Alternative Entrepreneurial Financing Options: Entrepreneurship Grants and Financial Assistance in Nigeria


Grants are financial assistance that a business owner receives without the obligation to pay back. They are provided by the government and some private organisations, to fulfill a particular purpose. For a grant, an entrepreneur is not bordering about repaying the money received sometime in the future. What you have to do is ensure you qualify for such a grant. If selected, you receive free money, which comes with free business support from industry experts most times. However, entrepreneurship grants in Nigeria are hard to come by and to qualify, it is advisable that one places himself in good position that can increase his/her chances of being selected. You are also advised to have a good financial record that shows your business is already profitable and have the intention of empowering more people if given the funds.

The general criteria for accessing these funds are to have a business. These organisations rarely fund ideas because ideas are untested and untried. You must have a business and ensure that it is providing solution to a problem in society. Next is to have bankable and viable business plan. Moreso, the entrepreneur should be clear on where he/she wants to be in the near future and be able to describe the market he/she plays. The entrepreneur should have good book-keeping in order to accurately know his/her revenue and the expenditure. The following are some of the organisations that provide grants to entrepreneurs:

Tony Elumelu Foundation

The foundation has US$100 million for 10000 African entrepreneurs. If you are in agriculture, fashion and design, light manufacturing, ICT, and solid minerals, among others, then apply for the ongoing Tony Elumelu fund. You can be lucky to be one of 1000 entrepreneurs to be shortlisted.

More than 150000 Africans from 114 countries worldwide applied to join the 4th cycle of the programme in 2018. The 2018 class, however, included additional 250 entrepreneurs to the standard selection of 1000. This was made possible by US$1 million partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which pledged to support 200 entrepreneurs in conflict and fragile zones of Nigeria, particularly in the North East where Boko Haram insurgency is rife and the Niger Delta region hard hit by environmental degradation from oil spillage.

There was also a US$200,000 agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support 40 pan-African entrepreneurs and a US$50 million partnership with Indorama to support 10 Nigerians.

Many entrepreneurs will get US$5000 or more as grants or loans.

To be eligible:

  • Business must be based in Africa
  • Business must be for profit
  • Business must be 0-3 years’ old
  • Applicants must be at least 18 and a legal resident or citizen of an African country.

Bank of Industry (BOI) Funds

The BOI provides a number of funds for entrepreneurs at single digit. This development Financial Institution (DFI) has been rated by many Local and International agencies as one of the best managed banks in the world. The BOI has a number of funds that entrepreneurs of all levels can access.

  1. Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund (GEF): This is meant for serving members of the NYSC. Candidates are allowed to submit their business ideas, which are then reviewed by a team of experts. The NYSC members whose ideas are marketable and bankable are then selected, trained for four weeks and then given between N500,000 – N2 million.
  2. Cottage Agro Processing (CAP) Fund. This fund include a fund for small and medium agro processors; Nolly Fund for players in the Nollywood Industry, as well as Fashion Fund for designers and other players in the value chain.
  3. Matching and Managed Funds: This is fund for the Automotive Industry. Through 122 business Development experts, the bank makes it easy for entrepreneurs to undergo the process of de-risking before approaching the bank for funds.
  4. The bank has a N5 billion fund from Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote to finance SMSs at a single digit rate.

The Bank of Industry (BOI) recently launched a youth empowerment program for young and talented entrepreneurs looking to venture into various sectors of Nigeria’s economy. The Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES) Programme is BOI’s effort at addressing the worrisome phenomenon of youth unemployment in Nigeria by building the capacity of the youths and funding their business ideas.

The YES programme is aimed at equipping young people with the requisite skills and knowledge to be self-employed by starting and managing their own businesses. The YES Programme comprises of;

  1. Eight (8) weeks intensive online Entrepreneurship and Business Management training which has the ability to test participants’ understanding and track their progress.
  2. Five (5) days in-class Entrepreneurship and Business Management training.
  3. Technical skills training in partnership with the various technical training and vocational institutes in the country.
  4. Financing the businesses by BOI under its SME Cluster initiative in consonance with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s Commodity-based Industrialisation Strategy.

