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Catalyst Fund Selects More Female-Led Startups into Inclusive Fintech Program

catalyst fund

The Catalyst Fund supporting inclusive tech innovators in emerging markets announced the eighth startup cohort for their flagship Inclusive Fintech Program which features a higher number of female founders and co-founders.

The Catalyst Fund which is a global accelerator manned by BFA Global and enjoys support from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and JPMorgan Chase & Co, indicates that for the persistent gender gap in early-stage funding in emerging markets with only 11% of seed funding going to companies with at least one woman on the founding team, they have made a conscious effort to source startups with women in leadership.

Their latest additions with more enterprising women led companies include Koa, Lami Insurance, Power, Kandua, Jetstream and Indicina. These innovative startup companies are all said to be testing embedded financial solutions built for the underserved customers in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.

These range from an embedded insurance platform and API, to an intuitive savings and investment app, to a financial health platform for gig-and salaried workers, to AI-powered credit infrastructure, to trade-financing for exports for underserved SMEs, and an upskilling and financing platform for home service professionals.

catalyst fund

Here are the 6 startups in the inclusive fintech program

INDICINA, based in Nigeria, facilitates lending for individuals and small businesses through AI-powered digital credit infrastructure and credit underwriting services.

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LAMI in Kenya, provides an insurance platform and API to enable more individuals and businesses access insurance coverage.

KOA also in Kenya, enables users of existing tech solutions to more easily save and invest, gaining control over their finances.

KANDUA in South Africa, empowers skilled home service professionals with greater access to customers, professional tools, and digital financial services.

POWER running in Kenya, enables gig and salaried workers to easily access earned wages, loans, insurance, payments and contribute to savings via bank partners, to reduce financial stress.

JETSTREAM in Nigeria, allows businesses to efficiently and affordably export goods across borders and access trade financing.

It is interesting to know that aside the founder of Kandua being male, the rest of the chosen startups have female founders.

In an interview explaining the process in selecting theses startups into the 8th cohort with TechCrunch, MD for Catalyst Fund, Maelis Carraro said,

“Today, fintech is rapidly evolving to the point where it’s no longer a standalone vertical. Embedded finance offerings have the potential to improve the value of products in adjacent sectors significantly while finding new ways to better reach and serve low-income individuals via touchpoints they already know and trust.”

On why there are more women founders in the 8th cohort, she mentioned that, this action was a conscious decision to make the cohort more inclusive for women, given the gap in funding and support to women founders, particularly in emerging markets.

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Revealing that founders in the 7th cohorts were all males and they had to do things differently in the new cohort. Catalyst Fund is making an effort to support as many women founders as it can going forward.

The new cohort joins 37 other companies who have raised US$122 million in follow-on funding since the start of 2016. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors provides fiscal sponsoreship to the fund.

The Catalyst Fund states that it is looking forward to working with them to test new business models and build the tech infrastructure layers needed to embed financial products in other sectors.

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Womenpreneur Digital Hub to Promote Digital Skills & More for MENA Women

Womenpreneur Digital Hub

The Entrepreneurship Academy of the SANAD Fund for MSME and Womenpreneur Initiative have once again teamed up to champion women’s economic equality in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In March 2021, the partners launched the Womenpreneur Digital Hub, an online knowledge and resource-sharing platform that aims to expand women’s access to skills-building tools in a time when lockdowns and economic contraction have disproportionately impacted female employment in the region.

The coronavirus crisis has forced many women out of the workplace through a constellation of factors: Economically, it has taken a particularly heavy toll on sectors where women are overrepresented, such as retail, care, and food service. School and daycare closures have added further pressure, with many households placing the responsibility for at-home schooling and childcare solely upon women. As a result, although women in MENA comprise only a quarter of the region’s total workforce, they account for over half of COVID-related job losses.

The Womenpreneur Digital Hub aims to help women regain their economic footing through a three-fold approach. First, online training will be offered free of charge for hub members to hone skills that empower them on the job market, such as financial knowledge, digital literacy, and business management. High-profile speakers will provide insights into current industry trends and tips on accessing career opportunities. Second, the hub will connect users for mutual information and support, experience exchange, and valuable network-building. In this way, the platform intends to accelerate the third factor, which is to open up potential employment paths for those whose careers have been upended by the crisis.

Womenpreneur Digital Hub

Ines Ebrecht, Chairperson of the SANAD Technical Assistance Facility which runs the SANAD Entrepreneurship Academy, said: “Women’s employment is not only a social justice issue, it is also an economic one. Women’s ability to participate in the workforce not only provides them with financial stability and freedom on an individual level, it also enables an economy to fully open the tap on creativity, entrepreneurship, productivity, and income generation. The SANAD Entrepreneurship Academy is glad to once again join with Womenpreneur Initiative to advance gender parity as a key to prosperity in the Middle East and North Africa.”

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Womenpreneur CEO and founder Sana Afouaiz said: “The pandemic provoked a major setback in gender equality and threatens to walk back decades of progress. Yet we can also pivot to grasp the opportunities. As the world entered into lockdown, the transition to online work has created a growing demand for digital jobs. The Womenpreneur Digital Hub is targeted toward equipping women to future-proof their skills and give them valuable knowledge for the employment market. Our aim is to ensure that every woman and girl in MENA has access to the tools that will help her realize her full economic potential.”

Sign up for the hub at: www.womenpreneur-digital.com

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