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The SwitchersFund: first edition of the OSCE GEMS Award

240 young entrepreneurs from 6 eligible countries submitted innovative ideas to turn them into businesses. We will soon disclose the 6 winners.
Published on Dec 07, 2017

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 A key challenge mentioned by green entrepreneurs is access to finance, especially in the early stages of business development. For example, according to a recent survey done among the Switchers, a community of eco innovative and green entrepreneurs revealed that 73% considers access to finance as the top challenge, while 56% are not finding the right investors. On the other hand, financiers and investors perceive green start-ups as risky and insufficiently profitable investments. In addition, having limited understanding of these novel business models, they seem to shy away from supporting the seeds of the new circular economy. Furthermore, the well-known missing middle contributes to the challenge. Based on the mapping of the financing instruments for green entrepreneurs conducted in four South Mediterranean countries, there is a financing gap and difficulty of accessing to finance from €15,000 till €150,000.

 To assist the MENA’s green entrepreneurs in overcoming this challenge, the UN Environment MAP SCP/RAC has partnered with the European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks and Financiers (FEBEA)and the European company for Ethical and Alternative Financing (SEFEA) in a joint initiative: the Switchers Fund.

 The Switchers Fund’s mission is to support innovative green entrepreneurs in the development of their projects, first through grants, and as these projects grow by introducing adapted financial products such as concessional loans and ultimately through equity participations. As a catalyst of green innovative ideas to be connected with financiers, the SwitchersFund could become an excellent ally for Development finance institutions (DFIs) like the French Development Agency (AfD), which could benefit from investing in an innovative instrument able to divert the funds to the specific target group.

 As the first activity of the Switchers Fund, the Call for OSCE GEMS Award, which will grant 15,000 Euros to the best sustainable business idea in six eligible countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia), was launched. We are very thankful for the great interest and high participation to the Award. In total, 240 young entrepreneurs from 6 eligible countries submitted innovative ideas that would like to turn them into business. 182 were the final accepted applications (female 62 - male119) and after disqualifying 56 for not meeting the minimum requirements, 126 are currently being evaluated: Algeria (13), Egypt (20), Morocco (22), Tunisia (48), Israel (11) and Jordan (12). The 6 winners will be announced in January 2018. The winners, will report back on the social or environmental impact achieved through the innovation within 6 months from the receipt of the seed funding.

 The first edition of the OSCE GEMS Award, which is the result of the partnership between the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the SwitchersFund with the financial support of the Italian Government, is designed to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular in relation to SDG 8 on ¨Decent Work and Economic Growth¨ and SDG 12 on ¨Responsible Production and Consumption¨.

 Further information at