To be eligible:

  • The applicant must be a Nigerian.
  • Must have a viable business idea within the 40 identified clusters that is operated, or will operate in Nigeria.
  • Must be within the age limits of 18 and 35. (Proof of identity: International passport/Drivers License/National ID/Voters card required).
  • Must possess a minimum educational qualification of Ordinary National Diploma (OND).
  • Applicant must be able to carry out the application process online.

AYEEN Financial Grants

Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs Empowerment Nigeria (AYEEN) allows entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas before a panel. The panel assesses each entrepreneur and decides whether to provide financing for the business. Hundreds of entrepreneurs walk away annually with various degrees of business funding and other forms of empowerment from various types of investors.

Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs (A.Y.E) is committed to empowering young entrepreneurs across Africa by creating platforms that facilitate intra-trade on the continent. We are dedicated to developing the next generation of outstanding African entrepreneurs, who will shape the economies and political landscapes of their home countries.

AYEEN is looking to finance small business in various sectors of the economy. Winners would be awarded their respective prizes without any stake for the organizers. Although, the business owners and businesses will be duly monitored for a period of one year. The only criteria for the program are that the applicant must be a Nigerian and the business must be located in any of the 36 states of the country.

World Bank Grants

The World Bank provides millions of dollars for SMEs. The bank has a US$160 millions Growth and Employment in States (GEMS) funds for small businesses in Nigeria, which is yet to be fully disbursed. As of September, 2018, only N3.7 billion of this money had been disbursed.

Grofin Fund

Grofin, a development financier has committed over US$500 million to funding Nigeria Micro, small and medium business (MSMEs) across the country. The firm has 5 different types of funds:

  1. Aspire Nigeria Fund;
  2. Growth Africa Fund;
  3. Small Growing Business Fund;
  4. Aspire small Business Fund; and
  5. Aspire Growth Fund.

The Aspire Nigeria Fund, the Growth Africa Fund and the Small Growing Business Fund cater for all parts of Nigeria except the Niger Delta.

The Aspire Small Business Fund provides a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $1.5 million to SMEs in Nigeria.

The Aspire Small Business Fund and Aspire Growth Fund and Aspire Growth Fund cater for Niger Delta.

The Aspire Small Business Fund provides between $10,000 and $100,000 to small business owners in the oil rich region, while the Aspire Growth Fund frees $100,000 and $3 million to businesses to stimulate growth in the area. Grofin provides its funds mostly for a maximum of 6 years.

GroFin is a pioneering development financier specializing in financing and supporting small and growing businesses (SGBs) across Africa and the Middle East. GroFin combines patient capital and specialized business support to grow emerging market enterprises.

GroFin Focus on Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs) that are grossly underserved by other funds or financiers. Delivers a unique integrated solution for patient risk capital and end-to-end business support to start-up and growing businesses at the SME base. GroFin has fund size of US $100+ Million to funding Nigerian micro, small and medium business (MSMEs) across the country.

To be eligible:

  • Your business operates in one of the following countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda.
  • Your business is for profit.
  • Your business has a turnover of less than US$ 15 million and assets less than US$ 6 million.
  • You require financing between US$ 100,000 and US$ 1.5 million.
  • The business is owner-operated and/or the owner is substantially involved in running the business.


You WIN Connect Nigeria

YouWiN! Connect is a multimedia programme of the Federal Ministry of Finance. The programme aims to promote entrepreneurship, job creation and wealth via enterprise education for young Nigerians. Nigerian entrepreneurs will enhance their productivity through relevant SME development tools. These ventures are promoted by young Nigerians in target sectors that align with the government’s objective of diversifying the economy and promoting competition and transparency

The first edition, tagged YouWin!1, was initiated to sensitize aspiring entrepreneurial Youth on job creation by funding their business plans. The second edition (YouWin!2) was a Mono-gender version, with Women below the age of 45 years as the target participants. It rewarded over 1200 youths. The third edition (YouWin!3) was Poly-gender, with a record number of awardees (over 2500 Youth).

