L'acceleratore d'impresa in Kenya

The business accelerator that launches start-ups in Kenya

We support the local private sector by giving life to micro-entrepreneurship initiatives that create value on the territory.

L'acceleratore d'impresa in Kenya

Significant project data to 2020

to promote a new generation of entrepreneurs in Africa
companies incubated
150,000 contributed by Eni
incubated by Eni
companies financially supported
businesses run by women
of financially supported

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With E4Impact to promote entrepreneurship in Kenya

Since 2018, we have been supporting a business acceleration programme thanks to the E4Impact Accelerator, that set up and managed the initiative that promotes a new generation of entrepreneurs in Africa. The programme offers selected companies the chance to become catalysts of social and environmental change, leveraging their good practices, know-how and acquired skills. We wanted to contribute to the integration of social and business needs, making effective use of private sector resources. In two years we have helped to promote high impact entrepreneurship in Kenya, provided financial support, created new jobs for the younger generations and promoted the international growth of companies in strategic sectors for a Kenya-Italy partnership. Of the 40 companies incubated by our partner E4Impact, we have financially supported 20 (of which 40% are managed by women). The project was financed, for a total of €823,000, by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan and by Eni Kenya, as a private financier, which gave seed grants to the most deserving companies worth a total of €150,000. The project lasted two years.

To apply for the programme, businesses must satisfy the following criteria:

  • innovative products/services
  • established revenues
  • a strong entrepreneurial team
  • a defined social/environmental impact

There was a focus on mission-driven businesses that deal with disadvantaged communities in informal settlements and with the approaching end of the first accelerator stage, the E4Impact team plans a second phase consisting of:

  • launching a third cohort in collaboration with its partners
  • including more companies in the programme
  • supporting technology companies
  • building better partnerships with Italian businesses and Associations
  • revising the programme to make it more focused on developing different sectors

The concept of shared value can be defined as policies and operating practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates.

Porter and Kramer, “Creating Shared Value”, 2011

Services for start-ups

The E4Impact Accelerator was established in 2018, in Nairobi, Kenya. Each year it works with 20 Kenyan companies in an effort to help them grow. The programme offers personalised training as its main services and a network service with investors, the market and international companies. In addition, E4Impact manages start-up financing, ICT and satellite communication services, professional services and co-working spaces. It offers personalised sessions, available both face-to-face and in webinar form. Entrepreneurs are also matched with mentors to share knowledge and skills with startuppers in a similar sector.

The link with the European market and the role of investment

One of the key differentiators the E4Impact Accelerator offers is the link with Europe. One fruitful partnership came from a Kenyan company that deals with the problem of fruit waste, through the use of mangoes for the domestic market and export. It was put in touch with an Italian company that distributes dried tropical fruit in Italy, creating a market link between two companies in constant growth. Three other companies are in negotiations with potential buyers.

Finally, one of the challenges SMEs face is fundraising. E4Impact has established a robust database of both local and international investors, some of whom have successfully invested in some of the companies. The investments have been both debt and equity.

Selection and recruitment of companies

Through a partnership with the Standard Media Group, the second largest media house in Kenya, the Accelerator attracted over 450 applications. The call for applications was shared on TV, Radio, in newspapers and through various online platforms. To identify the top 20 companies, E4Impact set up a jury of representatives from different sectors.

The role of women

The E4Impact programme promotes the inclusion of Kenyan women in the world of work and, in particular, in the business sector. 43% of the startuppers involved in the incubation are women.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an action plan signed in September 2015 by 193 UN countries. It sets out 17 goals for socio-economic development in communities and countries. In line with Sustainable Development Goal 8, we help achieve higher standards of economic growth, through diversification, technological progress and innovation. We put in place policies with a view to development, supporting production, creating decent jobs, stimulating enterprise, creativity and innovation, and encouraging people to start small and medium businesses.

High-yield fruits, vegetables and fertilizers

E4Impact supports companies that produce sustainably grown fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs. These companies collaborate with small farmers, integrating their supply and, in return, offering them agronomy support, consultancy services and a stable market. E4Impact also supports companies that supply fertilizers directly to the villages, helping to increase the local harvest and farmers' income while improving soil quality.

