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.

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…

Kenyan fintech startup WayaWaya one of three to win $50k at the MEST Africa Summit 2019

This article is part one of a three-part series focusing on the 2019 MEST Africa Challenge winners.

When applications to the 2019 MEST Africa Challenge (MAC) opened early this year, WayaWaya Ltd was one of the top 10 finalists chosen from hundreds of Kenyan startups. The fintech startup that provides one account to combine your bank, mobile wallet, and SACCO, and makes payments accessible across the world, was named the finalist that would compete in the final pitch at the MEST Africa Summit (MAS).

Teddy Ogallo, Founder and CTO of WayaWaya, went up against the other finalists from Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Côte d’Ivoire, and for the first time ever, three startups were named winners of the grand prize. WayaWaya, Ozé (Ghana), and Snode Technologies (South Africa) all received $50,000 in equity investment from MEST Africa and $25,000 of credit from key sponsor Microsoft.

Keep reading to hear more from the WayaWaya team about how being a MEST portfolio company will help them achieve their goals.

MEST: Why did you start Wayawaya?

Wayawaya: I had some experience running another startup that I exited at a time when it was not possible to send cash to anyone in real time across the world or platforms without limitations, based on technology and regulations. Financial solutions were just not capable of efficiently connecting to each other, and they still can’t. Transfers then cost more than they should, and I had to have multiple apps for MPesa, banks, loyalty services and remittances. Being exposed to businesses and their pain points also made me realize that as much as businesses evolve ways of getting more customers to use their services, manage their inventories and get capital, they still had major pain points accepting multiple payment options or payments through rapidly growing mass reach platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. I started WayaWaya as a platform agnostic solution that connects to not only banks and mobile wallets, but also enables access to these services over the most popular communication/interaction channels across borders with just one account. Since then we have been steadily building the team, the experience, the network and addressing the compliance/security requirements to make this a scalable world class solution that can address individuals’ and business’ needs across the world

MEST: What inspired you to compete in the MEST Africa Challenge/Summit?

Wayawaya: I was attracted by MEST’s background of teaching entrepreneurs on the basics needed to succeed. I felt and still feel I am an entrepreneur with a lot to learn on how to efficiently scale and build a business from just an attractive solution for the region to global acceptance. I believe the multi-cultural and wide networks of the MEST team seem to be a sure bet to helping me achieve this. Seeing that MEST has managed growth and partnerships across multiple countries, [I hope] I can use the team’s expertise as a template to also achieve the same for WayaWaya.

MEST: What tips do you have for future MAC contestants?

Wayawaya: During the regional finals I had to compete against some contestants who didn’t have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for market, and I feel they would have benefited immensely from the feedback on the ground. Having tested the market gives you a new perspective and preparedness that no pitch preparation will. Further to that, contestants should continuously work hard to find ways of growing their business rather than waiting for help so that in the space between winning the regional championships and the MEST Africa Summit championships they can show progress

MEST: How do you intend to use this opportunity to expand?

Wayawaya: While we have experienced rapid growth in the last few months we hope to use the MEST network and professionalism to get tips on how to manage and sustain this growth and communication to our current and future customers. We hope to tap into the MEST network for new partnerships/expansion  and we will use MEST partners such as Microsoft to ensure our technology is ready to handle the growth in customers and volumes. Individual customers should also expect more direct marketing and communication from the WayaWaya team presenting our transformational products to more people across Africa, the diaspora and travelers.

MEST: Why are you excited to join the MEST Portfolio?

Wayawaya: My experience with the MEST team has been extraordinary; brilliant organizational and execution skills, and they have shown willingness to help me refine the rough edges in our business and its presentation. Most importantly, they have a diverse and attractive set of companies in their portfolio with several successful exits [which] automatically attracted me in a bid to also take our business through the same route.

MEST: Why is pan-African expansion the key to your company’s success?

Wayawaya: With WayaWaya we have seen the need to expand based on customer requirements and demands (both individuals and businesses). We address inefficiencies in the rapid growth developing market, banking, transfers and payment eco-systems, which then means it makes sense to expand to as many territories and markets as our capacity allows.

MEST: What is next for Wayawaya?

