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At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world experienced a significant decline in economic activities. The decrease in revenue generation caused many private companies to change business strategies, and Africa and Asia were not spared. Many startups suffered from fragile social infrastructure, a broken supply chain and a limitation of public support. As a result, the need to pioneer business solutions that saves lives, generate employment and provide means of livelihood arose.

Many solutions sprang up, a lot of which focused on remote medical care, tools for remote work, remote education and learning, information transmission. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) organized the NINJA Business Plan Competition in response to COVID-19. Eight (8) outstanding companies out of 549 in Nigeria emerged as winners. Each company has been awarded to proceed with the Proof of Concept (POC) project at a maximum of US$30,000. 

Project NINJA is an abbreviation for Next INnovation with JApan. It is a JICA initiative to sponsor entrepreneurs and build business innovations in emerging countries. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) coordinates official development assistance for the Japanese government in developing countries. They aim to encourage international cooperation by supporting the socio-economic development, recovery, or economic stability of developing economies. 

JICA intends to:

  1. Collaborate with various stakeholders to develop entrepreneurship.

2. Identify problems experienced by entrepreneurs, reinforce corporate management capacity.

3. Make policy recommendations.

4. Endorse collaboration among enterprises across industries.

5. Match up with Japanese companies, and promote investment.

Asides from giving these startups POC opportunities, JICA will be providing effective support through NINJA Accelerator Program in Nigeria. This supplementary program is in partnership with Ventures Platform Foundation, a catalyst for innovation & entrepreneurship across Africa. The company provides smart capital through its early-stage fund, Ventures Platform Fund. The program is designed to support the startups through a series of mentoring, partnership opportunities, opportunities to investors while monitoring their progress. 

The selected startups are:


A Technology Workforce Development company that helps people learn first-class technology skills virtually, and collaborates with companies to hire the best talents and invest in workforce development.


A cloud-based web and mobile platform to help growers, commodities aggregators, exporters and agricultural processors manage teir schemes and trades more efficiently.

Gradely is Nigeria’s first truly personalized learning platform that enables educators and parents to make a difference in their ward’s learning outcomes and produce more globally competitive learners.

Emergency Response Africa

A healthcare technology company that provides fast, safe, and affordable emergency medical care. It helps connect emergency victims to first responders and hospitals in the community, ensuring they can receive proper care in just a few minutes.


A technology solution that employs applied mathematics to earth observation, GNSS, telematics, and other uniquely derived datasets to build digital route maps and accurately deliver journey times and modes for city planning tools and mobile navigation applications for consumers.


Lifestores offers access to quality primary healthcare for Africans by enabling pharmacies, the frontline of primary healthcare in Africa, to digitize their operations, reduce procurement costs, and serve patients better. 

An online, platform that enables anyone, anywhere to see and talk to a doctor at any time, either by using the mobile app or by dialing the smart number.


RxAll enables pharmacies and patients in Africa to buy quality, unadulterated medicines online by authenticating drugs through an online platform. (*they have not signed the POC project contract with JICA Nigeria, so they have not joined the program yet.)

This program will help startups accelerate their business development, alongside providing investment and exposure. It doesn’t focus only on youth, innovations, entrepreneurship, and technology, but also on the contribution to resolving the social issues.

In line with this vision, the NINJA Accelerator had its first Ecosystem Dialogue Series (EDS) event on Friday, May 21st 2021.  The EDS theme was Startup-Corporate Collaborations and highlighted the benefits of startup and corporate collaboration in Nigeria’s innovation scene.

The NINJA Programme in Nigeria is a JICA’s startup support programme set to encourage innovations that solve problems of the society by utilizing technologies. Innovative startups contribute significantly to economic growth and employment nationwide.

Source: Disrupt Africa



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