in 2016, despite its undeniable assets. This is why the Government placed tourism at the centre of the Revealing Benin development programme. Beyond the direct opportunities created by investments and the Government’s flagship projects in the sector, tourism represents a real entrepreneurship launch pad, provided that innovative projects can be supported:

“Africa offers a fertile land for a new form of frugal, agile and resilient innovation, which allows the emergence of pioneering entrepreneurs and of a truly =inclusive circular economy. This is what we call “Innovation Made in Africa”. However, we must support our entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to developing skills and access to funding. With the Challenge Fund, we want to overcome these barriers and allow innovators to test their projects in situ, on one of the seven tourism sites being developed in Benin.” – Claude Borna, Director of the Sèmè City Development Agency.

Project leaders and companies interested can, as of now, register their interest for the Challenge Fund on http://semecity.com/challenge-fund. The call for innovative projects and application form will be available from the 4th of December. Applications can be submitted from the 4th of December 2017 until the 20th of January 2018.

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