Wayawaya: Transforming the years of growth, lessons and development into better services for many more customers across Africa and the African/Asian Diaspora. We are working to ensure we are one of the organizations at the forefront of transformational financial and payments services built for 21st century users, and [hope] to make these services available across mobile phones, social media, instant messengers or connected to traditional financial systems.

MEST Africa looks forward to welcoming Wayawaya to our portfolio and seeing what they go on to do!

Ghana based startup OZÉ named one of three winners of $50k at the MEST Africa Summit 2019

This article is part one of a three-part series focusing on the 2019 MEST Africa Challenge winners.

Back in February, ten top Ghanian startups were chosen to compete to pitch their business ideas as part of the MEST Africa Challenge 2019. Judges selected OZÉ,  a platform that equips small business owners with the information to make data-driven decisions to help them grow, as the finalist to represent Ghana.

On June 10, 2019, the final pitch was held at the MEST Africa Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. Meghan Mccormick, Co-Founder and CEO of OZÉ, competed against the other finalists from Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Côte d’Ivoire, and for the first time ever, three startups were named winners. OZÉ, WayaWaya Ltd (Kenya) and Snode Technologies (South Africa) all received $50,000 in equity investment from MEST Africa and $25,000 of credit from key sponsor Microsoft.

Keep reading to hear more from the OZÉ team about their win and where they hope to go from here.

MEST: Why did you start OZÉ?

OZÉWe started OZÉ to help small businesses grow. On the continent, there’s a youth unemployment crisis with 11 million youth entering the job market every single year and 60% of them not finding jobs. The only way for them to actually solve unemployment at a large scale is to equip the pre-existing small businesses on the continent to create jobs for the youth.

MEST: What inspired you to compete in the MEST Africa Challenge/Summit?

OZÉ​​​​​​​: We wanted to compete in MAS because of especially being a company founded by Americans, being able to embed in the African entrepreneurial ecosystem was really important. We had a relationship with MEST previously by doing some trainings but wanted to immediately become part of the mest family. 

MEST: What tips do you have for future contestants?

OZÉ​​​​​​​: I think the tips I would have for future contestants would be to wait until you’re ready to take advantage of the opportunity. We chose not to apply to MAC last year because we thought we were a little bit too early and we think we were able to be competitive this year because we have actual paying customers now and growth, if we were to have made it last year we would not have that. And then not this opportunity. So being strategic about when you apply for these types of opportunities is really important.

Nailing your story, part of how OZÉ was able to come home a winner in such a competitive field with people with much more mature businesses was because we were able to communicate why what we’re working on matters and why we think it can change the structure of the African economy and paint that picture. A good story goes a long way especially when you don’t have millions of dollars of revenue. 

MEST: How do you intend to use this opportunity to expand?

OZÉ​​​​​​​: We are looking to Nigeria as our next market, so knowing that when opening in that market not only do we have relationships with the other company from Nigeria but also a home base – somewhere that we can camp out and meet people and get introductions to other small business owners and startups movers and shakers in the Nigerian ecosystem is the most immediate benefit, that launch pad into Nigeria. 

MEST: Why are you excited to join the MEST Portfolio?

OZÉ​​​​​​​: We’re excited to join the MEST portfolio because of the long history of MAS in Ghana, not that many early stage investors in Ghana so being able to have one that launched and grew in the same market with the same pattern that we hope to follow (from Ghana and out from there), MEST will be a very beneficial partner for us.

MEST: Why is pan-African expansion the key to Oze’s success?

OZÉ​​​​​​​: The 28 million consumers in Ghana are really exciting for a first market, but they’re not a large enough opportunity to attract the type of investment that we need to bring the world class together to build such a transformational product. The youth unemployment is not just a Ghana problem, but a sub-Saharan African market. Attract the type of acapital that we need to be successful in Ghana and eventually beyond Ghana.

MEST: What is next for OZÉ​​​​​​​?

OZÉ​​​​​​​: We just got our 10,000th registered business, which is really exciting. Right now we’re heads down focusing about moving our financial institution partners from being partners on paper to getting capital into the hands of OZÉ users. 

We look forward to welcoming OZÉ to our portfolio and seeing what they go on to do!

MEST Africa Summit 2019 names South Africa’s Snode Technologies one of three startups to win $50k

This article is part one of a three-part series focusing on the 2019 MEST Africa Challenge winners.

