Our 2021 in Perspective

After thriving through the uncertain times of 2020, 2021 set us on a path to achieve greater heights. The year marked a time of realignment and deepening of our commitment to the African technology and startup ecosystem. We acknowledge and appreciate all our partners who continued on this journey with us and are grateful for the remarkable work that our various units and teams at MEST did to achieve the many milestones of this year.

Notable among them was the reopening and extension of applications for the 2022 Training Program. Regardless of the delays and the extension of the application process which saw over a thousand people apply from Ghana and Nigeria, we are excited to welcome 53 outstanding individuals into the 2022 MEST Africa Training Program.

Other flagship programs like the MEST Africa Challenge and MEST Africa Summit were also put on hold this year due to the pandemic. But this made way for us to engage and support even more entrepreneurs across the continent while continuing to support the growth of our portfolio companies.

Our portfolio companies have shown a lot of resilience and keep innovating throughout these uncertain times. We are very proud of all they have achieved this year and send a special shoutout to the following companies who achieved some major successes this year:

Complete Farmer, Leti Arts, Kweza, Tendo, Judy, BezoMoney, Shopa and Wiflix

The growth of our portfolio companies has also been supported by our amazing partners.

Other significant highlights for this year include:

  • We continued to work and impact the ecosystem alongside partners such as Mastercard Foundation, UNICEF, GIZ, IFC, The European Union, Care International, Africa Development Bank, SANAD and Danida.
  • We launched MEST Scale, a venture accelerator focused on enabling SMEs in Ghana to scale.
  • In partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and leading innovation hubs in Ghana, we’ve expanded our program reach to Wa, Tamale, Takoradi, Kumasi, Bolgatanga, Cape Coast and Ho
  • We had the opportunity to work alongside some ecosystem players on the Digilogic Africa, Smart Cities Innovation Programme, AFDB Business Development Services, and WeGrow Hackathon projects.
  • We partnered with the French Chamber of Commerce Ghana to bring together innovative startups and leading corporate organizations to foster more corporate-startup partnerships.
  • Our impact in the ecosystem led to a feature on CNN as one of the organizations contributing to Ghana’s rising tech scene.
  • As a result of all the work, we have also welcomed a cohort of new entrepreneurs into our community for a lifetime of growth, support, and access.

As was earlier announced, I will be transitioning from the Managing Director position to become a Portfolio Advisor at MEST while I pursue a new fintech company. My 6+ years at MEST have been truly rewarding and have also influenced these next steps in my growth journey. I look forward to continuing to support our founder Jorn Lyseggen, the rest of the leadership team, and our entrepreneurs.

For the team at MEST who bring it all to life, one thing has stayed true; the passion to strive for and achieve the highest possible standards together. I appreciate you all.

Enjoy this holiday special from the MEST family. Happy holidays!

– Ashwin Ravichandran(Outgoing Managing Director, MEST Africa)

Founder Jorn Lyseggen becomes new MD of MEST as Ashwin Ravichandran pursues fintech startup

Dear Community,

MEST’s founder, Jorn Lyseggen, will be taking over as Managing Director of MEST as current MD, Ashwin Ravichandran, goes on to pursue a fintech startup.

Ashwin will continue to be a part of the MEST family, in a new capacity as Portfolio Advisor on a part-time basis while supporting our founder transition to the Managing Director role.

Ashwin joined MEST in 2015 as a Technology Teaching Fellow and has since served in various capacities such as Incubator Manager, Director of Portfolio Support, Country Director of Ghana. He became the Managing Director in 2019 where he oversaw MEST’s flagship Training Program, the growth and the successful development of MEST portfolio companies while establishing MEST’s influence in the ecosystem through partnerships, ecosystem engagements, and thought leadership.

Thank you to Ashwin for everything you have led us to achieve! We are excited about what the future holds for our ongoing relationship in a part-time capacity. We wish you and your startup the best of luck!

