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Open call for applications

Gender-Responsive Innovation Challenge

Applications reviewed on a rolling basis
Call details
Call details

The UNICEF Venture Fund is committed to diversity and inclusion in its approach to early-stage investing and catalyzing novel innovations developed by startups leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), data science (DS), drones, blockchain, or extended reality (XR).  These innovations aim to address the unmet needs of marginalized and underserved children and their families.

In collaboration with GITEX Africa, the Venture Fund launches The Gender- Responsive Innovation Challenge (GRIC). 

The challenge

Recognizing structural and systemic barriers in the technology sector which lead to the dominance of certain types of solutions and founders, the UNICEF Venture Fund is seeking to facilitate an inclusive and gender-responsive innovation in three key areas: 

Area 1: Investing in diverse and underrepresented founders (especially women founders)

Area 2: Increasing the availability of digital products and services that can solve the specific unmet needs of vulnerable and underrepresented populations (such as children, women, people living with disabilities and refugees)

Area 3: Facilitating inclusive user design in the development of innovation to reduce bias and increase accessibility of underrepresented populations.  

The GRIC is an opportunity to recognise companies leading the way for developing gender-responsive solutions and/or businesses in Africa. Its primary objective is to identify, recognise and invest in companies facilitating  outcomes that can help close the gender gap. 

The opportunity

Is your company working on an innovative gender-responsive solution in Africa? 

The Venture Fund will select five outstanding companies in gender-responsive innovation which will receive an award:

The selection committee comprised of GITEX Africa and UNICEF Venture Fund will evaluate the nominated companies according to the defined criteria to assess and select the winners of the challenge.

GRIC winners will be announced at GITEX Africa Summit conference on 29-31 May in Marrakech, Morrocco. 

Companies will receive mentorship and technical assistance from Venture Fund experts to enhance their investment readiness and potential for future funding from the Venture Fund. It will comprise:

  • 10 hours of technical mentoring consisting of Open Source, business development, frontier technology, software development, diversity, equity, and inclusion mentorship,
  • Additional support to understand and navigate the Venture Fund sourcing and selection process. 

The Venture Fund continues to seek further collaborations with values-aligned partners to support innovation challenges, design sprints and deliver strategic technical assistance to build greater equity and trust across technological solutions.

Apply to this opportunity if your company is working on a frontier tech solution addressing any gender disparity in Africa.


UNICEF’s Venture Fund has been specifically designed to finance early stage, Open Source technology that can benefit children. The core motivation of the Venture Fund is to identify “clusters” or portfolios of initiatives around emerging technology so that UNICEF can both shape markets and learn about and guide these technologies for children. We invest in solutions clustered around $100 billion industries in frontier technology spaces such as blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

The Venture Fund is particularly seeking solutions that:     

  • Address challenges to accelerate results for children.  
  • Are optimized for low-resource environments (e.g., low connectivity, limited mobile access).  
  • Focus on reducing, rather than widening, inequalities.  
  • Are able to deliver in multiple languages, including smaller languages. 

At UNICEF, we prioritize solutions that not only leverage advanced technologies but also uphold strict data protection measures and safeguarding principles to prioritize individuals’ privacy and wellbeing. Additionally, we value a comprehensive approach that strengthens systems and services, recognizing the importance of building resilient and sustainable infrastructure to effectively support health and mental health initiatives, to achieve lasting positive outcomes in the long run.


  • For any questions regarding the application process, please write to us here 

***The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines living with a disability as having a long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment that – in interaction with the environment – hinders one’s participation in society on an equal basis with others. 


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