Catalyst Fund, Mastercard, MEST launch $4.3m Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator in Ghana

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Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global has partnered with the Mastercard Foundation and the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) to launch a Digital Commerce Accelerator in Ghana.

The two-year program is aimed at scaling digital commerce companies in Ghana to support the digitization of micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in the country. It’s meant to 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 and portfolio meet-ups and curated cohort-based workshop sessions with local expertise and operational support by MEST.and connections with Catalyst Fund’s growing global Circle of Investors and Circle of Corporate Innovators.

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.

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.

“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.

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