 

Ashwin over the years at MEST Africa:

How Ghana’s rising tech scene is getting even bigger (CNN Features MEST Africa & Meqasa)

Global media network, CNN, has featured MEST Africa as one of the organizations contributing to Ghana’s rising tech scene alongside other tech companies like Uber, Google, and MEST portfolio company, MeqasaWatch the latest Marketplace Africa feature to see how MEST is nurturing local talents, funding viable local startups, and contributing to making Ghana one of Africa’s major tech hubs.

 

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2021/10/15/marketplace-africa-ghana-tech-google-uber-meqasa-spc.cnn/video/playlists/marketplace-africa-pre-roll/

 

Five MEST portfolio and alumni companies receive investment from Google’s Black Founders Fund

ACCRA, Ghana —  Five MEST Africa portfolio and alumni companies — Tendo, Shopa, GrowForMe, Curacel and Chekkit — have been named among 50 startups who will be receiving investment and support from Google’s Black Founders Fund.

The companies will be receiving up to $100,000 in funds, mentorship from Google experts, and Google platform credits as part of the investment.

The five selected MEST-affiliated companies are some of the most promising technology startups whose solutions are transforming retail, e-commerce, agriculture, insurance and e-health across the continent.

Tendo, one of MEST’s portfolio companies, enables social media users to sell online without investing any capital. The app allows resellers to browse through catalogues of products and gets as much information as possible. Resellers can then add their profit margins to the product and share on social media.

Shopa, another MEST portfolio company is a B2B e-commerce business that is digitising the informal retail supply chain in Ghana and beyond by connecting informal retailers to products and suppliers faster and ensuring better profits.

Chekkit is a blockchain technology company saving lives by protecting producers and shoppers from the harmful effects of counterfeit products. It was founded in 2018 by MEST alumnus Dare Odumade to offer consumer intelligence, anti-counterfeiting and provide manufacturers with a way to engage their consumers directly.

Curacel was founded by MEST alumnus Henry Mascot. It is an AI-powered platform that enables insurers to automate claims seamlessly and also track fraud, waste and abuse.

Grow For Me is a web based Agricultural crowdfunding platform that funds farmers to scale and grow more crops, using the income received from interested sponsors. The unique model is creating wealth and contributing to food stability particularly in the rural communities where mass urban migration is having a detrimental impact on the agricultural food chain. Grow for me was founded by MEST Africa alumnus Nana Opoku W. O. Agyeman-Prempeh.

The Black Founders Fund is a program by Google Startups which is supporting early-stage Black-founded startups on the African continent. It seeks to bridge the existing fundraising gap for Black startup founders in Africa’s fast-growing technology landscape. The program will allocate a non-dilutive $3 million fund across 50 investable startups in Africa. The startups also receive Google Ad Grants and Cloud credits, as well as support from experienced experts at Google.

MEST is an Africa-wide technology entrepreneurship training program, internal seed fund, and network of hubs offering incubation for technology startups in Africa. Our internal seed fund provides $50k to $250k in funding to help launch and scale early-stage companies. Since 2008, MEST has funded and provided incubation for over 80 technology startups that are focused on creating wealth and jobs on the continent.

MEST and Mastercard Foundation launch program to help Ghanaian SMEs tackle challenges and scale growth

ACCRA, Ghana — MEST, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works recently announced the launch of the MEST Scale Accelerator.

The program, aimed specifically at business owners and leaders, is designed to help Small and Medium Ghanaian Enterprises (SMEs) at their growth stage to address systemic and environmental factors that hinder their access to capital and impede their ability to scale.

The Accelerator is inviting SMEs that have ambitions to take their operations to scale, regardless of industry, to submit expressions of interest via the MEST website.

The high-growth venture accelerator identifies specific areas in which most Ghanaian SMEs face growth challenges and lines up expert trainers and mentors to deliver strategic, operational and technical support to businesses in a one-year program. Through this accelerator, MEST Africa will be providing Ghanaian SMEs with hands-on and strategic guidance on how to manage these challenges while building operational and technical efficiencies that will boost their growth.

