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JICA expands flagship NINJA Accelerator to South Africa focusing on Open Innovation between startups and NEC XON

Press Release 

Johannesburg, July 2, 2024 – The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announces the expansion of its flagship NINJA Accelerator to South Africa. The brand-new program focuses on strategic collaboration and open innovation between South African startups and Japanese companies. The JICA NINJA Accelerator in South Africa – Open Innovation Edition invites promising startups to test commercial partnership potential with NEC XON, NEC Corporation’s majority-owned pan-African entity. JICA’s overall aim is to study collaboration models between local startups and Japanese companies and contribute to local startup ecosystem development through private sector innovation. 

Departure from Traditional Growth Accelerators 

This accelerator is a departure from traditional growth accelerators. In addition to its usual hands-on support to tackle startups’ most pressing issues, offering networking opportunities, and a one-week roadshow in Japan, this edition will mainly focus on helping startups achieve growth by validating strategic fit and commercial partnership potential with Japanese corporations. NEC XON was selected among several corporate proposals following a public call for applications issued by JICA through its South Africa Office and partner networks. 

”The hope is to increase startups’ chances to find new strategic partners, investors, or enterprise clients in NEC, and also to help reveal potential exit paths in case of perfect strategic fit. All these outcomes could also be of great value to venture capitalists (VCs) if the selected startup turns out to be a portfolio company” says Kohei Muto, CEO of Double Feather Partners, the Japan-based Africa-focused VC and consulting firm leading the project on behalf of JICA.  

With Project NINJA, JICA reaffirms its belief that startups are key to addressing Africa’s most pressing socio-economic and environmental issues, and successful collaboration with sustainability-motivated Japanese companies such as NEC would be a win-win. 

”Through this program, we aim to foster meaningful partnerships that drive both innovation and sustainable growth across Africa, creating lasting impacts for all involved”, says Yosuke Koide, General Manager: of Global Synergy Development at NEC XON. 

The NINJA Accelerator is a collaborative effort powered by JICA led by Double Feather Partners, and Deloitte Tohmatsu, and supported by local partners and global experts to foster innovation and economic growth in the region. After resounding success in Kenya, the program will launch in South Africa with a new acceleration partner, pan-African tech Accelerator Startupbootcamp AfriTech, and the participation of NEC Corporation’s majority-owned African entity NEC XON. 

Program Highlights 

Startups selected for the NINJA Accelerator will benefit from a comprehensive and tailored support program, including: 

  • Proofs-of-Concept (PoCs) with NEC XON: Startups will get an opportunity to co-design and run a three-month PoC with NEC XON to validate commercial partnership potential.  
  • Access to Knowledge, Resources, and Network: Gain access to the Program’s network and, depending on the PoC, NEC XON’s network of partners and customers.  
  • Tailored Support: Local and international mentoring and workshops to focus on priority challenges, including technical support and guidance from NEX XON experts.  
  • Events: To support funding and partnership sourcing, ventures will network, and showcase their business and PoC while participating in cohort-exclusive events, including a one-week trip to Japan arranged by JICA (participation based on program participation and engagement. Details to come). 

Application Process 

  • Deadline: July 28th, 2024. 

About JICA 

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) coordinates official development assistance for the Japanese government in developing countries and aims to promote international cooperation by supporting the socio-economic development, recovery, or economic stability of emerging economies. 

For more info:  https://www.jica.go.jp/english/index.html 

About Project NINJA 

Project NINJA is a JICA initiative to support the establishment and development of a ”startup ecosystem” to achieve a situation where innovative startups are continuously and autonomously created and nurtured. JICA intends to collaborate with various stakeholders to strengthen the startup ecosystem, develop entrepreneurship, make policy recommendations, strengthen corporate management capacity, promote collaboration among enterprises across industries, match up with Japanese companies, and promote investment. 

For more info: https://www.jica.go.jp/Resource/english/our_work/thematic_issues/private/project_ninja.html 

About NEC XON  

NEC XON is a leading African integrator of ICT solutions and part of NEC, a Japanese global company. NEC XON has operated in Africa since 1963 and delivers communications, energy, safety, security, and digital solutions. It co-creates social value through innovation to help overcome serious societal challenges. The organisation operates in 54 African countries and has a footprint in 16 of them. Regional headquarters are located in South, East, and West Africa. NEC XON is a level 1-certified broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) business.  

Discover more at www.nec.xon.co.za

About Double Feather Partners 

Double Feather Partners (DFP) is a Japan-based, emerging markets-focused, Venture Capital and Startup Ecosystem Engagement consulting firm that provides risk capital, market research, and Startup Ecosystem Engagement consulting services to international organizations, corporations, and government agencies seeking to reach their startup-related goals while achieving socio-economic impact. 

For more info: https://doublefeather.com/ 

Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support 

Innovation is the key to driving business success and revitalizing the Japanese and the world economies in the 21st century. Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support (DTVS)’s mission is to “create the future alongside innovators”, by collaborating with startups, large corporations, and government agencies. Main activities include startup support, consulting for large corporations, open innovation, and government agency support. 

For more info: https://www2.deloitte.com/jp/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/dtvs/dtvs.html  

Deloitte Tohmatsu Financial Advisory LLC 

Deloitte Tohmatsu Financial Advisory LLC (DTFA) delivers highly specialized financial advisory solutions to Deloitte’s clients facing critical business events and financial transactions where significant value is at stake. FA professionals have the global reach, deep industrial sector knowledge, extensive service capabilities, and experience to help Deloitte’s clients capitalize on opportunities and navigate times of economic uncertainty and disruptive events.  

For more info: https://www2.deloitte.com/jp/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/dtfa/deloitte-tohmatsu-financial-advisory.html  

About Startupbootcamp Afritech 

Startupbootcamp AfriTech was launched in 2017 as the first multi-corporate-backed pan-African startup accelerator. We run world-class accelerator programs, working with some of the most disruptive startups on the continent. We provide access to our global network of corporate partners, investors, and mentors. The SBC AfriTech portfolio currently has 60 African startups spanning 13 countries and operating in sectors that include FinTech, InsureTech, Logistics, Mobility, AgriTech and Digital Health. With our support, 95% of SBC AfriTech alumni are still operational 2+ years after the program, and they have an aggregate valuation of nearly $1 Billion. 

For more info: http://bit.ly/sbcafritech 

Media Contacts 

Global Yannick Gayama (Double Feather Partners) yannick.gayama@doublefeather.com  South Africa Jocelyn Nyaguse (StartupBootCamp) jocelyn.nyaguse@startupbootcamp.org