Announcing the 2023 MEST Africa Challenge Regional Finalists

— A Showcase of African Innovation

MEST Africa, a leading pan-African software and entrepreneurship training program, seed fund, and incubator, has selected 45 standout technology startups to advance to the regional finals of the 2023 MEST Africa Challenge (MAC). Hailing from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, and South Africa, these startups have been recognized for their potential to shape the future of technology on the continent. The grand prize at stake is a coveted USD 50,000 in equity investment, along with the prospect of a long-term partnership and ongoing support from MEST Africa.

MAC sets the stage for early stage startups to display their innovative solutions and tech-driven ventures. With a comprehensive selection process that rigorously evaluates each entry, the competition attracts the continent’s most promising tech entrepreneurs. The startups moving forward embody a wide array of sectors — from Agritech to Fintech, SaaS, eCommerce, Digital Media, and Healthcare — showcasing the rich tapestry of African innovation.

These regional finalists were chosen for their exceptional use of technology to solve real and significant challenges within Africa’s vibrant markets. They have introduced solutions ranging from AI-driven efficiencies in agriculture to financial technology that expands access to economic resources for marginalised populations. These finalists are a testament to the ingenuity emerging from Africa’s tech ecosystems and set the stage for a compelling Regional Pitch Competition.

List of Finalists




South Africa


As the competition advances, these startups will compete to demonstrate their potential impact to a panel of judges. The aim is not only to secure a place in the final pitch but also to gain visibility, connect with investors, and potentially receive funding to scale their impact.

Stay tuned for the Regional Pitch Competition, where innovation meets opportunity, as we spotlight the talents shaping Africa’s technological future.

Learn more about the MEST Africa Challenge.

MEST Africa Challenge Startup Pitch Competition Opens Applications

Unlock Your Startup Potential and Win $50,000 in Equity

[Accra-Ghana, 28th August 2023] – MEST Africa, in partnership with Absa Bank, is delighted to announce the opening of applications for the highly anticipated MEST Africa Challenge Startup Pitch Competition. Early-stage technology startups operational in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, and South Africa are invited to participate in this prestigious competition to showcase their innovative businesses and entrepreneurial prowess. The application period begins today and will close on 9th October 2023.

The MEST Africa Challenge offers exceptional benefits to participating startups. The winner will receive a substantial equity investment of USD 50,000, providing crucial financial support to accelerate their business growth. In addition, the winner and other outstanding participants will gain access to MEST Africa’s global community and networks, unlocking valuable partnerships, mentorship, and investment opportunities. This platform catalyzes startups to unlock the next phase of their business growth and gain global recognition.

Building upon the success of the previous years, the 2022 MEST Africa Challenge crowned Kwely, a B2B e-commerce startup from Senegal, as the winner. Kwely’s groundbreaking solutions stood out among the fierce competition, and their success serves as an inspiration to entrepreneurs across Africa.

“This year’s tagline, ‘Unlock Your Startup Potential’, resonates deeply with the vibrant technology landscape we are witnessing in Africa today. With the remarkable advancements in technology innovation and adoption across the continent, this year’s competition is poised to showcase groundbreaking ideas and solutions. I am confident that the MEST Africa Challenge will uncover exceptional startups that will shape the future and drive positive change in Africa and beyond,” said Ashwin Ravichandran, Portfolio Advisor and MEST Africa Challenge Lead.

Over the years, the MEST Africa Challenge pitch competition has garnered thousands of applications from across the continent, attaining global recognition and forging partnerships, while nurturing a thriving community of African tech founders. It has spotlighted and impacted the growth of winning startups such as Tanzania’s Kilimo Fresh, Ghana’s OZE, South Africa’s Snode Technologies, Kenya’s Waya Waya, Nigeria’s Accounteer, and reigning title holder, Kwely from Senegal.

Eligibility Criteria for MAC 2023:

  •  Monthly Recurring Revenue: $5k+
  • Funding raised: Cumulative $1M or less
  • Years of existence: 3 years and below 
  • Traction: At least 6 months of recurring revenue
  • Founding team: At least 2 founding team members 
  • Registered in Delaware (This is preferred)
  • Demonstrated traction in MAC Markets (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal)

Learn more and apply here: 

About MEST Africa:

MEST is a pan-African software and entrepreneurship training program, seed fund, and incubator helping to launch technology startups across the continent. Founded in Ghana in 2008 by serial entrepreneur Jorn Lyseggen, MEST is a 12-month program that provides critical skills training in software development, business, and communications to Africa’s burgeoning tech talent. MEST provides seed funding for the best ideas coming out of the program and continues to support the growth and development of its portfolio companies. 

