The WFP Innovation Challenge 2020 in Figures

WFP Innovation Accelerator
4 min readOct 22, 2020

How WFP’s latest Innovation Challenge applications reflect the diversity and focus of the innovation sector

By Vida Gabe and Gulia Rakhimova

This year’s WFP Innovation Challenge 2020 received a record-setting 793 applications from 95 countries around the world, improving on last year’s challenge which brought in 714 applications in 2019. That the applications were sourced in a year when a global pandemic is taking place is significant and speaks not only of the amount and variety of innovative ideas available all over the world, but also of the genuine desire of people to innovate towards Zero Hunger.

Let’s take a closer look at this year’s Innovation Challenge applications and see how they compare to last year’s statistics.

Global diversity

As mentioned above, the 793 applications we received in 2020 came from 95 different countries in all seven regions of the world.

World map of applications by geographic region
Sixty-two percent of this year’s applications came from the Sub-Saharan African region.

Similar to the findings from last year’s WFP Innovation Challenge, the majority of the applications this year (62 percent) came from the Sub-Saharan African region, with Kenya leading the pack with 106 applications, followed by Nigeria (100 applications), and Uganda (55 applications).

The findings for this year do not differ from the 2019 findings, where the majority (64 percent) of the applications received also came from the Sub-Saharan African region, with Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana submitting the most applications.

Applications by geographic region, 2019 & 2020
The 2020 applications show similar diversity in terms of geographic region compared to the 2019 data, with the majority of applications coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by South Asia and Europe & Central Asia. Note: Region/country is determined by the region/country in which the applicant team is based.

This year’s strong focus on Africa is in part due to the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s collaboration with the newly developed Innovation Hub at the WFP Regional Bureau for East and Central Africa based in Nairobi, Kenya (RBN).

Countries by income level

Looking at the countries by income level, similar to 2019, more than half of the applications (64 percent) we received this year were from middle-income countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and India.

Applications by country income levels, 2019 & 2020
For both 2019 and 2020, the majority of the applications received came from middle-income countries. Note: Income level was based on the World Bank’s most recent income classification report.

This year, the percentage of applications from high-income countries increased from 14 percent in 2019 to 17 percent in 2020. While the Innovation Challenge welcomes applications from all countries and regions of the world, we believe in the importance of encouraging applications from low-income countries, where the need for innovative solutions is greater and more urgent, and we wish to support local solutions developed for local challenges.

Gender diversity

In terms of gender diversity, this year’s Innovation Challenge saw a slight decrease in the percentage of women applicants compared to last year (34 percent vs. 36 percent); however a slight increase in the percentage of non-identifying applicants was also observed (6 percent vs. 2 percent). More work still needs to be done to improve gender representation in innovation.

Applications by gender, 2020
Thirty-four percent of the applications this year came from women. Note: Gender was tabulated according to self-identified gender of the project lead.

Focus areas

This year, the majority of the solutions (34 percent) put forward were in the area of local food security and smallholder farmers support; followed by solutions directed towards: sustaining and creating livelihoods or operating within the humanitarian-development-peace nexus (14 percent); addressing the need for affordable and nutritious diets or school-feeding programs (13 percent); improving logistics and supply chain (11 percent), and solutions on innovative fundraising and financing (9 percent).

Applications by focus area, 2020
Thirty-four percent of the solutions put forward were in the area of local food security and smallholder farmers support.

It’s important to note that many of the applications took in the current health environment and strove to address the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. These included solutions on conducting data collection remotely and improving access to phones and the internet.

What’s next

Classifying and collecting information on all the 793 applications we’ve received is just the first step. We are reviewing each application in order to identify the top 10 teams that will be joining our virtual Innovation Bootcamp from 30 November to 4 December 2020.

If your team is one of the 793 applicants to this year’s Innovation Challenge, watch this space as we’ll be announcing the finalists very soon.

If you missed the deadline for the WFP Innovation Challenge 2020, remember that anyone can apply at any time through our rolling call for applications, and will be considered for future innovation bootcamps. Details on our next Innovation Challenge will be posted on our website in the coming weeks.

Thank you to everyone who applied to this year’s challenge and all of you who continue to work towards a world of Zero Hunger. Keep those solutions coming!

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.