Mastercard Foundation-backed fintech accelerator launches in Ghana

19 Oct 2020
Financial Nigeria


The main objective is to accelerate access for MSEs to markets through digitization and e-commerce platforms.

Fashion designer in Accra, Ghana, lists her inventory via online marketplaces

Catalyst Fund, a global accelerator for early-stage inclusive fintech startups, has announced the launch of a two-year accelerator programme to support digital commerce companies in Ghana that are improving the livelihoods and financial resilience of micro and small enterprises (MSEs). The programme, called Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator, will be managed by BFA Global, a Boston and Nairobi-headquartered consulting firm, in partnership with Mastercard Foundation and Accra-based Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST).

According to a statement sent to Financial Nigeria today by the BFA Global-managed Catalyst Fund, the accelerator programme is starting with $4.3 million to support inclusive tech innovators and facilitate access to markets for MSEs in Ghana that have been impacted by the COVID-19 economic crisis. The main objective is to accelerate access for MSEs to markets through digitization and e-commerce platforms.   

A recent survey conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service in April 2020 found that microenterprises are faring worse than large and small enterprises. Among businesses that were still open, 92.2 per cent of microenterprises reported decreased sales (compared to 89 per cent of small and medium enterprises, and 45 per cent of large enterprises), relative to April of last year. A BFA Global survey of low- and middle-income individuals published in June found that 44 per cent of self-employed people had lost their jobs or could not find work.  

“Micro and small enterprises are the bedrock of Ghana’s economy,” Nathalie Akon Gabala, Mastercard Foundation’s Regional Head for Western, Central and Northern Africa, said. “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.”

The Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator will select and scale six digital commerce and innovative companies using Catalyst Fund’s successful startup acceleration model, according to the fund’s statement. Its approach will include providing a flexible grant capital of up to $120,000 per company; giving bespoke, expert-led venture acceleration support; and facilitating more enabling investment and business environment in which digital commerce companies can prosper, among other benefits.

“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,” Maelis Carraro, Catalyst Fund's Managing Director, said.

According to the fund, the official launch of the accelerator programme will take place during a virtual event and company pitch showcase on November 4th. Initial findings of a market research conducted to identify the barriers and opportunities for expanding inclusive digital commerce in Ghana will be released during the virtual event.

“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,” Greg Coussa, MEST’s Strategic Director, said.

Launched in 2016, Catalyst Fund has accelerated 37 companies, which 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. The fund is supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and JPMorgan Chase.

Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, Mastercard Foundation said its COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program is helping to deliver emergency support for health workers, first responders, and students. It is also strengthening the resilience of institutions that are the first line of defense against the social and economic impact of the pandemic, including universities, technology start-ups, incubators, government agencies, youth organizations, among others.  

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