frequently asked questions

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Innovative Finance Window
Agribusiness Window

Innovative finance window FAQs

  • Who can apply to the Innovative Finance Window of MICF?

    All applications must be submitted by a for profit company, bank, microfinance institution (MFI), or nonbank financial institution (NBFI) registered in Malawi. However, implementation of the proposed project could be supported by other companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs and INGOs),government-related agencies, and other non-profit organizations.
  • Can a foreign firm, or foreign joint venture, or multinational company with registered representation within Malawi apply to the Fund?

    Yes.
  • Can an individual person apply?

    No. All applications must come from a registered company.
  • Can a government agency apply for the fund?

    Only if it is associated with a private sector applicant. The partner company or financial institution must lead the application and demonstrate sufficient commitment to the project.
  • Can a NGO apply for the fund?

    Likewise, the NGO must collaborate with a partner company, financial institution or micro-finance institution. The partner company, financial institution, or micro-finance institution must lead the application and demonstrate sufficient commitment to the project.
  • Can an association apply to the Fund?

    An association must collaborate with a partner company, financial institution or micro-finance institution. The partner company / financial institution must lead the application and demonstrate sufficient commitment to the project.
  • Can a co-operative apply to the Fund?

    Only if it is associated with a private sector applicant. The partner company or financial institution must lead the application and demonstrate sufficient commitment to the project.
  • What financial (and other) capacity must all applicants have?

    All applicants will need to demonstrate their capacity to implement their proposed project, and must also be able to contribute a minimum of 50% of the cost of the business idea. Contributions can be made through a combination of in-kind and cash contributions and will be evaluated on a case by case basis dependent on the circumstances of the project proposed.
  • What other eligibility criteria must applicants meet?

    All applicants must provide evidence of their legal status, office address, telephone number, fax number,company registration number and tax registration. Applicable regulatory approvals governing project activities will need to be obtained.
  • I am still not sure if I am eligible to apply

    If you are unsure of your eligibility to apply, please contact us, by email for written clarification and guidance.
  • What type of project is the MICF through the Window looking for?

    The funding request must be for a specific, new and innovative business ideas to improve SMEs’ access to finance in Malawi. The MICF views innovation in its broadest sense including:
    • a new approach,product, idea or service that has not been tested anywhere;
    • an approach, product, idea or service that is new to Malawi;
    • an approach, product, idea or service aimed at improving SMEs access to finance that has not been applied to a specific sector in Malawi.
    If you think your project idea meets these requirements, we want to hear from you.
  • What products and services will be involved?

    The Innovative Finance Window focuses on improving access to finance to the SMEs in Malawi through increasing new products, delivery channels, and business models by banks, NBFIs and MFIs to support SME financing. Please check our website www.micf.mw for specific challenges.
  • have an idea for a Project that would have a positive impact on SMEs and the livelihoods of the poor in Malawi, but it is outside of the area defined by the Challenge. What should I do?

    At this stage, the MICF only wishes to consider project proposals that fit within the parameters set by the specific challenge. However, please submit your details to either of the MICF offices in Lilongwe or Blantyre, so that we can keep you up-dated on future challenges.
  • Must the proposed project be located in a particular location with a high proportion of SMEs?

    No, we will consider projects located in any part of Malawi. We will favour project proposals that are expected to have the greatest positive impact on the SME growth and employment generation.
  • What if the project is quite risky?

    We are interested in potentially risky projects that can demonstrate the potential for commercial sustainability in the long run, and the ability to have significant impact on SMEs. We are not interested in supporting a low level of business risk which might easily be financed through your own resources.
  • What is the time frame for eligible projects?

    All projects approved as part of this round should require no more than 30 months to reach completion.
  • I have failed in previous applications to other challenge funds. Can I submit my proposal to the Innovative Finance Window of MICF?

    Yes. If you believe your idea meets the challenge fund criteria, we would be happy to receive your proposal.
  • Does the fund provide up-front payments to projects?

    No. Payments will be made according to an agreed-upon schedule with the Project’s implementers. Payments will be released when the project meets each pre-agreed milestone. Payments will in most cases be reimbursements for funds spent by the grantees, according to the contract.
  • What is the usual size of the grant?

    The grant size will vary between a minimum of US$ 200,000 and a maximum of US$ 700,000 per project.Applicants must keep in mind that at least 50% of the Project’s costs must be provided by them, as the Fund will only provide up to 50% of the Project’s total costs. Contributions can be made through a combination of in-kind and cash contributions and will be considered on a case by case basis depending on the circumstances of the individual project proposed.
  • In what currency the money will be released?

