This section seeks to explain the terms & conditions for innovateAFRICA.

It also answers some of the more frequently asked questions we receive. There is a lot of important information, so we’ve tried to make it easier to navigate by breaking the information into the following sections:

If your question isn’t answered below, sign-up for one of our regular Google Hangouts or inbox us on Facebook.


1. What is the innovateAFRICA Fund?

innovateAFRICA is a pan-African contest run by Code for Africa that aims to accelerate digital innovation in watchdog media and civic news organisations by funding transformational ideas and then continuing to support them through a network of peers and advisors. innovateAFRICA is modelled on the highly successful Knight News Challenge in the USA, and builds on the 2012 African News Innovation Challenge, but has learned from these initiatives and offers more intensive support to address the challenges facing African innovators.

2. What is the Code for Africa?

Code for Africa, or CfAfrica, is the lead organisation driving innovateAFRICA. CfAfrica is not a run-of-the-mill NGO or donor organisation.  It is an umbrella federation of country-based civic technology and data journalism laboratories, that use digital tools to build digital democracies.  CfAfrica’s affiliates use technology to give citizens timely and unfettered access to actionable information that empowers them to make informed decisions and that strengthens civic engagement for improved public governance and accountability.  In addition to innovateAFRICA, CfAfrica also runs other grant-making programmes (see details below), supports civic technology communities such as Hacks/Hackers Africa, and maintains a string of key infrastructure services that digital journalists and open data activists need to do their jobs.  You can get more detailed insight about CfAfrica at

3. What kind of projects are you looking for?

This is the inaugural call for entries for innovateAFRICA, and we are therefore casting the net wide.  Citizens need reliable, actionable information to make informed decisions.  Africa’s watchdog media remain amongst the most effective civic ‘infomediaries’ for giving citizens both information and a voice.  We are therefore looking for new ways to harness cutting-edge technologies to create, discuss and share new ways that are appropriate to African audiences.  And we are also looking for new ways to make quality journalism sustainable.  This could include new revenue or production models, new ways to gather and produce news, or new ways to reach audiences.  Most importantly, we are looking for ideas that can be scaled continentally, or that can be replicated elsewhere, to create maximum impact.  We will also give preference to ideas that seek to solve real-world challenges facing Africa’s media.

4. What is the difference between innovateAFRICA and impactAFRICA?

Both are grantmaking seed funds managed by Code for Africa.  impactAFRICA has been running since January 2016, and makes small grants (up to a maximum of $20,000 each) for journalistic storytelling that uses digital tools or data journalism in pioneering ways. It therefore funds individual journalists to do their job reporting the news.  innovateAFRICA seeks to fund ‘big ideas’ that change the way media institutions operate or that create new technologies for media institutions to use. innovateAFRICA grants are also bigger, up to a maximum of $100,000 each.

5. What if I have an idea similar to one that Code for Africa has funded in the past, but I think I’ve got a better solution?

Please apply!

6. What is the policy on non-Africans applying to innovateAFRICA? Do I have to be African to be eligible?

No.  Proposals can be submitted by news pioneers from anywhere in the world.  You do have to have an African media partner, however, who will help you develop and test your innovation.  Our short-listing system will aggressively weed out tokenism and window-dressing, so make sure your partnerships are credible.  Also, innovations that are designed to be primarily deployed in Africa will stand a better chance of receiving support.

7. What is the process for applying?

The only place you can apply is here on the innovateAFRICA website.  We will not accept faxes, posted applications, hand deliveries or other channels.  All you need to do is answer the 8 questions on the form.  Brevity counts.  Any supporting media, videos, links to prototypes, etc, can be included with the post, but are not required.  The deadline for submissions is December 01, 2016 (midnight – Central African Time).  No late submissions will be accepted.  We will contact semi-finalists for additional information, including a detailed budget, by mid-December.

8. What if I don’t want my idea to be public?

We believe that ideas get better when they are publicly available for discussion and feedback.  Innovators who engage with the wider media community and prove widespread support for their ideas through public discussion will be at an advantage during judging.  However, we understand that you might have competitive concerns and will therefore accept “closed” applications.  If you are prepared to lose points during judging by keeping your application closed, please mark your proposal as “closed” on the form.

8. How important are public comments?

Because this is a contest focused on developing ‘real world’ solutions to real challenges faced by real media and real audiences, we strongly encourage you to engage in conversation with others about your idea.  We believe such discussions benefit both the public viewers and the applicants.  In evaluating your ability to conduct your project, we will also look at your ability to encourage support for, and critiques of, your idea on the innovateAFRICA website and elsewhere online.

