2022, for us, has been filled with a lot of great enthusiasm as we reignited and revamped our various programs to drive direct ecosystem impact. The year also saw us deepening our ecosystem partnerships which enabled us to connect more entrepreneurs across the continent to a plethora of growth opportunities. For this, we are extremely grateful to the various teams at MEST and the amazing work they have put in throughout the year. We also wish to acknowledge all our ecosystem partners without whom our vision of creating jobs and wealth for a stronger ecosystem will not be realized. Our efforts will be meaningless without our strong and ever-supportive community that has contributed immensely towards the success of all our programs this year.
Key among these are; graduating our Class of 2022 with 14 startups, crowning the winner of the 4th edition of the MEST Africa Challenge, and rolling out various initiatives under the Absa Digital Partnerships.
OUR TRAINING PROGRAM
The year began on a high as we resumed our 12-month Training Program in January with the Class of 2022. Following weeks of interviewing over 380 potential entrepreneurs-in-training (EITs), 51 aspiring entrepreneurs began their journey at MEST. By graduation, fourteen high-potential startups had been formed by this cohort, out of which five companies received seed investments of $100k each and are now operating their startups across Ghana and Nigeria.
In September, we welcomed another set of 53 entrepreneurs-in-training into the ongoing Class of 2023. They represent 10 different African countries, are 40 percent female, and come from backgrounds ranging from law, and journalism to software development.
Meet the Class of 2023:
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2022 also saw the MEST Portfolio grow in team size and also in number of companies as we welcomed a new Director of Portfolio and added 6 new startups; five from our Class of 2022 and one from the MEST Africa Challenge pitch competition.
Support for our portfolio companies was boosted through a revamped monthly mentor series which connected our founders directly with relevant subject matter experts and monthly office hours which gave all portfolio companies the opportunity to share updates and work through challenges directly with the team.
Our portfolio team had the opportunity to exchange ideas and share learnings with other accelerator programs during the GIZ organized Bootcamp for Accelerator Management held in Kenya.
A key highlight from our portfolio was successfully organizing the 4th edition of our pan-African startup pitch competition, MEST Africa Challenge (MAC) in partnership with Absa Bank. This year’s competition received hundreds of applications from technology startups in 5 African markets — Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa with Kwely, a Senegalese startup, emerging winner of the competition and recipient of the $50,000 equity investment.
The competition this year reignited our commitment to Africa’s startup ecosystem. We were deeply inspired by the height of innovation we witnessed across different sectors and also the resilience of the entrepreneurs behind these startups and their commitment to forging forward even in the economic downturn.
Another key highlight from the portfolio was organizing the Tech In Africa event in San Francisco with our sister organization, Shack15, to bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and Africa. The event hosted key stakeholders across both ecosystems and spotlighted MEST portfolio companies like Wiflix and other African startups like Flutterwave, Decagon, and Carbon.
We are extremely proud of the growth and resilience of each of our portfolio companies during the economic downturn this year. Below are some significant milestones achieved by our portfolio companies:
- Shopa got accepted into the 100+ Startup accelerator program and won the US Chamber of Commerce competition
- Judy Legal began expansion into Francophone Africa and emerged winner of the 2022 Yale Africa Startup Review
- Heny participated in the inaugural Hindsight Ventures Accelerator Program
- Wiflix was featured in Ventureburn as one of the Local streaming services with a strong edge over its global counterparts
2022 also saw a lot of growth and innovation in our ecosystem development efforts with both existing and new partners. We would like to share our gratitude to the following organizations for supporting and driving our impact across the African Tech Ecosystem:
Absa Bank, Mastercard Foundation, UNICEF, Shack 15, The French Chamber of Commerce Ghan, Impact Hub Dakar, Ghana Think Foundation, African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), Whizzy Academy, Women’s Haven Africa, Yison Tech Hub, Code Coast, iCode, Node Eight and Dansyn ISO, HubSpot for Startups, Google For Startups, Paystack, CodeLn, Copianto, Dream VC, Heny, Wiflix, DER Senegal, Nairobi Garage, Co-Creation Hub, Amazon Web Services, Bank Ghana, Ghana Digital Innovations Week, Deloitte Ghana, InvestPro Advisors Limited, Fondation Botnar, European Union, Dream Oval, Challenge Works Dext, Foundervine, Ghana Education Service and Ministry of Education.
Our community and the tech ecosystem greatly benefited from the exciting line of initiatives we delivered through our partnership with Absa Bank Ghana under their Absa Digital Partnerships initiative. From training workshops to fintech hackathons and networking events, MEST and Absa Bank Ghana have been able to provide direct support and opportunities to digital entrepreneurs and startups.
Watch highlights from the activities under this partnership
With the help of our implementing partners, Pre-MEST, our digital skills development program with the Mastercard Foundation, was held in seven regions across the country and trained over 300 participants, matching them to paid job opportunities to help them gain relevant work experience.
Meet Graduates from the Pre-MEST Program
Now in its second year, the MEST Express Accelerator achieved some major milestones:
- 31 startups from across Ghana were supported
- We launched our first-ever accelerator program for startups in the Ashanti region of Ghana
- A total of $87, 000 in grant funding was awarded by the Mastercard Foundation and MEST to 13 startups
- We launched our first sustainability-focused accelerator to specifically address the needs of impact-driven businesses, supporting them toward investor readiness.
Over the course of the year, we have worked with 12 scale-stage SMEs to develop and implement sustainable scaling models under our MEST Scale accelerator with the Mastercard Foundation.
Learn how MEST Scale is positioning Ghanaian SMEs for growth:
We have also had an exciting year working with Dream Oval, Challenge Works, Dext, and Foundervine as implementation partners on the Ghana Science and Tech Explorer Challenge Prize (GSTEP); a project funded by the Foundation Botnar and backed by the Ghana Education Service and Ministry of Education that supports Junior High School (JHS) students and teachers in Ghana to develop practical STEM skills.
Our work as implementing partners on the Digilogic Project (an H2020-funded project) is also paving the way for startups, SMEs, and innovators to develop smart logistic solutions.
2022 has indeed set us on an exciting path of growth, connectivity, and partnerships. We look forward to continuing on this trajectory and achieving greater heights with our trainees, portfolio companies, partners, and the entire ecosystem.
We also look forward to engaging hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs across the continent as we recruit for the Class of 2024.
Cheers and happy holidays!
- MEST Africa Team