“SMEs play a critical role in Ghana’s socio-economic growth but very often, most SMEs are unable to scale up due to several challenges and systemic barriers. These include fractured value chains, inadequate or inefficient use of technology, lack of leadership and operational support, talent acquisition and retention, and limited access to growth capital.

For over a decade, we have built some of Africa’s most innovative and scalable businesses and we are eager to share our knowledge and expertise with more promising Ghanaian companies that have the potential to scale and make the most impact on the economy”, said Kweku Fleming, Program Manager for MEST Scale at MEST Africa.

SMEs make up about 85% of businesses in Ghana and contribute largely to GDP and employment. The focus of the program is to empower this influential group of businesses to increase revenue, create new jobs, optimize value chain linkages, and access investments, all of which contribute to the advancement of socio-economic prosperity in Ghana.

“SMEs are critical to driving sustainable economic growth and creating dignified work for young women and men in Ghana. Supported to scale, they have the potential to be real game-changers in the Ghanaian economy. This partnership allows us to support the process of building an ecosystem of thriving SMEs”, said Chirag Shamdasani, Innovation Lead, Ghana, at the Mastercard Foundation.

The Scale program will select 10 SMEs, headquartered in Ghana, to accelerate and scale over the next year. Participating companies will receive the following:

  • Advisory support tailored to their business needs
  • Leadership coaching, mentorship and knowledge sharing from leading professionals
  • Specialist consultation sessions with subject-matter experts
  • Technology enhancement to enable growth scale
  • Investor engagement and investment readiness support
  • Funding, partnerships and ecosystem linkages

MEST Scale is one of three new programs launched by MEST Africa and the Mastercard Foundation to scale their impact and reach more young people, entrepreneurs and business leaders at different touchpoints of their entrepreneurial journey in Ghana, and in time, across the continent.

Interested companies should visit the MEST Scale website and fill out the Expression of Interest form. Applications close on October 18th, 2021.

Applications open for the MEST Express Accelerator Program

ACCRA, Ghana — MEST, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation has announced that applications are open for the next two cohorts of the MEST Express Accelerator program.

The 20-week acceleration program, under the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works strategy, offers free training, mentorship, resources, and support to participating startups. At the end of the program, startups in each cohort will have the opportunity to participate in a pitching session where top-performing ventures will receive equity-free grant funding.

“Securing investment is extremely difficult for early-stage startups. This is why we are introducing a strong focus on investment readiness and fundraising in our upcoming cohorts, with the view of connecting startups to sources of capital and preparing them to effectively deploy funds to grow their businesses,” said Felix Darko, MEST Express Program Manager.

The two cohorts will have a blend of virtual and in-person sessions. One cohort will take place in Accra, with in-person sessions held at the MEST campus. In an effort to make entrepreneurial training more accessible to startups across Ghana, the other cohort will take place in Tamale at the HOPin Academy.

“After extensive research in three regions and numerous insights about the technology and entrepreneurship landscape across the country, we are excited to announce our partnership with HOPin Academy. Situated in Tamale, the largest city in the Northern half of Ghana, the Academy provides an exciting opportunity to reach many young entrepreneurs and to help develop the still-nascent technology ecosystem in the North,” said Gregory Coussa, Strategic Director at MEST Africa.

“We are delighted to see the expansion of the MEST Accelerator program to support early-stage startups across the country. Democratizing access to opportunities that nurture entrepreneurial dreams will increase the chances of success for newly established enterprises by young entrepreneurs,” said Chirag Shamdasani, Ghana Program Partner, Digital Economy at the Mastercard Foundation.

Early-stage startups operating in Ghana are encouraged to apply for the upcoming accelerator program. Interested young entrepreneurs can access the application portal here.

“We applied for the program because we wanted to kickstart our journey towards taking our business to market. We saw the opportunity to fine-tune and implement various aspects of business development. We found a competent space to expand our knowledge and receive expert advice on business growth. The team valued the learning and networking which the MEST Express program provided.” — Esinam Yevu, Co-Founder and Communications Lead at Ghanaian fintech startup, PayBox

Earlier this year, three startups, Bosea, Wegoo, and Motito, were awarded $10,000, $6,000, and $4,000 respectively in grant funding.