To date, MEST has trained over 2000 entrepreneurs from across the continent and funded over 90 startups across industries from Agritech, Fintech, SaaS, eCommerce, Digital Media, and Healthcare amongst others. MEST is fully funded by the Meltwater Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Norwegian company Meltwater; a global leader in social and media intelligence headquartered in San Francisco.

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Eric Nsarkoh joins MEST Africa as a Portfolio Advisor

MEST Africa, a pan-African training program, incubator, and seed fund for African entrepreneurs, has announced the appointment of Eric Nsarkoh as a Portfolio Advisor, focused on technology product development. Eric brings a wealth of experience and expertise in Africa’s technology space to the role and will help to strengthen and scale MEST’s portfolio of startups across the continent.

Eric Nsarkoh is a seasoned business executive with over 20 years of experience in leading multinational organizations across Africa. He was  recently the Head of Engineering at Stanbic Bank Ghana and has a strong track record of scaling growth and innovation, having held similar leadership roles at Millicom (Tigo Ghana), Airtel Ghana, and MTN.

His expertise in software development, sales, and consumer behavior will be invaluable in supporting MEST Africa’s portfolio of companies. In his new role, Eric will be responsible for advising and supporting these companies to strengthen their product development and scale of technology products and services. He will also work closely with MEST Africa’s portfolio and leadership team, providing guidance on best practices and industry trends.

Founder Jorn Lyseggen expressed his excitement about the appointment, stating, “Eric is an unusually talented engineer as well as a seasoned executive who understands how to bring products to market in Africa. His background in banking and telco will be invaluable support for our portfolio companies as they grow and scale across the continent”

Eric’s appointment comes at a critical time for Africa’s technology sector as the continent is poised for tremendous growth. Eric expressed his excitement about joining MEST Africa and working with the organization’s portfolio companies. “I am thrilled to be joining MEST at this important time in Africa’s development,” he said. “I am excited to be part of an organization that is working to support the next generation of African tech entrepreneurs.”

Overall, Eric’s appointment as MEST Africa’s Portfolio Advisor focused on tech product development is a significant development that underscores the importance of software development in driving innovation and growth in the continent.

How Shopa is taking over Ghana’s informal retail market with empathy & a customer-centric approach

Informal retail is one of the biggest economic sectors representing 50% of official GDP in sub-Saharan Africa, but it is largely under-served. In Ghana, the informal retail sector accounts for 80% of the Ghanaian workforce. Although a burgeoning sector, women in underprivileged communities who form a majority of informal retailers are faced with the challenge of restocking products at high costs and barely having access to credit to run their businesses. Ulric Chekap is the co-founder of Shopa, a MEST portfolio company that is redefining informal retail and revolutionizing how informal retailers access and restock their products. They do this while providing practical solutions to the credit challenges of informal retailers.

In the interview that follows, Ulric Chekap shares what his motivation together with his co-founders has been and shares some insights on the future of informal retail in West Africa.

After spending close to six months researching this space, my co-founders and I realized that about 20 million informal retailers in Africa, mostly women living in underprivileged communities, need to frequently restock products they want to sell at the lowest cost from wholesalers they can rely on. They also needed access to credit to manage restocking and the running of their business. However, they were unable to do so because of:

We have been able to gain traction because we have differentiated ourselves from our competitors. The following reasons account for our exponential growth:

The Shopa Team

2. Where do you see Shopa in the next 3–5 years?

In five years, we hope to see Shopa become the biggest tech player in the informal retail sector across West Africa. On the one hand, by assisting informal retailers in obtaining inventory on cash or credit, handling all payment transactions, and acquiring new customers. On the other hand, we also hope to provide relevant and insightful data analytics reports to suppliers and manufacturers to allow them to achieve better growth at efficient costs in their different African markets.

3. Shopa then (when it started) versus what it is now, what are some significant milestones you have achieved?

We have over 3,300 customers just in Accra (Ghana) and we have crossed the bar of a monthly total transaction of $150,000 with an average of 120 orders fulfilled per day.

4. Shopa offers app-based services, how has the digital divide and high cost of internet affected your business and what solutions do you offer to counter that?

The digital divide is real in our market. We are dealing with customers who are not always tech savvy. We are addressing this issue through our sales agents who work on the field with our customers in order to teach them how to use our digital solutions. We have also put in place a multichannel approach for non-tech customers, such as USSD technology, SMS, and phone calls.

Co-founders of Shopa

5. Who are the most essential people to have on your team in the early stages of building a startup and how do you spot great talent for your team?

For a tech startup, you need three essential people: dreamers, doers and thinkers.

We spot great talent by evaluating their commitment to serve our customers’ needs.

