Aus grant open for Mindanao businesses
by Prix D Banzon
Davao City (5 October) -- A commercially viable business project in Mindanao needing assistance can access to the A$16 million Enterprise Challenge Fund (ECF), an AusAID-led Australian government initiative.
The ECF is awarded through grant to deserving businesses during the first bidding in four countries namely Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines.
John Hardin, ECF Fund Director for Pacific and South East Asia said that for the Philippines, only businesses implemented in Mindanao will be considered.
He said those companies owned by people from Luzon and Visayas can also access to the grant provided that the project is in Mindanao.
But he stressed that getting the fund is just as difficult as one accessing a loan from the bank.
He said the ECF is a new innovative opportunity for businesses to develop a commercially sustainable business enterprise and could provide benefits to the poor and help improve their living standards.
Hardin said they have strong interest in Mindanao even as he said that there is a strong growth of businesses in the island.
As indicated in the primer distributed during the press briefing on Thursday at the Marco Polo Davao it stated that businesses can apply for grants between A$100,000 to A$1.5 million for business projects that create commercial opportunities in low income markets.
Hardin said the 50 percent counterpart could be necessarily be in cash as it could either be a sweat equity or an executive time or other related services.
The ECF is an open competition that will have several bidding rounds in each country. An Assessment Panel comprised chiefly of private sector representatives, will select the winning proposals.
The ECF funding bidders must complete a two-stage application process including a submission of a brief Concept Note, and, if invited by the Assessment Panel, a Full Application Form.
After applications have been reviewed by the panel grants will be awarded to projects that best satisfy the assessment criteria. A contract will be developed with the successful bidders and the grant money will be provided according to the expenditure and reporting timetables stipulated in the contract.
There will be two bidding rounds per year in the first three years.
Hardin said the projects must meet the criteria. He clarified the program does not provide technical support.
He said they make use of the grant to address external obstacle that could block their operation and eventually make the project successful at the same time provide and sustain benefits to the people through jobs created.
Sam Zappia, Counsellor Development Cooperation of the Australian Government said they prioritize Mindanao in the Philippines because it is in the island where the bulk of the poor lives.
He said it is in Mindanao where potentials are highly untapped.
It is believed that better business activities in the area could help the poor aside from the fact that the Philippines is important to Australia.
Mofe Ogisi, project manager of Coffey International Development, specialists in developing communities said it is through the private sector that ECF will partner, the former being an engine to economic growth.
ECF starts accepting concept notes until December 31, 2007 through on line at www.enterprisechallengefund.org and Jason Magnaye, ECF country manager will go around Mindanao to campaign among businesses to avail of the grant.
Magnaye said Mindanao being an agri-business island will most likely have projects under that sector and that he is optimistic that businesses here could be considered in the first round. (PIA XI) [top]