    The grant will be denominated in US Dollars only.
  • Precisely what kinds of activities can, and cannot, be funded through the Innovative Finance Window of the MICF?

    Specific activities and items that will be funded by MICF will be determined during contract negotiations. However, grants cannot be used for the following purpose:
    • As the principal that the financial institution will on lend to SMEs.
    • As a subsidy on interest rates to SMEs.
    • To act as a guarantee / collateral substitute to underwrite risk of the product to SMEs.
  • Will the MICF team expect to be involved directly in the management of the projects it supports?

    No. The Fund will not be involved in direct management of any project.
  • How will the implementation of funded projects be monitored?

    Grant recipients will be expected to comply with various reporting requirements, to be mutually agreed during contract negotiations.
  • Will the MICF provide any technical assistance in support implementation?

    Yes, the Fund will provide advice and consultation as required but we do not aim to build the capacity of implementers.
  • What are the practical and administrative requirements for grant recipients?

    Recipients of grant funding by the MICF will be expected to comply with the following requirements:
    • Achievement of milestones to trigger payments.
    • Submission of quarterly progress reports.
    • Submission of financial statements of expenditures.
  • Does the MICF provide any direct assistance in developing the Proposal?

    No. However, applicants are encouraged to seek guidance and discuss their proposals during development with the MICF team.
  • What is the grant application process?

    Step 1: Challenge is set by MICF Financial Innovation Fund.
    Step 2: Interested parties have one month (4 weeks) to notify in writing their interest in submitting a bid – failure to do so will indicate that despite interaction with the MICF team, that the applicant does not wish to proceed with their application(s).
    Step 3: The applicant will have a further 2 months (8 weeks) to submit more detailed proposals to the MCIF. During this period the MICF management team will undertake a due diligence of the lead institution.  
    Step 4: A carefully selected Independent Investment Panel reviews proposals and selects grantees.  
    Step 5: Fund Managers enter into contract negotiations with successful applicants.  
    Step 6: Contracts are signed. 
  • Is there a Right of Appeal for unsuccessful submissions?

    No. The Investment Panel’s decision is final. There is no right of appeal.
  • Can I submit more than one application?

    Yes, applicants may submit more than one proposal if they have multiple projects they wish to propose.
  • If i am not successful, can i apply again at a later date, with a revised or new project proposal?

    Yes, if a project is ultimately not funded, the applicant company may submit a proposal for another (or revised) project in the next round of Challenges - depending on whether the financiers of the MICF have adequate funds or time to launch another round.
  • What if the milestones are too difficult to achieve?

    The milestones set by the MICF and the grant recipients will be mutually agreed upon, and will be set out in a formal contract, before the first grant disbursement is made. If you believe the milestones set are too demanding, and a mutually satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, then you are free to halt the application process at any time.
  • I am worried that my Project idea is a good one and could be ‘stolen’. Will my proposal be treated confidentially?

    Yes. All applications will be treated in the strictest confidence during the application process. All the people involved in running the Fund, including the Investment Panel members, have signed a binding Code of Conduct that prohibits them from divulging details of the applications to others, and also prohibits them from using the information for personal gain.
  • What languages should I use?

    English.
  • Will the contract between the MICF and my company / organization be kept confidential?

    Yes. The terms of the contract will be kept confidential.
  • How do I know that my proposal was received by the MICF?

    We will acknowledge the receipt of your proposal.
  • How can I submit my proposal?

    You can submit proposals through email (as attachments), or by courier / post.
  • How will I know which proposals have been accepted?

    The MICF will send a letter to each applicant, advising them of the decision.
  • How can I submit my proposal?

    You can submit proposals through email (as attachments), or by courier / post.
  • How do I know that my proposal was received by the MICF?

    We will acknowledge the receipt of your proposal.
  • What happens if the Project is unable to meet one or more of the agreed milestones?

    If a project fails to meet an agreed milestone, according to the contract agreed, then any subsequent grant releases by the Fund will be halted until a mutually satisfactory solution is found. If a solution cannot be found, the Fund may regrettably have to halt its grant funding of the project at that stage.
  • Will I be expected to pay back some or all of the grant money if the project is ultimately unsuccessful,or fails to meet its initial goals?

    No, you will not.
  • How is the Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund different from other funds and finance providers in Malawi?

    The MICF provides grants for projects of companies, financial institutions or Micro-finance Institutions rather than the individual organisation. MICF does not seek to obtain any financial return. The Fund is not an equity or venture capital investor, and will not buy shares in a company or a project. Nor will it wish to share in the profits of successful projects.