9. What aspects of a project’s budget can be funded by an innovateAFRICA grant?

innovateAFRICA grants are meant to fund the costs associated with designing, developing and implementing your idea.  A portion of innovateAFRICA grants can also be used to fund marketing and promotion of your prototypes, or help you deploy the first versions of your idea. innovateAFRICA’s policies prevent funds from being used to pay universities’ “overhead” costs, any core salary costs, or organisation costs not directly linked to the development of your idea.

10. What about projects focused on training?

innovateAFRICA will not fund conferences or other events.  A project that includes training as a component of the plan may win – but not if training is the core focus of the project.

11. What about an issue-oriented site – say one about energy and the environment – would it qualify?

Yes, but only if it demonstrates new strategies or technologies for strengthening the media or the way that audiences engage with the media.

12. What about projects focused on revenue models?

Yes, they definitely qualify.  innovateAFRICA is interested in pragmatic ideas that explore new revenue streams or business models that help civic media diversify away from a reliance on advertising or subscription revenue.

13. What about projects that already exist? Would you fund the expansion of an existing, successful project?

Yes, if you would like funding to prove your concept and scale up to other localities.

14. What about tax? Are winnings taxable?

Because individual situations vary, you need to consult a professional tax advisor on this issue.

15. What if my project fails?

We will work with you to help you succeed by leveraging our networks and expertise.  While failure is not our aim, it is a great way to learn.

16. What about copyright? Must my project use open-source software?

Our preference is for open source or creative commons approaches, but they are not an absolute requirement.  We also accept proposals that rely on proprietary software.  Proprietary software projects will, however, need to make a compelling case for other forms of public good to win support from innovateAFRICA.

17. What do you really mean by “open source”?

By “open-source” we mean software that is available for anyone to use or build upon at the conclusion of the grant period.  You will own your platform, but you will have to share the software you develop under a GNU General Public License (GPL) and any documents, manuals or instructions under Creative Commons licensing.  We consider exceptions to these requirements on a case-by-case basis.

18. What if I have extra supporting files to attach? Where do I put them?

Any media, videos, links to prototypes, etc. can be included with the post using the innovateAFRICA website’s functionality. Such material is not required, however. Only the answers to the 7 questions on the form are required.

19. What kind of supporting materials should I attach?

The supporting materials or attachments should be any documents you think would add valuable information about your project that reviewers can use to better understand how your idea meets the innovateAFRICA criteria. Past participants have provided documents that range from something as simple as their logo, to more complex supporting materials including business plans and working prototypes of their projects. While this material is helpful, the focus for our assessment of your idea is your answers to the 7 questions on the application form.

20. What file formats may I upload supporting documents?

File uploads must be one of the following:

  • Photo: JPEG, GIF, PNG or BMP. Max size: 10 MB
  • Audio: MP3s only. Max size: 10 MB
  • 5:00 minutes of video per play. Max size: 100MB per file.


21. Who can enter?

innovateAFRICA is an open and worldwide contest.  Anyone, anywhere can therefore apply – as long as they have an African partner to help with implementation.  There is no other age or geographic restriction.  The competition is open to nonprofits, for-profits or individuals of any age, anywhere in the world.  Awards to minors will be made to an intermediary designated by innovateAFRICA.

22. Who decides which projects win the contest?

innovateAFRICA’s trustees make the final determinations based on recommendations by the independent international innovateAFRICA jury.  We also employ outside technical experts to help the jury review applications as may be appropriate.  These reviewers serve as advisors only.

23. Can for-profit companies apply to innovateAFRICA?

Yes.  We have different types of funding mechanisms for different types of organisations.  Each funding mechanism has different requirements.  In general terms, if you win the contest, you’ll own the copyright on your intellectual property, including your software.  But in most cases you will need to share the software you developed under a GNU General Public License and any documents, manuals or instructions under Creative Commons licensing.

Grants to nonprofits have an open source requirement.  Any software developed with grant funds has to be open source.  If a grant is made to a business, both the initial and future releases of the code need to be open source.  The business receiving a grant agrees to bind itself to the open source license it owns as if it were a licensee.

The only exception to this is where innovateAFRICA offers a winner a Programme Related Investment, or PRI, which is a no-interest five-year loan structured as Convertible Notes instead of a traditional grant.  If a PRI is made, only the initial release must be open source, and future versions can be licensed in different ways.  At the end of the funding period, the company may pay back the funds it received or innovateAFRICA may take a stake in the company.

24. Can I partner with another individual or organisation?

Yes. We encourage collaborations.  Not having a partner does not count against you, though.

25. I am already the recipient of support from Code for Africa. Can I still apply to innovateAFRICA?

Yes.  We are unlikely to fund the current phase of a project that is already receiving CfAfrica support, but that should not preclude you from submitting proposals for future phases of the project, or for new or unrelated projects.

26. If I apply to this inaugural call for entries on innovateAFRICA, will I still be able to apply for other forms of Code for Africa support?


