Call For Applications: Archipelagos Program For Smes And Entrepreneurs In Africa ( Access To Fund, Training, Mentoring, And Networking)

Archipelagos is a multi-year international cooperation program developed by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), the Italian Financial Institution for International Development Cooperation, with the support of the European Commission that aims at supporting the growth of African SMEs and facilitating their access to capital markets.

Through this call for application, up to 1000+ SMEs will be selected across the African continent to join a dedicated capacity-building program designed to strengthen their capabilities and increase their readiness for capital markets.


We are looking for participants willing to:

  • Develop new skills and capabilities by acquiring knowledge and expertise to grow their business and boost competitiveness.
  • Look for guidance and support from experienced professionals to navigate new challenges and to receive actionable advice to achieve their goals.
  • Connect with other businesses and establish valuable connections that can help them grow and succeed, by sharing experiences, knowledge, and best practices.
  • Explore potential collaborations and partnerships that can support them in achieving their business objectives.
  • Pursue the chance to access debt capital to finance their growth, by connecting with a range of potential investors and differentiating their sources of funding.

Each of the selected SMEs will receive access to the platform for up to 3 key figures within the organization (e.g., founder, finance manager, strategy manager).

In addition to SMEs, the capacity-building platform is also open to young university graduates / young entrepreneurs who want to boost their academic journey and prepare to enter into the business world as well as those who look to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills.

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Eligibility Criteria

To participate in this Program, SMEs should meet 5 pre-requisites1:

  • Be Africa-based (incorporated or with main operations in Africa)
  • Have an annual turnover up to USD 50 million, with a minimum threshold of USD 1 million to be eligible for the financial guarantee
  • Be in operation since at least 2 years
  • Be a for-profit corporate (or other type of for-profit legal person)
  • Not be subject to any sanction or restrictions

When shortlisting the SMEs to take part to Archipelagos Program, various criteria will be considered, such as the size of the business as well as their performance in terms of growth and profitability. It will also be examined the sector of reference and the geographical footprint of the SMEs. Additionally, the impact that the SMEs generates in terms of gender, social safeguards, environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors will also be considered. Finally, it will be taken into consideration the overall fit with the Program objectives and the type of support needed.

Young university graduates / young entrepreneurs can directly apply to request access to the capacity-building platform without undergoing the full selection process.

1 On top of the mentioned pre-requisites, SMEs must be able to provide evidence of compliance with local regulations and not be subject to any local and/or EU sanction under regulatory, fiscal, and juridical issues, nor being domiciled in one of the EU non-tax cooperative countries.


Capacity-building program

The Program is structured around 3 core areas – training, mentoring, and networking – and is delivered through a hybrid model, combining both asynchronous and synchronous components to offer a comprehensive and interactive learning experience.

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Through the Archipelagos digital platform, SMEs will have access to a vast learning catalogue of online courses, with differentiated learning paths according to the specific needs and stage of development. On top of the asynchronous component, webinars will contribute to make the learning journey even more stimulating, engaging, and interactive.

In addition to training, SMEs participating in the Program will also receive dedicated support and will have access to a community of SMEs and investors providing them the opportunity to make valuable business connections, also at international level.

Inspired by the Team Europe Initiative of Investing in Young Business in Africa (TEI IYBA), also young university graduates / young entrepreneurs will have access to the capacity building platform to enhance their business knowledge and entrepreneurial skills.

Access to capital markets

At the end of the capacity building Program, the SMEs that demonstrate the readiness and potential to raise funds in the capital markets will be provided with tailored support and guided through the fundraising process.

Selected SMEs will in fact receive dedicated mentorship and coaching to best prepare for the interaction with potential investors (e.g., support in preparing a compelling investment pitch).

Finally, they will be supported in the structuring of innovative debt instruments and secure funding at favorable terms thanks to the first-loss financial guarantee facility from the European Commission that will enable attracting other investors.

Selection Process

The selection process is carried out through a public call for application, which is open from the 7th of November 2023 to the 30th of June 2024 to all interested SMEs and young university graduates / young entrepreneurs.

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A dedicated team will thoroughly evaluate submitted applications on a rolling basis and carefully screen the SMEs according to the established criteria. Selected applicants will be contacted within 3 weeks from the submission of the application to begin the onboarding process, ensuring all participants are fully prepared to take advantage of the Program’s resources and support.

To apply to the Archipelagos Program please fill in this survey 

For any questions or inquiries please contact

For more information about the Archipelagos Program, visit the CDP website or download the brochure here.

Applications will be open until 30 June 2024 and evaluated on a rolling basis.

Click HERE to Apply