Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

COMPETE Salone is a competitive grant facility, financed by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which helps Sierra Leonean businesses to develop new environmentally sustainable products and approaches that generate new jobs, climate resilience and a thriving private sector.

COMPETE Salone aims to harness the strengths of the private sector to generate and test new ideas. A key objective is to prove the viability of new business models that integrate Sierra Leonean producers and companies into export value chains and enhance the capacity for such projects to be replicated and scaled up on a commercial basis.

COMPETE Salone works by offering a matching grant to the private sector to test new approaches, products and markets that they would not be prepared to pursue on a purely commercial basis.

The environmental window of COMPETE Salone is integrated into the wider work of Invest Salone by supporting business models that can: i) scale and attract new or additional investment on successful completion of the COMPETE Salone grant; ii) attract new investors and business partners within the region or link existing Sierra Leonean businesses to global partners; and iii) support the development of a product or service that has the potential to be exported within the region or internationally.

We hope that COMPETE Salone will help companies pursue a number of innovative new projects that will increase the international markets that Sierra Leone products and services can reach and help local businesses to develop new environmentally sustainable products and approaches that generate new jobs, climate resilience and a thriving private sector.

Specifically, COMPETE Salone focuses on developing and testing business models that support nature-based solutions and climate-smart approaches. As such, the environmental footprint of projects; their ability to mitigate climate impacts; the development of new technologies such pico-hydro, biomass technologies and innovative recycled products for commercial uses; as well as approaches to enhance resilience, will be a key feature of this window.

Each COMPETE Salone window is open to all but any project must be led by a for-profit private sector firm with a turnover of at least 1.5 times the value of the grant being sought. Implementation of the proposed project can be supported by other organisations, including other private sector companies, non-governmental organisations, and other civil society organisations. However, the lead applicant and implementer of the business idea must be a commercial company that is registered in Sierra Leone or has the appropriate licence to operate in Sierra Leone.

Groups that are proposing a business idea to COMPETE Salone – which can include the lead company, collaborating organisations and third parties such as co-investors or banks and other lenders – must provide matching funds of at least 50% of the total cost of the business proposal. In this way we are assured that the lead company and its partners have ultimate ownership of the project. The total grant funds requested must be between £100,000 and £300,000.

Given the current economic climate, contributions can be made through a combination of in-kind and cash contributions. However, the level of in-kind contributions permissible will be decided on a case-by-case basis dependent on the project proposed.

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 in most cases be reimbursements for funds spent by the grantees, according to the contract.

COMPETE Salone provides grants for projects, it 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 share in the profits of successful projects.

Our goal is to support projects that have the potential to create value-addition opportunities to Sierra Leonean producers, service providers and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). COMPETE Salone makes possible potentially risky projects that can demonstrate the potential for commercial sustainability in the long run. We are not interested in supporting a low level of business risk that could easily attract more conventional financing, such as bank loans.

COMPETE Salone 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.

In the environmental window COMPETE Salone is looking for business project ideas from private sector organisations operating within Sierra Leone that can:

  • Support climate-smart agricultural interventions that can link larger scale off-takers at the top of supply chains to smallholder producers and agribusiness. This should reduce transaction costs, maintain the integrity and efficiency of the supply chain and ensure jobs and income. To do this, firms must adopt climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as an integrated approach to managing landscapes – cropland, livestock, and fisheries. This will address the interlinked challenges of production and accelerating climate change. CSA as adopted by COMPETE Salone aims to achieve one or more of the four outcomes below:
    • Increased productivity: Produce more and better agricultural products and boost incomes of smallholder producers.
    • Enhanced resilience: Reduce vulnerability to drought, pests, diseases and other climate-related risks and shocks and improve capacity to adapt and grow in the face of longer-term stresses like shortened seasons and erratic weather patterns. Methods might include, for instance, better drought tolerant varieties of seed, solar irrigation, atmosphere-controlled or solar-based cooling facilities, etc.
    • Reduced emissions: Pursue lower emissions for each calorie or kilo of agricultural product produced and identify ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
    • Use of organic inputs and reduced use of inorganic inputs: This will allow development of new Sierra Leonean agricultural products that can be sold on regional or international markets.
  • Test the commercial development of technologies such as hydro-power, solar energy, biomass, and wind energy for use in agribusiness and light manufacturing.
  • Develop and test the potential to deepen the market for innovative recycled products for commercial uses, including (but not limited to) the manufacturing and construction sectors.

Thus, we are not looking at projects that solely benefit the participating companies.

It would be wrong to conclude that COMPETE Salone is not for smaller or upcoming businesses. It is important to note that COMPETE Salone does not make pre-determined judgements on what type of businesses should be implementing their ideas, so long as the business and its collaborative partners have demonstrated their capacity to implement the project.

COMPETE Salone is open to all and although the total grant funds requested must be between £ 100,000 and £ 300,000, contributing funds from companies can be based on a combination of cash and in-kind payments, depending on the project being proposed. Furthermore, the matching contribution does not need to be provided in its entirety upfront but rather companies need to use funds by the agreed milestones when COMPETE Salone will reimburse a proportion of the expenditure.

Finally, the lead company does not necessarily have to finance the entire matching contribution on its own, this can be shared with other implementing partners, be they businesses or other organisations. Ultimately COMPETE Salone needs to be convinced that the project’s lead company and implementing partners have the financial and technical capability to make their idea a reality.

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Supported by FCDO through the Invest Salone programme, COMPETE Salone is designed to be a quick, responsive mechanism that is not overly bureaucratic and understands the needs of the private sector. For questions about COMPETE Salone, please contact us at