Catalyst Fund, in Partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and MEST, Launches $4.3M Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator in Ghana to Improve the Financial Resilience of Informal MSEs

The Catalyst Fund accelerator, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), will select and scale six digital commerce and innovative companies that can enable informal MSEs to reap the benefits of digital commerce, leveraging Catalyst Fund's existing proven model
20 October 2020
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Mastercard Foundation (Africa)

ACCRA, Ghana — The first expansion of Catalyst Fund beyond its flagship inclusive fintech program, the new accelerator will officially launch at a virtual event on November 4th, 2020

Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), today announced the Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator, a program aimed at scaling digital commerce companies in Ghana to support the digitization of micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in the country.

The two-year program will improve the livelihoods and financial resilience of MSEs in Ghana, that have been impacted by COVID-19, by enabling access to digital commerce platforms and access to market.

The accelerator will select and scale six digital commerce and innovative companies that can enable informal MSEs to reap the benefits of digital commerce, leveraging Catalyst Fund's existing proven model to combine:

●      flexible grant capital of up to US$120,000 per company;

●      deep, bespoke, expert-led venture acceleration support;

●      portfolio meet-ups and curated cohort-based workshop sessions with local expertise and operational support by MEST;

●      a commitment to sharing best practices, toolkits, learnings, and insights with the digital commerce sector;

●      connections with Catalyst Fund's growing global Circle of Investors (65+) and Circle of Corporate Innovators; and

●      ecosystem acceleration to create a more enabling investment and business environment in which digital commerce companies can prosper.

The first expansion of Catalyst Fund beyond its flagship Inclusive Fintech program will officially launch via a virtual event and company pitch showcase on November 4th (registration here).

All participating companies in the pitch will be selected by an expert Investment Advisory Committee. Selection is informed by market research conducted to identify the barriers and opportunities for expanding inclusive digital commerce in Ghana. Initial research findings will be released at the official launch event on November 4th.

Speakers at the launch will include:

  • Alex Bram of Hubtel;
  • Lexi Novitske of Acuity Venture Partners;
  • Albert Biga of Zoobashop;
  • Kweku Fleming of MEST Scale;
  • Jane del Ser of BFA Global; and more.

The event will conclude with a pitch showcase from four leading digital commerce companies across Ghana, which will  be held at the MEST Accra Incubator.

"We're thrilled to announce the first Catalyst Fund expansion program, which builds on lessons learned on supporting inclusive fintech companies in emerging markets over the last five years. Through the Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator, we aim to impact informal MSEs in Ghana who, particularly in light of the COVID-19 crisis, lack access to a financial safety net and find their livelihoods impacted when physical commerce suffers. Along with support and deep local expertise from the Mastercard Foundation and MEST, we aim to enable companies who are already tackling distinct problems in the digital commerce space to better reach informal MSEs so they can leverage digital rails to improve their financial resilience for the future," said Catalyst Fund Managing Director Maelis Carraro.

Country partner MEST brings deep market knowledge, leveraging 12+ years of training and incubating tech entrepreneurs on the ground in Ghana.

"The opportunity to partner with an experienced organization like Catalyst Fund with support from the Mastercard Foundation, is in equal parts exciting and aligned with MEST's scale strategy in Ghana, and beyond. Historically, MEST has focused on early-stage startup support and creation through our training program, seed fund, and incubator programs. The Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator provides an opportunity to work with Catalyst Fund to support scale-stage ventures which are strategically seeking to better reach and serve informal MSEs, leveraging our local knowledge, networks, and expertise," said MEST Strategic Director Greg Coussa.

US$4.3 million commitment to support the financial resilience of MSEs

Surveys conducted by BFA Global and by Ghana Statistical Service found that MSEs in particular are suffering as a result of the pandemic. A BFA Global survey of low- and middle-income individuals found that 44% of self-employed people had lost their jobs or could not find work. A recent tracker from the Ghana Statistical Service found that microenterprises are faring worse than large and small enterprises; among businesses that are open, 92.2% of microenterprises report decreased sales (compared to 89% of small and medium enterprises, and 45% of large enterprises), noting that sales have fallen 60.9% relative to last April.

In partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), the Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator is a two-year program that will improve the livelihoods and financial resilience of MSEs in Ghana, that have been impacted by COVID-19, by enabling access to digital commerce platforms and access to market.

"Micro and small enterprises are the bedrock of Ghana's economy. They are also the most impacted by COVID-19, putting livelihoods and economic gains made over the years at risk. Accelerating access to markets through digitization and e-commerce platforms provides MSEs the opportunity not only to scale, but to strengthen their resilience at the other side of the pandemic," said Nathalie Akon Gabala, Regional Head for Western, Central and Northern Africa, at the Mastercard Foundation.

In a parallel effort to accelerate the expansion of the digital commerce ecosystem and increase coordination, Catalyst Fund will be building an open database of digital commerce companies operating in Ghana. Companies who wish to express interest in being considered for the accelerator may also choose to be included in the database. All interested companies should complete the form found here.

 

About Catalyst Fund

Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global, is an accelerator that supports inclusive tech innovators, and facilitates the growth of innovation ecosystems, in emerging markets. Launched in 2016, today Catalyst Fund supports impact startups offering accessible, affordable and appropriate solutions, across key markets in Africa, South Asia and Latin America, to improve the lives of the world's 3 billion underserved. Catalyst Fund programs provide catalytic grant capital, bespoke venture building support from market and sector experts and access to a global network of investors and corporate partners, while sharing learnings with the broader inclusive tech ecosystem. Catalyst Fund is supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and JPMorgan Chase. The sister Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator is supported by the Mastercard Foundation. To date, Catalyst Fund has supported 37 early-stage companies through its flagship inclusive fintech program across 15 emerging markets. Those companies have gone on to raise over $81 million in follow-on funding and reach over 2.5 million underserved individuals and small businesses in emerging markets globally.

About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest, private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. The Foundation was created by Mastercard in 2006 as an independent organization with its own Board of Directors and management. For more information on the Foundation, please visit: www.mastercardfdn.org

About the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program

The Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program has two main goals. First, to deliver emergency support for health workers, first responders, and students. Second, to strengthen the diverse institutions that are the first line of defense against the social and economic aftermath of this disease. These include universities, financial services providers, businesses, technology start-ups, incubators, government agencies, youth organizations, and non-governmental organizations.

About MEST

MEST is an Africa-wide technology entrepreneur training program, internal seed fund, and network of hubs offering incubation for technology startups in Africa that was built on the idea that talent is everywhere, but the opportunity is not. Founded in Ghana in 2008, MEST provides critical skills training, funding, and support in software development, business, and communications to Africa's tech entrepreneurs. Hubs are located in Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; Cape Town, South Africa; and Nairobi, Kenya. To date, MEST has invested in over 60 startups across industries from SaaS and consumer internet, to eCommerce, Digital Media, Agritech, Fintech and Healthcare IT. MEST is primarily funded by the Meltwater Foundation, the non-profit arm of Meltwater, a global leader in media intelligence and Outside Insight.

Leveraging MEST's core competencies, decade plus of learning, extensive network, and existing intellectual property, in 2020 and beyond, MEST is partnering with the Mastercard Foundation to design and test three pilot programs with local partners in Ghana. The projects—Pre-MEST, MEST Express, and MEST Scale— will enable MEST to scale its impact and reach exponentially more young people at more touch points along their entrepreneurial and employment journey in Ghana, and in time, across the continent.

Media contacts:

Catalyst Fund
Thea Sokolowski
tsokolowski@bfaglobal.com

Mastercard Foundation
Kweku Ahiagble
rkahiagble@mastercardfdn.org 

MEST
Funke Makinwa
funke@meltwater.org

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