This year, the annual MEST Africa Challenge competition selected ten top South African startups to pitch their businesses to a board of local judges for the opportunity to compete in the finals at the MEST Africa Summit 2019. Snode Technologies, a cybersecurity and intelligence business that leverages mathematics to analyze data in real-time at scale, was selected as the country’s winner and joined us in Nairobi earlier this month.

Nithen Naidoo, Co-Founder and CEO of Snode, competed against the other finalists from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Côte d’Ivoire, and for the first time ever, three of the companies were dubbed winners. Snode, OZÉ (Ghana), and WayaWaya Ltd all received $50,000 in equity investment from MEST Africa and $25,000 of credit from leading sponsor Microsoft.

Keep reading to hear more from the Snode team about their experience as a MEST Africa Challenge competitor, and their plans for the future.

MEST: Why did you start Snode Technologies?

Snode: After years of running a cybersecurity consulting firm, providing assessments to large global enterprises, we realised that the way we defended against cyber-attacks was reactive and ultimately flawed. A more intelligent line of defence was urgently required since traditional detection and defence technologies proved inadequate to dealing with rapidly evolving cyber-attack patterns. Snode leverages advanced mathematical algorithms and the power of learning machines to process large amounts of data. This data then provides insights into prevailing patterns to help identify and combat cyber security threats before a potential breach occurs. 

MEST: What inspired you to compete in the MEST Africa Challenge/Summit?

Snode: After our initial success in South Africa, we wanted to expand our business to the rest of Africa. We saw MEST as a potential channel to, not only introduce our brand, but to establish a channel partnership to further explore opportunities across Africa and the globe.

MEST: What you tips to you have for future contestants?

Snode: Act locally, but think globally; build a world-class business fused with African ingenuity.

MEST: How do you intend to use this opportunity to expand?

Snode: We plan to establish channels in growing African markets, such as Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, providing world-class cybersecurity technology and services.

MEST: Why is pan-African expansion the key to your company’s success?

Snode: We view our company and unique cybersecurity technology offering as an African innovation with global potential. We see establishing our presence across Africa as a key milestone on our roadmap to global expansion.

MEST:  What is next for Snode Technologies?

Snode: We are looking forward to entering new African markets and working with the many talented cybersecurity teams across the continent.

MEST Africa looks forward to welcoming Snode Technologies to our portfolio and helping them to expand across the continent and globe!

MEST Africa names Ashwin Ravichandran as new Managing Director

MEST Africa is pleased to announce the appointment of Ashwin Ravichandran as its new Managing Director, as the Pan-African entrepreneurial training program, seed fund and incubator continues to grow and strengthen its portfolio of startups and expand its reach and impact across the continent. 

Ashwin joined MEST in 2015 as a Technology Teaching Fellow and has since served as the Incubator Manager for MEST Accra, and currently is Director of Portfolio Support and Country Director of Ghana. With a background in Computer Science and Engineering and previous experience working in the innovation team at Honeywell and building startups in India, Ashwin brings extensive technical knowledge to his executive management experience at MEST.

In his role as Director of Portfolio Support, Ashwin has overseen the growth and development of highly successful MEST portfolio companies such as Complete Farmer, Asoriba, Leti Arts and Kudobuzz, working to maximize their growth and success in terms of business development, product management and raising further rounds of funding.

“We’re thrilled to name Ashwin as Managing Director,” said MEST Founder & Chairman, Jorn Lyseggen. “Over the years, he has been an incredible asset to our management team and an invaluable mentor to founders and Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs). Ashwin has a passionate, product-centric approach to entrepreneurship and, combined with a deep belief and dedication to the African continent, he is the right person to take MEST to the next level.”

“I’m incredibly honored and excited to be stepping into this new role,” Ashwin said. Since I joined MEST in 2015, I’ve always been inspired by the potential of the African entrepreneurship space. Being part of the innovation that has come out of MEST over the years, I’ve seen first-hand how technology is changing the future of the continent. I’m excited to lead our talented team as we continue to expand and take on new challenges.”

Ashwin takes the reins from MEST Managing Director Aaron Fu, whose last day at MEST was June 30th. “Aaron has in his two years with MEST been a valued member of the MEST leadership team. We thank him for all his contributions and wish him all the best in his next endeavour,” said Lyseggen.