This post was written by MEST Community Manager, Lundie Strom.
On February 27, 2019, MEST Incubator Accra welcomed nearly 100 people to watch this year’s MEST Africa Challenge regional pitch competition. After an hour of intense deliberation, the three judges were excited to announce the Ghanaian winner was a company looking to tackle the data gap for SMEs in Africa: OZÉ.
Not just a FinTech company, OZÉ aims to leverage data insights to enable SMEs to become investment ready, by providing them with the data they need to make better business decisions.
The OZÉ team combines deep local knowledge with global experience. Founders Meghan McCormick and Dave Emnett both launched and scaled French-speaking Africa’s most active SME accelerator, while Aly Sawadogo and Albert Essiam, who run tech and data respectively, bring decades of industry experience to build their one-of-a-kind, machine learning solutions.
While working with thousands of small businesses across West Africa, Meghan and Dave saw that “time and time again, entrepreneurs were making decisions based on their gut, rather than data.”
When asked about the problem their company aims to solve, OZÉ said, “small business owners are keeping their records in paper notebooks, and [therefore] cannot turn data into insights and actions that drive profits. They cannot show up at a bank with a pile of notebooks and expect to get a loan. Their data is siloed — cut off from the networks that could help them grow. And so, they don’t. 93% of SMEs in Africa never hire a single employee.”
Meghan and Dave began to look for a solution to purchase for the businesses they were supporting, and when they could not find one, they built OZÉ.
Just this year, urban internet penetration in Africa matched that of China, but simultaneously, youth unemployment persists. OZÉ believes that Africa is ready for a solution that uses digital tools to spur business growth, and that it can equip small businesses with the resources it needs to thrive, therefore enabling inclusive economic growth and helping to solve the unemployment crisis.
With a target audience of young, digitally-savvy business owners looking for support, OZÉ says they “truly help small businesses make more money. The majority of OZÉ users are profitable, and 1 in 5 unprofitable businesses become profitable with OZÉ within 3 months.”
When asked how winning the MEST Africa Challenge would help them reach their goals, OZÉ said, “MEST targets the same young people that we serve, [and] gaining visibility across the African tech ecosystem would help more businesses discover our platform.”
MEST and Microsoft look forward to welcoming the OZÉ team to the finals at the MEST African Summit in June!