Meet Boost Ghana and KudiGo, the first cohort of the Catalyst Fund’s Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator
Both companies enable informal micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in Ghana to grow their businesses and better leverage digital commerce
Last month, the Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce accelerator, managed by BFA Global, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program and MEST, announced the first cohort of digital commerce companies to be scaled, with the goal of improving the livelihoods of informal MSEs in Ghana.
Boost Ghana and KudiGo are enabling small retailers to grow by easing business administration, digitizing operations, improving access to working capital and reducing the cost of doing business, while providing suppliers with efficient access to MSE customers on the ground.
Both companies will receive up to US$120,000 in capital funding, along with:
- Deep, bespoke, expert-led venture acceleration support;
- Connections with Catalyst Fund’s growing global Circle of Investors and Circle of Corporate Innovators, and;
- In-market expertise from MEST
“MSEs are the backbone of Ghana’s economy, representing about 80% of the MSME sector and employing over 50% of Ghanaians (MOTI 2019). Within the MSE sector, informal work is predominant and contributes to 90% of employment,” said Jane del Ser, Program Director for the Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator.
“Following the COVID-19 crisis, micro and small enterprises in particular lack access to a financial safety net, which significantly impacts their livelihoods and ability to do business. As most transactions and records occur offline, these businesses also lack digital financial records that can grant them access to the working capital they need to survive. Both Boost Ghana and KudiGo present digital solutions that have the potential to significantly impact the livelihoods of thousands of informal MSE owners,” del Ser concluded.
Since launching the program in November 2020, Catalyst Fund conducted research on MSEs in urban and peri-urban retail shops around Accra and found that 100% of shop owners have smartphones, and more than half already market their businesses via social media. However, few currently use digital means to purchase inputs, manage their businesses on a day to day basis, or fulfill orders; only 20% buy inputs online, and 80% purchase inventory in-person, at markets or at a store. This leads to costly transportation expenses, and it means MSEs cannot guarantee the availability of supplies or price stability enjoyed by larger retailers.
Boost Ghana is tackling this problem by enabling underserved small businesses in Ghana to order stock digitally at the best wholesale prices, and receive efficient, same-day deliveries. For suppliers, they provide direct access to last-mile retail customers at scale, providing critical data and reducing the cost of distribution.
KudiGo provides a holistic retail management solution for small business owners, including inventory management, a CRM, mobile money payments and a digital storefront, enabling businesses to build a digital footprint and access financial services more easily. They also offer their MSE customers last-mile delivery via partners.
In addition to working with Boost and KudiGo, the Catalyst Fund team aims to grow the wider digital commerce ecosystem, by partnering with corporate innovators and investors who can help these companies scale, in an effort to create a more enabling investment and business environment.
“Digitizing MSEs is critical to growing the informal sector and unlocking their potential to scale up and be at the forefront of Ghana’s economic recovery. Leveraging the collective capacity of local digital commerce companies to lead this effort is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Nathalie Akon Gabala, Mastercard Foundation’s Regional Director for West, Central and Northern Africa.
Earlier this year, Catalyst Fund released an investment brief containing three areas of opportunity for inclusive digital commerce innovation in the Ghanaian market. The brief can be found here.
About Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce
The Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce accelerator, managed by BFA Global, supports innovators building digital commerce solutions in Ghana, with a goal of improving the resilience of informal and underserved micro and small businesses (MSEs) that can benefit from digitization and fintech approaches to enhance their livelihoods. Launched in October 2020, the Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce accelerator is supported by the Mastercard Foundation, and run in partnership with MEST.
About the Mastercard Foundation
The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous Communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest, private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. The Foundation was created by Mastercard in 2006 as an independent organization with its own Board of Directors and management.
For more information on the Foundation, please visit: www.mastercardfdn.org.
MEST is an Africa-wide technology entrepreneur training program, internal seed fund, and network of hubs offering incubation for technology startups in Africa that was built on the idea that talent is everywhere, but the opportunity is not. Founded in Ghana in 2008, MEST provides critical skills training, funding, and support in software development, business, and communications to Africa’s tech entrepreneurs. Hubs are located in Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; Cape Town, South Africa; and Nairobi, Kenya. To date, MEST has invested in over 60 startups across industries from SaaS and consumer internet, to eCommerce, Digital Media, Agritech, Fintech and Healthcare IT. MEST is primarily funded by the Meltwater Foundation, the non-profit arm of Meltwater, a global leader in media intelligence and Outside Insight.
Leveraging MEST’s core competencies, decade plus of learning, extensive network, and existing intellectual property, in 2020 and beyond, MEST is partnering with the Mastercard Foundation to design and test three pilot programs with local partners in Ghana. The projects — Pre-MEST, MEST Express, and MEST Scale — will enable MEST to scale its impact and reach exponentially more young people at more touch points along their entrepreneurial and employment journey in Ghana, and in time, across the continent.