How the Accelerator Lab Entrepreneurship Competition Changed the Way Entrepreneurs Work in Guinea-Bissau

March 21, 2022

In May 2021, the Accelerator Lab teamed up with Radio Jovem to launch a competition focussed on providing/finding solutions for effective and efficient public service delivery. The winners were awarded cash prizes as well as three-month mentorship programmes from our national and international partners, the full blog can be found here.

Six months on, we reached out to the winners to find out how the cash prizes and mentorship programmes, have impacted  their businesses. All the entrepreneurs reported that they were able to scale up their businesses either by partnering with Government or private sector through individual ventures.  

Cantina Nutribem – Nailde Lopes

Nailde Lopes, the founder of Cantina Nutribem, a canteen, created to provide access to nutritional food, based on natural and local products explained, "the mentorship helped me to expand the canteen to a second block and restructure the warehouses to manage stock more efficiently”.  

Working in the main hospital of the capital city of Bissau, Hospital Nacional Mendes, Nailde explained there was an evident gap in the market, but she was “struggling to manage her company’s cash flow and subsequent investment ventures to help her grow and make a profit from her business. With the support of the mentorship programme, which was carried out from July to September 2022. Nailde said she was able to manage her business effectively and make ends meet. “Without the mentorship,” she noted, “it would not have been possible to understand the benefits of a digital spreadsheet to control sales and manage my stock.”  

Cantina Nutribem outside the National Hospital Simão Mendes

Technical Centre of Information and Communications (CETIC) – Iero Candé

Iero Candé is the founder of CETIC, a professional training centre created in 2018, with the aim of providing computer courses to youth and professionals in the Bafatá Region. Coming in second place, meant Iero was able to benefit from the monetary prize and he explained that “I was able to expand the centre to Bissau and Gabú, recruit four staff members and 250 students as well as go beyond supporting professionals to tutoring university students”.  

The success of Iero’s business has gained CETIC national partnerships with the Regional Directorate of Training and Education of Trainers and the Regional Youth Council. Additionally, through the skills acquired from the application process and mentorship, Iero was able to create international partnerships with the Polish Internet Governance and YALI-Africa part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship programme. Reflecting on this opportunity Iero noted, “We changed the way we work completely; we have developed a business plan and gained innovative marketing skills and also learned how to crowdfund, all of which have significantly improved our business.”  

CETIC Class in Bafatá

Ambiental Multi Color – Jackline Martins

Jackline Martins is the founder of Ambiental Multicolor, a micro-entreprise that uses recycled cartridge to diminish the harmful disposal of unused plastic, provides services to public and private companies, schools, and universities, in an environmentally safe way. When in conversation with Jackline, she explained that “the mentorship helped me to understand the importance of customer service and professionalism, as well as how to deal with barriers and business anomalies”. Coming into the competition with doubt about the future of her business, considering the decrease in printing and going green, Jackline understood through mentorship that she needed to continue to innovate to keep her business alive. The mentorship gave her “courage and motivation” to approach institutions and “negotiate deals,” leading to a successful partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Craftwork.

Looking Ahead

The winners were sent a progress and evaluation form to complete, which analysed their progress after the competition, but also how they believed the competition could be improved in the future. Through the evaluation and progress form, the winners explained that the “advertising aspect should have gone beyond radios and social media in order to increase the reach,” also with the literacy of citizens between the ages of 15-24 in the country being 60.4%¹, “the sign-up should have gone beyond a Google Form, perhaps a manual sign up should have also been available”. The winners also explained that a partnership between the UNDP Accelerator Lab and local financial institutions or bodies would have improved the integration of their businesses and the potential for scaling up.  

Key Learnings

The Accelerator Lab considers it an exploration of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, with the experimentation being the impact of the monetary prize and mentorship on the development of micro-enterprises. The results demonstrate that the ecosystem is being built, but there are bottlenecks keeping entrepreneurs in Guinea-Bissau from being resilient and growing their businesses. The main learnings from this exercise are as follows:

1. There is the beginning of an entrepreneurial ecosystem being built in Guinea-Bissau, although it is weak and inflexible.

2. In Guinea-Bissau, the informal sector is the main source of income for most, with only 401 firms formally registered countrywide², which demonstrates there is a lack of support or encouragement for quasi-entrepreneurs to formalize their business.

3.  There are numerous bodies and institutions which aim to support entrepreneurs. However, the fees imposed by the Government (89,312 XOF for formalizing) make it unrealistic for the formalization of businesses considering the average salary per month in the country is 59,000 XOF³.
(appx. 98 USD). Additionally, complicated legal processes and procedures as well as lack of digitalization make it harder to formalize a business⁴.

4.  There are many initiatives and incubators to support entrepreneurship in the country, but there is a lack of harmonization, consistency, and longevity of such to sustain entrepreneurship in the country.  


1. UNESCO. Institute of Statistics. 2014. <>

2. file:///C:/Users/ana.dju/Downloads/UNDP-GNB-Buildingforwardbetter-EN-2021.pdf, p.21


4. file:///C:/Users/ana.dju/Downloads/UNDP-GNB-Buildingforwardbetter-EN-2021.pdf p.26