Again from Ghana, we were so excited to run another round of the International Mentoring Programme for West Africa.
18 Ghanian, 3 Nigerian, and 9 European entrepreneurs were selected to join the third edition of the program. They came along with mentors and experts to exchange knowledge and resources and build connections.
The mentoring program, which began in Fall 2019, continued in 2020. It started with the selection of participants which took place through a multi-stage application process. And before starting 2020, we were able to implement preparatory workshops and kicked off the first Startup Camp.
In 2020, it was planned that mentors would visit their fellows where a second startup camp would take place in Germany. The camp was originally scheduled for May then postponed until November 2020. The reason for setting an alternative date for holding the camp with a physical implementation in Germany was the further development of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the associated travel restrictions, social distancing, and hygiene requirements.
However, we were aware that the only component that could be successfully implemented analogously before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was the individual mentor visits. Hence, the situation was continuously monitored and analyzed.
In preparation for the possibility that physical implementation might not be possible in 2020, work was done on developing a digital format. In Fall 2020, it became apparent – based on the increase in infection rates – that the startup camp would not occur on the ground. At the same time, feedback from participating startups and mentors indicated that a virtual equivalent of the last startup camp would be an unsatisfactory end to this mentoring program. Accordingly, it was agreed to save unused funds and return them to the German Federal Foreign Office.
- Implementation of mentor visits from Feb. 02-08, 2020: Ten mentors traveled to Ghana and Nigeria to meet their mentees during this period. Each mentor spent several days with the mentee.
- Online mentoring was implemented on an ongoing basis – where participants received monthly individual, virtual mentoring sessions. These sessions comprised in-depth conversations to identify current challenges, in addition to discussing short and long-term solutions, tools to identify opportunities, strategies, and clarification of priorities. Besides, new digital formats were established and implemented for additional sharing.
Overall, the program saw the successful participation of 18 startups from Ghana, 3 startups from Nigeria, along with 1 startup from Denmark, 5 startups from Germany, 1 startup from Ireland, 1 startup from Poland, 1 startup from Slovakia, and 10 national and international mentors.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional extraordinary group discussions were set up to ensure ongoing interaction between all participants. In particular, discussions went around the challenges posed by the pandemic to the participants’ business models.