27. I heard that employees of the Code for Africa or innovateAFRICA’s sponsors / partners are not eligible to enter.

That is correct.  No one who is an employee of either Code for Africa or its partners (such as donors or support organisations) in innovateAFRICA may enter to avoid any impression of conflict of interest or insider dealing.

28.  I’m not a software developer or a designer, but I think I’ve got a good new idea. Should I apply?

The project has to use digital media, but you do not have to be a coder.  We have, however, found that the success of digital projects is likely to increase when you have tech expertise as part of your team.  So it might be worth looking for a technical partner.

29. Can anyone see my application?

Yes. Your application will be publicly available on the web for anyone to read, like, share and comment upon unless you have entered it as a ‘closed’ application. Public or open applications are at an advantage, because you will be able to garner public support for your idea. Ideas with strong public support receive extra attention from our review team.

30. Who gets the money, if two people enter as a team?

The award money would be distributed to the entity, or applicant, that is designated as the project manager by your business plan.  Only shortlisted finalists will be asked to submit business plans.


31. What is the deadline for entry?

The deadline is December 01, 2016 at midnight (Central African Time).  No exceptions or late entries will be accepted, under any circumstances.  You might want to use something like World Time Buddy to make sure that you get the time right.

32. When will winners be announced?

Winners will be announced on Janaury 20, 2017.

33. When will I receive a response?

The dates below are guidelines. Their intention is to give you an idea of the timeframe of the process.

  • September 01,  2016: Contest opens
  • December 01, 2016: Application deadline
  • December 20, 2016: Finalists announced and invited to submit full proposals
  • January 20, 2017 Winners are announced

34. When do I get my money and start the project?

Winners will receive their grants in early 2017.  Code for Africa, which administers innovateAFRICA, will help winners develop realistic implementation plans and grant schedules with each winner.  Our intention is to distribute first payments within 30 days of approval of a project’s workplan.



35. Where do I send my entry?

The application process is online. Please apply here, on the innovateAFRICA portal.

36. Where should my project take place?

Anywhere in Africa.

37. Where should I base my project? Do particular regions have an advantage?


38. Where in the world do you accept entries from?

Everywhere, as long as the project has an African partner and is implemented in Africa.



39. Why should I enter?

  • Because you have a big idea and you want to bring it to life
  • Because you want to do something that improves people’s lives
  • Because it is easy to apply


40. How many times can I enter?

As many as you like.

41. How can I improve the chances of my application being successful?

State the essence of your idea briefly and clearly.

Ask someone who is not familiar with your project to review your application for clarity.

Make sure your application fits within at least one of the themes outlined on the innovateAFRICA home page.

Encourage others to engage with and discuss your idea online.

42. How much do you expect me to talk about my idea’s sustainability in my application?

We have found that projects have a greater likelihood of success when there is a plan for sustaining them after the prize funds run out.

43. How should I benchmark wages for people on my project, if salaries / human resources are a significant component of my project?

Do your research.  Examine the budgets of organisations or individuals doing projects similar to the one you want to develop.  And remember, that innovateAFRICA’s technical shortlisting team will be carefully examining budgets and plans to ensure that there are no extravagant costings.

44. How many entries may I submit?

There is no limit. Just make sure you submit separate ideas as separate entries.  Do not roll them all up into one.

45. How can I protect my brilliant idea? Can someone “steal” it?

That could happen. We find that the value of being open about your idea outweighs the drawbacks.

46. How can I claim a piece of someone else’s prize if I give them the idea that propels their project to win?

When you comment on an entry, do so with the understanding that you are not creating any ownership rights for yourself.

47. How do I say more? Each question in the application has a word limit, but I pasted in more.

Do not give us more words than we ask for.  When answering the 7 questions, please be brief and follow the word count.  We recommend you draft your answers, edit them and count the words in a document and then copy and paste them into the online application form.  This allows you to have a copy in case something goes wrong and helps you count the words of your answers accurately.

48. I have some friends who are university administrators with a question about indirect costs. What do I tell them?

Code for Africa and innovateAFRICA do not pay indirect administrative fees to grantee organisations.

49. Can you be more specific about… ?

We probably could. If you’re confused about something, please don’t hesitate to ask. But after you’ve decided your idea meets innovateAFRICA’s focus, the absolute best way to tell whether it’s appropriate is simply to apply. We don’t want to get so specific with our guidelines that we prevent you from submitting the next great idea. So if you think the idea fits, send it in.

50. What if this FAQ didn’t answer my question?

Feel free to ask by inboxing us on innovateAFRICA’s Facebook community.

Our Mission

To support digital innovation and experimentation that seeks to empower citizens by improving the quality and impact of African civic journalism by using new digital tools and techniques for ‘making’ news, along with new ways for audiences to engage with news, and new models for civic media organisations to sustain themselves.