Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), has launched 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 the 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 a flexible grant capital of up to US$120,000 per company and a deep, bespoke, expert-led venture acceleration support among other support services.
The first expansion of the Catalyst Fund beyond its flagship Inclusive Fintech program will officially launch via a virtual event and company pitch showcase on November 4th.
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,” 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. 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.
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 with 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.
All interested companies should complete the form found here.