Mastercard Foundation Visits MEST: A peak into the MEST journey

Sylvana Lewin, Wednesday October 24th 2018

On October 23rd, MEST welcomed visitors from the Mastercard Foundation. Not only did the group include Mastercard Foundation staff, but also Mastercard Foundation Program Managers for various universities throughout the world including Edinburgh University, UC Berkeley, University of Cape Town, Arizona State University, and more. The group has come to Ghana to learn more about the entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as visit partner universities in the country. Having stopped in at KNUST, Ashesi University, YALI, and more, the group made their way to MEST to gain some insight into the entrepreneurial ecosystem that we are fostering.

The visit gave the MEST community a unique opportunity to tell the story of the MEST experience from multiple perspectives - including fellows, EITs, founders, and staff. Opening with an introduction from MEST Managing Director Aaron Fu on how MEST is working to promote entrepreneurship among African youth, the main event kicked off where every MEST journey begins: the MEST training program.

Senior Faculty Member Michael Leventhal and Communications Teaching Fellow Ruvimbo Katiyo took visitors through the experience of a year at the MEST training program - from welcoming the new cohort every August to the program’s culmination in final pitches. There is much work that goes into a year at the MEST.

The team illustrated that from the start, the cohort is encouraged to form connections and break down cultural barriers. Soon after arrival, they are launched fully into a challenge to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and teamwork. They divide into groups and are given a small amount of money, which they must to grow through an eventknown as “Bet Buy Barter”. From then on, bonds begin to form as the cohort jumps full heartedly into Communications, Technology, and Business courses taught by Teaching Fellows, who have joined MEST from all over the world as they work toward capstones and the ultimate final pitch.

After hearing from Leventhal and Katiyo, guests were able to learn more about the MEST training program experience from the EITs themselves. Dividing into smaller groups, they spoke about their journeys to MEST and learnings so far.

Following a quick coffee break, it was time to move onto the the next chapter of the MEST story: Incubation. Accra Incubator Senior Fellow and MEST Alumni Kamil Nabong stepped up to speak on incubation at one of the MEST Incubators, something he knows better than anyone having sat in the Accra Incubator as both a founder and a fellow.

Having opened its first incubator in Accra in 2010, MEST now has incubators in Lagos, Cape Town, and Nairobi and is looking to expand further. With over 50 investments so far, MEST has been able to fine tune the incubation process with fellows providing the backbone. Coming from around the globe with specific expertise, incubator fellows work directly with companies to ensure they are on track to be successful. Programs, such as Masterclasses, Soapbox Sessions, and Community Conversations, continue the learnings that began during the training program and continue to expand each founder’s network.

Rather than simply telling guests about the success stories from our incubators, Nabong introduced five of the MEST companies to the group. BACE Group, Complete Farmer, Codeln, Aidahbot, and TroTro Tractor each joined for some dynamic pitches as well as Q and A’s to wrap up the morning.

During the visit, Mastercard Foundation was not only able to learn more about MEST, but also the pan-African entrepreneurship ecosystem through the perspective of numerous MEST entrepreneurs who have worked throughout the continent. We hope this is just the beginning of our relationship with the team at the Mastercard Foundation!

Does the MEST journey sound like the right path for you? Apply to be a part of the MEST 2019 Cohort today!