MEST’s $50,000 African Tech startup competition is now accepting applications from entrepreneurs in 9 countries

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The MEST Africa Challenge (MAC) is now accepting applications from tech software entrepreneurs in nine emerging markets in Africa. Expanding from last year’s reach, the 2020 pitch competition is targeting startups in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sénégal, South Africa and Tanzania. The MEST Africa Challenge is a search for Africa’s emerging tech entrepreneurs with the aim of providing them with investment capital, coaching, and access to a continent-wide network of startup hubs. MEST has been strengthening the ecosystem for tech startup success since 2008.

Now in its third year, the MEST Africa Challenge is a transcontinental pitch competition offering up to $50,000 in equity investment to talented entrepreneurs as they build and scale successful businesses that add value to African economies. As we monitor COVID-19 developments the startup regional pitch competitions will move digital if the need arises. The regional finalists will pitch in the final competition in June 2020 (to be confirmed). There they will compete in front of global expert judges for $50,000 in equity investment and the opportunity to join the Africa-wide MEST incubator community.

“There is more talent in Africa than there are opportunities. This is what we’ve learned after twelve years of training, funding, and supporting tech founders and startups. In order to bring more investment to African economies and strengthen the tech ecosystem (as a whole) for startups to thrive, we’ve expanded the MEST Africa Challenge to four new markets this year,” said Ashwin Ravichandran, Managing Director, MEST.

In 2018, the inaugural MEST Africa Challenge saw over 700 applications from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. Forty semi-finalists made it into regional pitch competitions in Accra, Lagos, Nairobi, and Cape Town. A Nigeria-based cloud accounting company, Accounteer was the first year’s winner. In 2019, three startups, Kenya’s WayaWaya Ltd, South Africa’s Snode Technologies, and Ghana’s Oze, were tied for first place. All three winners were offered $50,000 in private equity investment and $25,000 worth of products from Microsoft.

Senior Director of Partnerships for Microsoft Africa, Chris Lwanga, said “Innovation is the birthright of every human being. We believe in empowering every person and  organization, like MEST, to do more through our Microsoft for startups program.”

Tech software entrepreneurs in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, and for the first time, Sénégal, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania should apply to pitch in front of a panel of local, expert judges. The selected finalists will then compete for $50,000 in equity investment and the opportunity to join the Africa-wide MEST incubator community.

“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,” said MAC 2019 co-winner and Founder of WayaWaya Ltd., Teddy Ogallo.

“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.”

Applications for this year’s Challenge will be open from March 16th, 2020. You can find more information and apply here. All business leaders with post-revenue startups, in any vertical, from Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sénégal, South Africa and Tanzania are encouraged to apply.

Regional pitch events will be held on the following dates, at MEST Hub locations or local partners spaces:

  • Lagos, Nigeria: Friday, May 1st

  • Johannesburg, South Africa: Monday, May 4th

  • Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Friday, May 8th

  • Accra, Ghana: Monday, May 11th

  • Nairobi, Kenya: Monday, May 11th

  • Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire: Tuesday, May 12th

  • Kigali, Rwanda: Thursday, May 14th

  • Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Monday, May 18th

  • Dakar, Sénégal: Friday, May 22nd

Due to COVID-19, MEST currently advises against all non-essential local and international travel. These events will be local, closed events with the potential to move digital. For the safety of our community, press and outside visitors should contact MEST at [email protected] in advance to attend these events. Thank you for understanding.

Should you have any questions, please email us at [email protected].

APPLICATION CRITERIA

  • Pre-seed or seed-stage (have raised $100k total or less cumulatively since inception)

  • Currently generating revenue

  • Can demonstrate traction in one or more of the nine MAC Markets (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Sénégal, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda)

  • Has been in operations for 2 years or less

  • Tech-enabled (software company)

  • Industry agnostic

  • Any business model (B2B, B2C, B2B2C, B2G, etc…)

  • *All applications and pitches must be in English*

Apply here for the 2019 MEST Africa challenge.