    The funding provided is grant money, and there is no interest or other charges attached to the money provided by the fund.
  • Who are the partners of MICF’s Innovative Finance Window?

    The MICF’s Innovative Finance window is supported by the United Nations Development Programme for Malawi and UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).
  • Might grantees be subjected to an audit?

    Yes.
  • What arrangements for audit of funds might be expected?

    The grantee will have an audit carried out annually at their discretion as stipulated in the grant contract and submit the audit report to us.
  • What is the format for the periodic reports?

    A quarterly report should be submitted outlining progress to date.

frequently asked questions

Coming Soon
Finance Window - 11th July
AGRIBUSINESS WINDOW - 16TH JULY

Agribusiness faqs

  • Who can apply to the Agribusiness Window of MICF?

    Applications must be led by a for-profit private sector firm.  Implementation of the proposed project could be supported by other organizations including other private sector companies,non-governmental organizations, and other civil society organizations.  
  • Can a new or start-up firm apply?

    Only in exceptional cases will MICF consider new businesses or start-up businesses, where there is strong evidence that the new company has credible and experienced investors and management team.
  • Can a foreign firm, or foreign joint venture, or multinational company apply?

    Yes.
  • Can an individual person apply?

    No. All applications must come from a registered company.
  • Can a government agency apply for the fund?

    Only if it is associated with a private sector applicant. The partner company or financial institution must lead the application and demonstrate sufficient commitment to the project.
  • Can a NGO apply for the fund?

    No, a NGO cannot apply directly. If a NGO has a good idea to address the challenge, it is recommended that they find a private sector partner.
  • Can an individual person apply?

    No.  All applications must come from a registered company.
  • Can a co-operative apply to the Fund?

    Only if it is associated with a private sector applicant. The partner company or financial institution must lead the application and demonstrate sufficient commitment to the project.
  • What financial capacity do applicants need?

    The private sector firms that apply to the MICF must be able to demonstrate their capacity and financial strength, and must also be able to contribute a minimum of 50% of project costs through a combination of cash and in-kind contributions.
  • Does my project need to be innovative?

    Yes. The application for a MICF grant must be for a specific, new and innovative business idea.
  • How do we define innovation?

    The MICF views innovation in its broadest sense including: i)  a new approach, product, idea or service  that has not been tested anywhere; ii) an approach, product, idea or service that is new to Malawi; or iii) an approach, product, idea or service that has not been applied to the sector in question in Malawi.
  • What other eligibility criteria must applicants meet?

    Eligibility criteria are defined within the application guidelines.  All applicants must also prove their legal status, including office address, telephone number, company registration number and tax code.  
  • I am still not sure if I am eligible to apply

    If you are unsure of your eligibility to apply, please contact us, by telephone, email or post, for clarification and guidance.
  • What type of project is the MICF through the Window looking for?

    We are looking for projects that: i) are innovative; ii) demonstrate the potential for commercial sustainability, (iii) have potential for growth and replication, (iv) are realistic and feasible, and v) most importantly, should have a significant impact on the poor. If you think your project idea meets these requirements, we want to hear from you.
  • What is the challenge that companies can apply for?

    Your business project will need to address the following challenge to beeligible to be considered under the Agribusiness window:

    Agribusiness Window: The MICF challenges firms to introduce newinitiatives that could:
    • Deliver new products, services, and business models that incorporate raw material produced by poor producers either in the processed or semi-processed form into their business activities to deliver value addition exports or import substitutes; or
    • Improve the potential for mechanization within agriculture either through the development of suitable products or the application of technology to increase farm productivity and efficiency; or
    • Support renewable energy production and/or conservation of the environment through the recycling of agriculture by-products in a sustainable manner.
  • What impacts on the poor is the MICF looking for?

    MICF is looking for business led activities that can have a significant impact on Malawi’s poor in terms of the incomes they can earn and sustainable new jobs that can be created by the business.
  • Are there any criteria for the number of poor people impacted?

    There is no fixed criterion but we encourage firms to think of the most innovative way to impact a large number of poor.
  • Must the proposed project be located in a particular location with a high proportion of poor residents?

    MICF will consider proposed projects located in any part of Malawi. However, we will favour project proposals that are expected to have the greatest positive impact on the poor.
  • What if the project is quite risky?

    We are interested in potentially risky projects that can demonstrate the potential for commercial sustainability in the long run, and the ability to have significant impact on the poor.  We are not able to support a project with a low level of business risk which could easily attract more conventional financing, such as bank loans.
  • What is the length of each applying project?