To date, the program has accelerated 18 startups operating in various industries.

Interested in joining the next cohorts of MEST Express? Start your application here today.

MEST Africa extends the application period of the class of 2022

The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, (MEST Africa), on Thursday, announced that the application period for the MEST Training Program, class of 2022, has been extended to September, 17.

A statement made available to the Ghana News Agency said the changes to its renowned technology entrepreneurship program were to enable applicants, especially university graduates, an opportunity to participate in the 2022 program.

“Due to the increasing uncertainty around Covid and unconfirmed graduation dates for most Universities across West Africa this year, we have confirmed to start the new cohort for the MEST Training Program in January 2022”, the statement noted.

It stated that despite the challenges that COVID-19 continued to present to all training institutions, the organization was poised to continue identifying and training some of the finest minds in technology on the African continent in the safest possible way.

The statement quoted Mr Ashwin Ravichandran, the Managing Director of MEST Africa as saying, “By extending the application phase of our training program, final year university graduates, who make up the majority of our applicants, will have enough time to apply to the class of 2022.

This also gives us at MEST adequate time to speak to more talents who are eager to use technology to solve Africa’s pertinent problems”.

MEST is an Africa-wide technology entrepreneur training program, internal seed fund, and network of hubs offering incubation for technology startups in Africa. Since its inception in 2008, MEST has produced some of the continents leading technology startups like Ghanaian real estate platform MeQasa, Kudobuzz, LetiArts, and many others.

The prospective students could learn more about the application process for the MEST Training program via https://mest.submittable.com/submit.

DIGILOGIC: The first pan European and African Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) focusing on smart logistics

ACCRA, Ghana — February 2021: The EC has granted EUR 1.9 million to DIGILOGIC, a three-year Horizon 2020 project to boost cooperation and long-term, sustainable partnerships between European and African Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs), paving the way for innovators, startups, and SMEs to jointly develop smart logistics solutions in close cooperation with industries and investors.

The DIGILOGIC project is deployed by a consortium comprising three DIHs in Europe — Digital Hub Logistics Dortmund (Germany), VTT (Finland) and Friuli Innovazione (Italy); two DIHs in Africa — MEST (Ghana) and BongoHive (Zambia); the system change facilitator Endeva (Germany) and an SME Prototipi (Nigeria).

Together, these partners will foster the adoption of emerging technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Smart Devices, Internet of Things (IoT) and Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) for smart logistics solutions, through the deployment of a dynamic and impactful knowledge transfer process and a targeted implementation programme across Europe and Africa.

Logistics and global supply chain management are much more than transport. Together, they secure manufacturing and trade and by this, the competitiveness of economies. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is showing the essential role played by logistics in sustaining the functioning of our societies; delivering vaccines, and emergency supplies while revealing the fragile nodes of global supply chains. Indeed, the sector is facing a plethora of challenges, both from competitors and disruptors and it cannot afford to lag in innovation if a secure, free and independent industry across both continents is to be developed.

DIGILOGIC partners see the horizontally connecting logistics industry at the converging point of interest and priorities for digital innovation for social and business development; a crucial node for Europe’s and Africa’s sustainable prosperity. Applying ICT and other digital technologies to logistics will have a knock-on effect, benefiting other industries from agriculture to manufacturing, local trade to eCommerce, health care to mining. The innovation uptake will provide substantial support to both macro- (e.g. large scale freight movements by air, sea and land, added-value services like warehousing, assembling among others) and micro-business growth in areas such as “last-mile” deliveries. Data, knowledge and competencies sharing are combustible for overall growth and recovery.

Digital Innovation Hubs are the organisations that DIGILOGIC will use to foster the adoption of emerging technologies for innovative solutions, products and services. DIHs create the conditions for — and subsequently nurture, support and promote — innovation, especially by SMEs, young innovators, startups and mid-caps. They also provide access to technology testing, skills development, financing advice, knowledge sharing, collaborative projects, brokerage, market intelligence and networking opportunities.