6. What are the fundamental/ key qualities every startup founder/leader should possess or learn

A passion to solve customers’ needs, think down to earth, work hard and smart, and have a high sense of empathy.

7. What excites you about the future of Africa’s retail market and what role will Shopa play in it?

The proliferation of the internet across the continent and the massive adoption of smartphones and new digital means of payment are going to change a lot of things in Africa’s retail market. Shopa intends to seize those opportunities to boost the productivity of a huge number of informal retailers.

8. How has being a MESTer contributed to and prepared you for your entrepreneurship journey?

Being part of a community that is creating opportunities and leaving a legacy for the next generation of entrepreneurs in Africa has made me being a part of the MEST Community worthwhile.

About Ulric Chekap

Ulric obtained a bachelor’s degree in Business Computing at the University of Picardie Jules Verne in France in 2012. He went on to work as a relationship manager at Financial House S.A., a microfinance institution in Cameroon, for 2 years, where he facilitated SME loans.

Later on, he worked for over 4 years in retail sales and wholesale distribution for Diageo Guinness Cameroon S.A.

Ulric is passionate about providing lasting solutions to disadvantaged informal retailers in Ghana and beyond.

Meet Three Female MEST Alumni Transforming how Businesses Operate with AI, Blockchain, and Omnichannel E-Commerce

Artificial intelligence, blockchain, and omnichannel platforms are three cutting-edge technologies that are transforming the way businesses around the world operate. While these technologies are still relatively new, trailblazers are already changing the game with their innovative use of these technologies to transform how businesses in Africa can be more efficient and productive.

Here are three female founders and MEST alumni, who are leading the charge in the fields of AI, blockchain, and omnichannel platforms, and are transforming business processes and customer experiences on the continent:

Daniella Darlington

Daniella Darlington is a co-founder of Copianto; an AI-backed all-in-one content creation and optimization platform designed for copywriters, marketers, entrepreneurs, and agencies. Her work at Copianto has helped to simplify the content development and creative processes of marketing teams, content developers, and freelancers. This technology is being used by corporates, startups, and advertising agencies in Ghana to improve their brand experience and enhance marketing efforts faster and cheaper than before. But before founding Copianto with her team through the MEST Program, Daniella was pursuing a career in law and now leads the operational aspect of the startup.

Mary Okwong

2. Mary Okwong: Revolutionizing Careers and Industries with Blockchain and Web3

Mary Okwong is a co-founder of Mowblox, a learning platform that is increasing African participation in the Crypto, Blockchain and Web3 space. Mowblox supports individuals and businesses alike to identify new opportunities and create new economies with blockchain and web3 technologies. Mary leads the team of experts at Mowblox to create engaging educational content and events that introduce individuals to endless career opportunities in the space. Businesses are also supported to explore the various ways they can improve business data, transactions, and customer experiences with blockchain and web3.

Mary is a blockchain enthusiast who is passionate about onboarding the next generation of Africans looking to upskill and grow their career in the blockchain and crypto space.

She has gained first-hand experience in the blockchain space by interacting with protocols on several blockchains, her support for crypto public goods, and her contributions to governance activities in decentralized autonomous organizations (DOAs).

Mushrafat Abdulrahman

3. Mushrafat Abdulrahman: Transforming Africa’s Retail Industry with Omnichannel Platforms

Mushrafat Abdulrahman is a co-founder of Kamel; a multi-channel commerce solution that enables entrepreneurs in emerging markets to easily start, manage, and grow their businesses across multiple online and offline channels. Multi-channel or omnichannel e-commerce, refers to the integration of multiple channels, such as brick-and-mortar stores, online marketplaces, and social media, into a seamless customer experience. Mushrafat and the Nigerian-based Kamel team are changing what it means to manage a medium to small retail business in Africa by using technology to create seamless and personalized shopping experiences for customers. By integrating multiple channels into one application, Mushrafat and the team at Kamel are enabling retail businesses in Africa to reach customers where they are for increased sales and a personalized shopping experience.

As AI, Blockchain, Web3 and e-commerce continue to grow in importance, more and more African businesses are looking for ways to deploy these technologies to simplify their processes and deliver value to customers. We are proud to see these three women from our Training Program taking the charge and leading the pack to drive these business goals and paving the way for a more advanced and connected future. Join us to celebrate Daniella Darlington, Mary Okwong and Mushrafat Abdulrahman, and all other female founders and females in tech this International Women’s Month!

Over the years, MEST has produced many successful entrepreneurs, and the alumni network continues to grow. Recruitment for the MEST Class of 2024 is ongoing, take a chance on yourself by applying for the program if you desire to build a career in tech and entrepreneurship.