Superfruits to contribute to the subsistence of small farmers

E4Impact supports start-ups specialised in the production of natural products and superfruits, indirectly contributing to the subsistence of small direct producers in rural western Kenya from which these companies purchase raw materials. In parallel, these companies support the employment of disadvantaged women and young people and promote environmentally friendly agricultural practices.

The biggest impact for me has been the increase in female employment. We have involved many women in cultivating the land, harvesting, packing papaya and processing products in the factory. This has led to an increase in their income source and streams.

Felix Asenji - Startupper

Waste recovery and recycling

E4Impact supports companies that aim to recover and recycle organic and inorganic waste in the country, using ecological operators and collection centres within companies and municipal areas of the counties. The accelerator also promotes the circular economy by supporting companies that convert waste into quality raw materials and resell it at affordable prices. This creates employment opportunities for women and young people, while reducing pollution and environmental degradation

Recycled fabrics and smoke-free wood charcoal

E4Impact promotes the circular economy by supporting companies that collect and sort used textile and footwear products. The goal of the start-ups is to resell the products, use them as raw materials to create new products, manage fast fashion waste and protect the environment. In addition, the accelerator funds companies that produce smokeless charcoal briquettes from landfill waste collection, cooking stoves and organic fertilizers.

I chose to participate in the incubator programme because we wanted to improve all our business processes in general and to scale-up the business and become investor ready.

Kelly Mwangi - Startupper

Digital platforms

Thanks to the programme launched by E4Impact, platforms have been created that make specific information relating to the agricultural sector available to farmers and cooperatives at affordable prices. The systems offer several services: business management programmes, market news, support for marketing activities, access to financial and insurance services, soil analysis and various commercial and technical training offers.

In addition, the accelerator supports start-ups that link agriculture precision, software development, conservative cultivation and the production of organic and mineral fertilizers designed to increase the yield, drought tolerance and resistance to pests and diseases. The companies' goal is to find solutions for climate impact mitigation and help farmers manage dry weather conditions, reducing plant loss and other stressful conditions. 

Helping our farmers with training has been a key and integral factor for us. I've always believed that empowering farmers means building a more sustainable business. As a company, we leverage technology to bring widespread training to farmers.

Samuel Munguti (Farmers’ Pride)

Reducing deforestation in the area with essential oils

Forests are environments rich in biodiversity. When managed in a sustainable way they can make a significant contribution to the livelihood of local communities, as well as meeting the growing demand for natural products. The accelerator supports companies that produce essential oils, animal feed and foliage, helping to protect the local forest heritage, reduce deforestation and create local income and employment.

Developing local crafts and arabic gum production

One of E4Impact's goals is to develop the artisanal skills of young men and women, providing the artisans of the future with the tools to make textile and leather products and export them around the world. This is why it supports companies that allow young Kenyans to train to become skilled at designing, sewing and assembling leather goods, creating high quality products for individuals and companies. The accelerator also supports start-ups specialised in the collection, classification, processing and sale of gum arabic, indirectly also promoting the empowerment of the pastoral communities of East Africa. 

By participating in the incubator we wanted to learn how to optimise our business model and increase the company's appeal by creating specific products for customers, exploiting the weaknesses present at market level to transform them into opportunities.

Wallace Waiguru - Startupper

E4Impact's response to the Covid-19 pandemic

The first Kenyan case of Covid-19 was confirmed in March 2020. This triggered the government to put in place measures such as lockdowns, remote working and curfews in a bid to minimise the virus spreading from public interaction. These measures had a huge impact on the economy and more so on SMEs. Accelerated companies, however, were able to quickly adapt their business models in response to the emergency:

  • creating partnerships for product delivery services
  • using corporate social media platforms and/or e-commerce platforms
  • taking digital payments via credit cards and smartphones
  • producing masks and the protective clothing needed by individuals and hospital staff

Start-up financing came at the right time, when Covid 19 had just started to spread in Kenya. This allowed us to survive and stay in business at a time when most businesses were being severely affected by the impact of the virus.

Wallace Waiguru - Startupper

The value of experience

The project launched in Kenya stands out among other similar initiatives for its marked emphasis on social impact, in particular in the creation of jobs for women and younger generations, for the internationalisation of companies and for its E4Impact MBA network of contacts in Kenya and other countries.


The initiative was launched thanks to the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan, the E4Impact Foundation and CeSPI (Centre for International Political Studies).

Alliances for a better future