DIGILOGIC will act as an ecosystem of ecosystems, mapping the existing players (which a recent report by Briter Bridges and the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Programme maps at over 600 on the continent), leveraging on DIHs’ competencies and network to analyse the levers of change which should be addressed to exploit innovation, facilitate collaboration and ultimately create market and uptake opportunities for innovators, SMEs and start-ups in smart logistics from both continents.

The EC will facilitate the creation of networks of DIHs which can share nodes/technology platforms, as well as hard and soft competencies to cope effectively with the EU’s digital transformation across all aspects of the economy.

Speaking on their partnership and involvement in the project, Prasanth Kumar, Director of Consultancy at MEST, said “With a goal of equipping the continent’s most promising tech entrepreneurs with the skills required to launch and scale globally successful software companies in the past decade, MEST is extremely proud to associate in the DIGILOGIC, project along with our partners. MEST is also proud to lead the Ecosystem engagement activities and to execute Inclusive Digital and Entrepreneurship capacity building programs for unemployed youth and vulnerable groups.”

DIGILOGIC is working on a smart logistics technology radar, including the latest technical developments and industry needs, with a deep dive into specific European and African challenges and available solutions, to guide a mentoring and go-to-market learning programme.

In June 2021, the project will also launch an interactive eLearning platform with on-demand and live business, design thinking and smart logistics ICT modules. The eLearning platform will be free of charge and accessible at any time with on-demand and live webinars, documentation, dedicated thematic courses, exercises and assignments to enable learners to follow their learning path as per their needs, motivation and time availability.

Leading the creation of the eLearning platform that will extend the work of this project online especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lukonga Lindunda, Executive Director at BongoHive, an Entrepreneurship Support Organisation based in Zambia added that they were also “excited about the opportunity to extend our work in the Smart Logistics space together with European and African partners on the DIGILOGIC project.”

Ultimately, DIGILOGIC aims to enable the growth of a common innovators’ ecosystem, where talent from both Europe and Africa will benefit from access to technology, knowledge and market opportunities and investments.

In May of next year, the project will launch opportunities for innovators in Europe and Africa to solve four challenges related to the improvement of logistics on both continents. DIGILOGIC will define the topics of the four challenges, based on the real needs and pain points of SMEs, industries, and local governments. Applicants will be invited to propose effective emerging technologies solutions and the selected proposals (up to 12), will be offered a one-year mentoring and coaching programme which will kick off with a three-day Bootcamp in Europe and continue with ongoing virtual and physical mentoring and access to technology infrastructures made available by each DIH. The best projects will be part of DIGILOGIC’s final Demo Day, co-located with a major innovation event in Europe or Africa.

Signed: Digital Hub Logistics, VTT, Friuli Innovazione, Endeva, MEST, Prototipi, and BongoHive

For media inquiries: info@digilogic.africa

For more information on the DIGILOGIC project please see www.digilogic.africa

Due to COVID-19, MEST postpones training program to next year and doubles down on growing portfolio companies

MEST Management, Friday, July 24th 2020

Hi Everyone,

At MEST, we continue to be deeply concerned about COVID-19 and have been closely monitoring developments locally and globally. Our number one priority remains the health and safety of our community. We will continue to follow the local authority and health official guidelines.

Due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic and the uncertainty that the future of travel holds, we have been unable to conduct in-person interviews and host recruitment around Africa for our next cohort. For this reason, we have taken the decision to postpone the Training Program to next year.

While these circumstances are indeed unfortunate, we see this as an exciting opportunity at MEST to double down on providing support and mentorship to our existing portfolio companies and the African ecosystem.
 

Thanks,
MEST Management

Congratulations MEST Class of 2019: Graduation Weekend Recap

On August 11th, 2018, 51 motivated, self-proclaimed entrepreneurs from 12 African countries arrived in Accra, Ghana, to join the MEST Africa entrepreneurial training program and begin what many alumni consider one of the most challenging and fulfilling years of their lives. These Entrepreneurs-In-Training (EITs, as we call them) made up the MEST Class of 2019. Read more on Medium…