Today, the Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator welcomed four Ghanaian digital commerce companies, OZÉ, Shopa, Swoove, and Tendo, as the second cohort to receive funding and support.
The Accelerator, managed by BFA Global in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), focuses on building the resilience of Ghana’s micro and small enterprises (MSEs).
The companies selected for the second cohort are tackling challenges across the retail sector for Ghana’s informal MSEs. Their focus is on enabling the digital transformation of MSEs through solutions including digital logistics, delivery services, digitization of merchant records, inventory management, and access to affordable inventory financing.
Each of the four companies will receive up to US$120,000 in grant funding, in addition to bespoke expert-led venture acceleration support, connections with Catalyst Fund’s growing global Circle of Investors and Circle of Corporate Innovators, and in-market expertise from MEST.
“Informal MSEs, many of whom are youth and women, get by using a piecemeal approach to digital commerce, often marketing via Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, taking in-person payments and manually addressing delivery, which is costly and puts the risk and heavy lift on the retailer. Companies like OZÉ, Shopa, Swoove, and Tendo are solving this problem with easy-to-use and affordable digital commerce services and are spurring the expansion of the digital commerce ecosystem in Ghana,” said Jane del Ser, Program Director for the Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator.
Initial research on urban and peri-urban retail shops around Accra conducted at the launch of the program found that areas of most significant opportunity for digital commerce innovation include online and niche marketplaces, tech-enabled integration for logistics and delivery, digitization of inventory management and purchasing, and trust-building solutions. While the first cohort – Boost Ghana and KudiGo – focused on solutions working to digitize inventory management and purchasing, companies in this cohort address additional areas:
OZÉ enables MSEs to become better businesses and better borrowers. Businesses keep digital financial records on OZÉ which in turn provides them with the insights and information they need to make better decisions. This improves their performance and enables them to access much-needed formal credit such as for inventory financing. 97% of high-active OZÉ users were growing, profitable or both.
Shopa is redefining Africa’s informal retail distribution and supply chain by connecting last-mile retailers with suppliers, and enabling access to stock on cash or credit. Leveraging digital tools and an integrated delivery network, Shopa helps informal retailers to restock and receive delivery within 4 hours, without ever leaving their shop.
Swoove connects e-commerce businesses with accessible logistics services at an affordable price, through its app and USSD short code, while creating opportunities for youth and female entrepreneurs and revenue streams for households. Swoove already partners with MTN and has the potential to be an enabler for the larger digital commerce ecosystem to address logistics challenges.
Tendo enables anyone in Africa to sell online with zero upfront inventory – their platform connects dropshippers to wholesalers. The sellers on the platform are able to source products through Tendo and resell items using social commerce tools, such as WhatsApp, arrange delivery and get paid, all through the Tendo mobile app.
“Ghana’s informal micro and small enterprises hold the key to unlocking work opportunities and supporting the livelihoods of thousands of young Ghanaian women and men. By accelerating the inclusive growth of promising digital commerce solutions, informal MSEs will have options to adopt digitization in a manner that suits their needs, enabling growth and achievement of their aspirations, ” said Chirag Shamdasani, Innovation Lead, Ghana, at the Mastercard Foundation.
Each company in this cohort was approved by the Investment Advisory Committee, comprising representatives from Acuity Ventures, Chandaria Capital, 4DX Ventures, Golden Palm Investments, mPharma, and Novastar Ventures.
The Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator, managed by BFA Global, supports innovators building digital commerce solutions in Ghana, with a goal of improving the resilience of informal and underserved micro and small businesses (MSEs) that can benefit from digitization and fintech approaches to enhance their livelihoods. Launched in October 2020, the Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce accelerator is supported by the Mastercard Foundation, and run in partnership with 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.