Financing facility funds skills development projects in eight African countries

SIFA FW2 LN Project

Projects must engage with the private sector, address the demands of the labour market and improve skills for employment.

Supported by the German Government, Skills Initiative for Africa (SIFA) is African Union Commission (AUC) programme that aims to strengthen the occupational prospects of young people across the African continent.

May 15, 2024
  • SDG: #5, #8
  • SECTORS: Development Consulting
  • DONOR: KfW
  • DURATION: 2018-2025
  • Grants: €250,000-3,000,000

As a continent, Africa has vast, untapped economic potential, but young people struggle to gain access to employment opportunities — 60% of the unemployed are younger than 25 — with women being the hardest hit. Limited access to education and practical training needed to build skills perpetuate the cycle, and the economic prospects propel young Africans to seek a better life elsewhere. This in turn further damages the local economy as especially poorer nations are steadily being drained of their workforce.

Laying the foundation for increased employment 

In an effort to create local opportunities, in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the African Union launched the Skills Initiative for Africa (SIFA), providing young people with improved employment prospects through the provision of practically orientated education and training in close cooperation with the private sector.

This is done through capacity development as well as a Financing Facility for Skills Development ‒ a €120 million Challenge Fund that provides select projects grants via three funding windows. NIRAS has been managing the financing facility since 2018 on behalf of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the AU’s implementing agency. 


In this profile, meet Carlton Aslett, Team Leader for SIFA: Upending traditional donor development models through empowerment and investment


SIFA provides funding for skills development projects in eight countries, namely, Cameroon, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia. These projects must engage with the private sector, address the demands of the labour market and improve skills geared towards employment. Grants are allocated on a competitive basis through three different funding windows, and selected projects can receive grants between €250,000 and €3 million.

The first funding window (FW1) supports large investment projects in the skills development area proposed by national training entities in partnership with the private sector and industry associations, allocating a grant amount of up to €3 million for each project with a 10% contribution requirement. Accruing a total value of €45 million, 15 projects in this funding window have already begun implementation.

SIFA FW1 Mizan Project (2)

Among the grantees of FW1 is the Dire Diwa Polytechnic College in Ethiopia, who has, with the help of SIFA, already rolled out training courses for learners interested in hardware and networking services. For this, they have developed a curriculum within the 60-month period of the funding window. The college has even seen a total of 359 students complete their studies so far from their long-term and short-term programmes, with 260 of these graduates being female. 

Another grantee, the international school Ecolé Canadienne de Tunis (ECT) in Tunisia, aims to establish a regional information technology competence hub that will ultimately help with youth employment and mobility. Following in the footsteps of Canadian education, the school has launched a SIFA-supported bridging programme — also known as passerelle that will help students reach a level of education equal to that of Canadian college diploma holders in IT.


For the second funding window (FW2), which runs up to 36 months, projects are proposed by international companies in partnership with domestic training entities. Grants are up to €1.5M with a 30% contribution requirement. Two projects have, so far, been approved for implementation.

Eligible projects for FW1 and 2 include procurement of training equipment; construction, rehabilitation or expansion of learning infrastructure; training of trainers; curriculum design; and learner scholarships.

A third funding window (FW3) is designed to support innovative skills ideas in the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) sector. Projects are granted €250,000-450,000 to provide impetus to innovation in skills development as a basis for a transition to higher productivity and job promotion.

Download the project brief to learn more about this programme

Responsible grant fund management at NIRAS

Get in touch

Harald Habermann

Harald Habermann

Employment and Private Sector Development Expert

Stuttgart, Germany

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