MEST Africa – a Pan-African entrepreneurial training program, seed fund and incubator, had a successful tech summit in Nairobi yesterday. The event which is held annually gathered everyone from investors to entrepreneurs across Africa in a bid to push for innovation and problem-solving in the continent.
Collaborating with global tech giant Microsoft, this year’s MEST Africa conclave ended with a twist. Rather than awarding one winner with the grand prize, the organizers decided to give away USD 50 K in equity investment and USD 25 K in credit from Microsoft to three worthy startups – Oze (Ghana), Snode Technologies (South Africa), and WayaWaya (Kenya).
Accra-based Oze, a mobile application, helps small business record their sales, expenses, payables and receivables. Using data to provide context-specific recommendations and reports, the startup is assisting early-stage ventures to adopt digital solutions to build credit profiles and access finance. The fintech also helps financial institutions source and support a portfolio of small business loans from its users.
South Africa’s Snode Technologies employs a second-to-none approach to cybersecurity by leveraging advanced mathematical algorithms and the power of machine learning to process dynamic data, in any format, at any scale, in real-time.
On the back of World Economic Forum’s position that global cybersecurity will be over USD 1 Tn, 2011-founded Snode gains insights to prevailing patterns often missed by the human eye, helping users identify cyberattacks before they happen.
Nairobi-based WayaWaya connects to banks, mobile wallets and payment providers at the same time, enabling users to have one account that allows them to save, invest, make transfers and payments, and access value-added services across the world, all in one place. The Kenyan team is out to innovatively solve several pain points in the banking and payments ecosystem.
The participants presented arguments regarding why their country of base is the best for investments among Africa’s 54 nations. All three winners, as is tradition, emerged at centre stage at the various MEST Africa Challenge regional pitch competition.
The panellists held talks ranging from data in the fintech space to the latest in agritech and healthcare, to ways we can cultivate a Pan-African tech ecosystem, among others.
In addition to keynotes from MEST Founder Jorn Lyseggen, Microsoft’s Chris Lwanga and Lori’s Josh Sandler, key speakers this year included Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Philip Thigo, Andreata Muforo (Partner, TLcom), Bilha Ndirangu (CEO, Africa’s Talking), Ngozi Dozie (Co-Founder, Carbon) as well as representatives from Google Launchpad, Safaricom, the African Development Bank and more.
Additional sponsors for this edition of the Summit also included Liquid Telecom, Africa’s Talking, Oracle, Intel, Lori Systems, Flutterwave, Stratlink, Ethiopian Airlines and a number of ecosystem partners.
The Summit was held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi on Conference Day, and the Nairobi Garage, home of MEST Africa’s Nairobi Incubator, on Ecosystem Day – both buzzing atmospheres as more than 300 guests came together.
Aaron Fu, Managing Director at MEST Africa, mentioned, “It’s our fourth year running the Summit, and it always serves as a reminder of what Africa can achieve with the right blend of talent and experience. Over the three days, it’s always amazing to observe how the relationships between attendees grow, and the fact that we are able to facilitate that is something we never take for granted.
We started this to create a space for honest discussions on how the continent can continue to move forward and markets can come together – my personal hope is that we continue to see this grow and that more collaborations across markets take shape.”
MEST Africa has been training, supporting and investing in tech entrepreneurs on the continent for more than 10 years. Over 330 individual entrepreneurs have been trained at MEST, and nearly 60 tech companies have been launched via seed funding and mentorship.
Five companies have exited, including Amplify Payments Ltd. (Amplify) who was recently acquired by leading Nigerian fintech player, One Finance Limited (OneFi), to further develop the payments ecosystem in Nigeria.
Since its 2008 launch in Accra, Ghana, MEST has been at the forefront of driving some of the continent’s most successful entrepreneurs – pushing them to scale, while achieving Pan-African and global reach and recognition. MEST has invested over USD 22 Mn to date, with portfolio companies going on to receive follow-on funding.