    All projects approved as part of the Agribusiness window should have a maximum duration of 30 months from the date of contract signing.  
  • I have failed in previous applications to other challenge funds.  Can I submit my proposal to MICF?

    Yes.  If you believe your idea meets the challenge set by MICF, we would be happy to receive your project concept note.
  • I am still not sure if my Project fits the eligibility criteria

    If you are unsure whether your proposed Project meets our eligibility criteria,please contact us, by telephone, email or post for clarification and guidance.
  • Does the MICF provide up-front payments to businesses?

    No. Payments will be made according to an agreed schedule with the Project’s implementer(s). These payments will be released when the Project meets each pre-agreed milestone. Payments will be reimbursements for funds spent by the grantees, according to the contract.
  • What is the usual size of the grant?

    The grant size will typically be on average around US$ 300,000 but the MICF will not support project applications below a minimum threshold of US$ 200,000.Applicants must keep in mind that at least 50% of the Project’s costs must be provided by them, as the Fund will only provide up to a maximum of 50% of the Project’s total costs.
  • Precisely what kinds of activities can, and cannot, be funded by MICF?

    Specific activities and items that will be funded by MICF will be determined during contract negotiations.
  • Will the MICF expect to be involved directly in the management of the Projects it supports?

    No. The Fund will not be involved in direct management of any Project.
  • Will the MICF team expect to be involved directly in the management of the projects it supports?

    No. The Fund will not be involved in direct management of any project.
  • How will the implementation of funded projects be monitored?

    Grant recipients will be expected to comply with various reporting requirements, to be mutually agreed during contract negotiations.
  • Will the MICF provide any technical assistance in support implementation?

    No.  MICF does not provide technical assistance to grant recipients.
  • Will I be expected to pay back some or all of the grant money if the project is ultimately unsuccessful, or fails to meet its initial goals?

    No, you will not.
  • What is a Concept Note?

    The Concept Note is the first part of the application process. Applicants wanting to participate in the challenge fund must initially complete a concept note. All concept note submissions will be reviewed, and the most promising ideas will go through to the next stage. The Concept Note allows applicants to briefly present how ideas respond to the window’s challenge.
  • Does the MICF provide any assistance in developing the Concept Note and Proposal?

    The MICF team are happy to provide guidance and clarification on the preparation of concept notes. Those applicants that are subsequently invited to submit more detailed proposals will be invited to a workshop to provide further information on proposal expectations.  
  • What is the grant application process?

    Step 1: Challenge is set by MICF Financial Innovation Fund.
    Step 2: Interested parties have one month to submit their concept notes
    Step 3: MICF Independent Investment Panel reviews all Concept Notes, and shortlists the most promising applications.
    Step 4: Shortlisted applicants are invited to submit more detailed proposals 
    Step 5: MICF Independent Investment Panel reviews and selects potential grantees  
    Step 6: MICF enters into Contract negotiations with successful applicants
    Step 7: Contracts are signed
  • Is there a Right of Appeal for unsuccessful submissions?

    No.  The MICF Independent Investment Panel decision is final. There is no right of appeal.
  • Can I submit more than one application?

    Yes, applicants may submit more than one concept note if they have multiple projects they wish to propose.
  • If I am not successful, can I apply again at a later date, with a revised or new project proposal?

    Yes, if a project does not reach proposal stage, or is ultimately not funded, the applicant company may submit a concept note for another (or revised) project in the next round of challenges.  
  • What if the milestones are too difficult to achieve?

    The milestones set by MICF and the grant recipients will be mutually agreed upon, and will be set out in a formal contract, before the first grant disbursement is made. If you believe the milestones set are too demanding, and a mutually satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, then you are free to halt the application process at any time.
  • I am worried that my Project idea is a good one and could be ‘stolen’.  Will my proposal be treated confidentially?

    Yes. All applications will be treated in the strictest confidence during the application process.  All the people involved in running the fund, including the MICF Independent Investment Panel members, have signed a binding Code of Conduct that prohibits them from divulging details of the applications to others, and also prohibits them from using the information for personal gain. 
  • How is the Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund different from other funds and finance providers in Malawi?

    The MICF provides matching grants for projects rather than individual companies. MICF does not seek to obtain any financial return. The fund is not an equity or venture capital investor, and will not buy shares in a company or a project. Nor will it wish to share in the profits of successful Projects. The MICF is not a bank, and does not provide loans or other kinds of debt financing. The funding provided is grant money, and there is no interest or other charges attached to the money provided by the fund.

frequently asked questions

Coming Soon
Finance Window - 11th July
AGRIBUSINESS WINDOW - 16TH JULY