Capital Unleashed: accelerating access to growth capital for young Nigerian entrepreneurs

In today’s rapidly evolving world, young entrepreneurs are the driving force behind innovation, economic growth and sustainable development. Their ideas and ventures hold the key to addressing societal challenges and creating opportunities for a brighter future. What do these businesses need to turn their innovative ideas into sustainable, profitable businesses? In addition to training and mentorship, access to finance is key. That is why the Netherlands and Nigeria co-convened Capital Unleashed, to accelerate access to growth capital for young Nigerian entrepreneurs.

Hosted by the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO), Orange Corners Nigeria implementing partner FATE Foundation, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and the Netherlands Consulate-General in Lagos, Capital Unleashed aimed to initiate and develop ideas for new financial products that can bridge the early-stage financing gap, ranging between 50,000 and EUR 250,000 euros. This initiative comes as a follow-up to the Orange Corners Innovation Fund (providing finance up to 50,000 euros) and finance provided via FMO subsidiaries (starting from 250,000 euros), both Dutch initiatives in Nigeria.

Despite the vibrant entrepreneurial landscape, many startups struggle to secure the necessary funding to scale their ventures beyond the initial stages. Although Nigeria is the most popular investment destination on the continent, access to finance remains a significant barrier for many budding entrepreneurs – particularly in the pre-commercial phase. This lack of growth capital impedes economic growth, entrepreneurship and innovation across various sectors.

“With Nigeria emerging as one of Africa’s leading startup ecosystems, the need for accessible finance is more pressing than ever. Bringing together government institutions, banks, venture capital funds, development organisations, and young entrepreneurs, these engagements will forge partnerships that will drive tangible outcomes in the realm of entrepreneurship and innovation”, said Netherlands Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation Geoffrey van Leeuwen.

Throughout the day, collaboration took center stage. Various stakeholders, from youth representatives to financial institutions, actively engaged with one another to tackle issues collectively and devise tangible solutions. The event was characterised by its interactive and action-oriented approach, aimed at fostering real-world impact.

During a lively panel, the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation engaged with young Nigerian entrepreneurs who shared their succes stories and struggles in growing their businesses and accessing growth capital. The minister emphasised the interest of the Netherlands to encourage innovation and stimulate entrepreneurship, as Nigeria is an important trading partner. Together with stakeholders from the startup ecosystem they touched on policy and regulatory reforms and design of innovative financing products, to explore collaborative solutions to address access to finance challenges.

The event builds upon the success of Orange Corners and the Orange Corners Innovation Fund (OCIF), implemented in Nigeria since 2019 and 2021, respectively. Till date, Orange Corners has supported the development of nearly 200 youth-led enterprises, supporting the creation of around 500 jobs in Nigeria. However, there is a recognised need for continued support beyond the initial stages of business development. A recent survey among Orange Corners alumni indicated that although they have collectively raised over one million euros, less than 20% of participants felt they had sufficient access to finance to scale.  

The Capital Unleashed round table underscores the commitment of the Netherlands to address the financing needs of young entrepreneurs together with players in the Nigerian ecosystem, create pathways for growth and sustainability, and propel Nigeria’s innovation ecosystem to new heights. For the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and FMO, this round table marked a unique milestone as the first official step to join forces to address the existing finance gap.

Minister Geoffrey van Leeuwen in conversation with young Nigerian entrepreneurs
Keynote speech Timothy Nourse
Kingdom of the Netherlands