Catalyst Fund has announced a $4.3 million to give SMEs in Ghana access to digital commerce platforms and access to market to enable them to reap the benefits of digital commerce.
Dubbed the Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator, the two-year program is expected to improve the livelihoods and financial resilience of MSEs in Ghana.
According to Catalyst Fund Managing Director Maelis Carraro, “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.”
The program aims 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.
The accelerator will select and scale six digital commerce and innovative companies that can enable informal MSEs leveraging Catalyst Fund’s existing proven model.
The accelerator will be run by Catalyst Fund in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST). The program is also targeting organizations impacted by COVID-19.
Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global, will give a flexible grant capital of up to US$120,000 per company in addition to expert-led venture acceleration support and curated cohort-based workshop sessions with local expertise and operational support by MEST.
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).
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.
“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 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.
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.