Austria and WFP collaborate to source and scale-up innovative ideas for health and well-being in Africa

WFP Innovation Accelerator
4 min readJan 31, 2022

By Heath Morrell

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Innovation Accelerator recently partnered with the Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria, the Austrian Development Agency, and the Kofi Annan Foundation, to support the creation of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa (KAAIA).

This new award seeks to tap into the enormous entrepreneurial potential within Africa; sourcing and scaling-up innovative solutions that will positively impact societies across the continent.

Brainstorming during an Innovation Bootcamp (2020, Germany). Photo: WFP.

At the heart of the KAAIA is a focus on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3 ‘Good Health and Well-being’ (SDG3). Those submitting entries needed to clearly illustrate how their innovations will help “achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.”

The KAAIA will make a tangible contribution to achieving SDGs in Africa by providing both technical and financial support to innovators and social entrepreneurs. There are hopes that it will also strengthen multi-stakeholder ties between business people, investors and mentors and promote additional networking and investment opportunities between European-wide investors and the African innovation ecosystem.

Innovative ideas needed to ‘disrupt hunger’ by 2030

Bernhard Kowatsch, head of the Munich-based WFP Innovation Accelerator — himself an Austrian national — recently appeared on Germany’s Galileo programme to highlight the current funding gaps and the ongoing need to source and scale innovative solutions to ‘disrupt hunger’.

Bernhard Kowatsch discusses global hunger at the Munich office of World Food Programme’s Munich office.
Watch Bernhard Kowatsch on ProSieben’s Galileo discussing global hunger funding & innovation (in German)

Bernhard has also shown enthusiastic support of this new award and how the Accelerator can help the successful innovation teams progress their ideas.

“With the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa, we are bringing to the fore promising social entrepreneurs with sustainable business models and excellent, innovative health solutions. We now look forward to catalyzing the most promising innovations with full active support, and scaling their societal value.” — Bernhard Kowatsch, World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator.

Ideas that span all of Africa

The chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chairman of the award jury, Elhadj As Sy, was pleased that the KAAIA lives up to its name as a pan-African innovation award. “We received excellent applications from companies from all five regions of the continent that have one thing in common: innovative solutions to improve health and well-being,” she said.

An impressive 330 proposals came from 38 African countries, with the majority from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Uganda. Western Africa was the source of 144 submissions, followed by Eastern Africa (110), Southern Africa (21) and Northern Africa (11), with 10 from Central Africa. Another 34 companies that submitted entries have local offices in Africa, with headquarters in North America and/or Europe.

The two primary sources of innovation applications were Western Africa (43.6%) and Eastern Africa (33.3%)

Ideas also covered a wide range of subject areas. The majority of innovations were focused on essential health services (48%), followed by those that targeted the improvement of supply chains for medical care and vaccine delivery (17%); prevention and prophylaxis (17%); financial protection via mobile money and microinsurance (11%); and access to psychological support and others (7%).

Innovations addressing essential health services comprised almost half of all innovation submissions (48%)

What’s next for innovators inside WFP’s Innovation Accelerator?

On January 31, 2022, an Innovation Committee of selected experts identified the nine most promising social entrepreneurs to participate in a fully virtual WFP Innovation Bootcamp to further develop their ideas. The nine chosen teams will pitch their solutions to a renowned jury of 10.

The high-level jury consists of international leaders who have successfully promoted social entrepreneurship in Africa in line with the SDGs, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus, former UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos and ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Three successful teams will receive up to EUR 250,000 in grants, access to the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s 12-month sprint programme and hands-on support from a strong network of mentors, investors and business partners.

Deep thoughts inside an Innovation Bootcamp. Photo: WFP/Emanuel Feruzi.

Note: The Republic of Austria generously contributed EUR 14.5 million to WFP in 2021 for the ongoing fight against hunger and the development and support of initiatives such as the KAAIA.

Learn more:

Discover which innovative solutions made it as KAAIA finalists.

Find out more about the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.