To be eligible:

  • Applicants must be a graduate from a higher institution.
  • Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 40.
  • Applicants must be Nigerians and resident in Nigeria.
  • Applicants businesses must be resident in Nigeria.
  • Applicants must be able to communicate effectively – speaking and writing – in English.
  • Applicants must be willing to attend all training and mentoring exercises organised by the programme.
  • Applicants must not be an employee of the Nigerian Civil Service.
  • Previous You Win awardees are not eligible to apply.
  • Diamond Bank BET Programme

The Building Entrepreneurs Today (BET) is a programme designed to support budding entrepreneurs. Every year, 50 entrepreneurs are selected from the pool of the numerous applications received and these entrepreneurs undergo a six (6) months intensive entrepreneurial/business training. At the end of the training period, the Top Five (5) Entrepreneurs are awarded financial grants as seed capital for taking their business to the next level.

The BET Program has witnessed 6 editions with over 25 winners and over 150 business supports. The sixth edition of the program awarded Three Million Naira (N3,000,000) grants to the top 5 finalists to take their businesses to the next level.


Lagos State Entrepreneurs Trust Fund (LSETF).

The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), was established by The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund Law 2016 to provide financial support to residents of Lagos State, for job, wealth creation and to tackle unemployment. LSETF serves as an instrument to inspire the creative and innovative energies of all Lagos residents and reduce unemployment across the State. The Fund has the mandate to directly invest ₦25Billion in helping Lagos residents grow and scale their Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (“MSMEs”) or acquire skills to get better jobs.

As the brainchild of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the LSETF is committed to financially support a target of 100,000 MSMEs by 2019, creating 300,000 direct and 600,000 indirect jobs as a result. The mission is well underway with a total of 705 beneficiaries who have received support to date.

In concluding this write up, it is imperative to state the fact that the role of finance cannot be over-emphasised in the development of entrepreneurship and Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs), particularly among young graduates venturing into entrepreneurial activities. Availability and access to adequate and sustainable finance therefore is critical for entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in view of the fact that the life cycle of businesses require varied needs for cash, taken cognisance of the start-up, growth and transition stages of development. The increasing emphasis on the significance of entrepreneurship as a decisive factor for national development has dovetailed into the search through a wide range of schemes targeted at hastening the tempo of new business activities in the organized private sector. Gaining sufficient access to capital is one of the crucial hurdles to overcome in starting and growing a new business. Hitherto, in view of the important role played by entrepreneurship development in the process of creative destruction and hence economic growth, it is therefore not surprising that drives to alleviate financing constraints encountered by would-be entrepreneurs form a significant goal for policy makers across the world. Funding of entrepreneurial activities includes but not limited to internal financing which involve entrepreneurs getting capital on their own, mainly from savings, retained profits, depreciation and sale of assets, which thus form a crucial part of the survival and entrepreneurship development. The external sources of financing like individual investors, financial banks, venture capital and crowd-funding are required to make them become successful in their entrepreneurial pursuits. Again young entrepreneurs can obtain grants from government and some organisation that are desirous of empowering young and enterprising entrepreneurs.

by Mazi Azubuike Okoro (MSc, FCIB)

     Fmr. Branch Controller, CBN, Awka

      CEO, Able-Help Consultancy Limited.

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Hon. Emeka Ihedioha

HE Chukwuemeka Nkem Ihedioha (CON)

Politician and Governor-elect of Imo State turned 54 on the 24th of March. He attended St. Ephraim’s Secondary School, Owerrinta; University of Lagos and Stanford ...