Young Africa Works
Young Africa Works

MEST, in partnership with Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works, has announced that applications are open for the first 2021 cohort of its newly-launched MEST Express accelerator. The program offers free training, mentorship, resources, and support to participating startups, as well as the opportunity to receive up to $20,000 in equity-free grant funding. Applications are open until 7th February, 2021.

Launched in September 2020, in response to the impact of COVID-19 on early-stage ventures, MEST Express is a program aimed at technology startups operating in Ghana. The goal of the accelerator is to equip early-stage ventures with the necessary skills and resources to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

In partnership with the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works strategy, MEST launched three new programs in 2020 — Pre-MEST, MEST Express, and MEST Scale. The US$3.5M project will enable MEST to scale its impact and reach exponentially more young people at more touch points along their entrepreneurial journey in Ghana, and in time, across the continent.

“To date, MEST has supported more than 60 early-stage ventures to transition from our flagship Training Program to our Incubator. Over the years, we have been approached by many exciting and promising young startups keen to join our Training Program and benefit from MEST’s incubation and acceleration expertise. COVID-19 has only accelerated our desire to do more for young Ghanaian entrepreneurs who not only want to survive the pandemic, but thrive,” said Gregory Coussa, MEST Strategic Director.

MEST Express will cover a range of business content for the startups but explicitly focus on exploring business models and product pivots, improving risk and crises resilience, and becoming increasingly investment ready. Graduating Express startups will be poised for exponential business growth, and ready to onboard new talent. The program, which is tuition-free, will improve the resilience of MSMEs operating in Ghana that have been impacted by COVID-19 by enhancing business practices and technical know-how to ramp up traction, gain market share, boost sales, and create meaningful jobs. The program is designed to deliver tailored hands-on interventions that are focused on rapid practical application and tangible business outcomes.

“MSMEs are central to the work of rebuilding economies and making them more resilient, which is a key priority for Africa. Technology companies in particular are not just a part of that effort, but they will enable it. Investing in them remains critical and strategic,“ said Chirag Shamdasani, Program Partner for Digital Economy at the Mastercard Foundation.

“Piloting the MEST Express program in 2020 gave our team invaluable insights on the most daunting challenges and most pressing needs faced by Ghanaian startups today. We also saw the deeply impactful effect of dedicated one-on-one mentorship provided by our world-class experts to the startups guiding them to achieve more than they thought was possible. In 2021, we are doubling down on the value and impact we provide Ghanaian startups with even more experts and deeper learning strategies to accelerate the next generation of entrepreneurs to new heights,” noted Felix Darko, MEST Express Program Manager.

Key Dates
● Applications open – 6th January, 2021
● Applications close – 7th February, 2021
● Program starts – 22nd February, 2021
● Program ends – 16th July, 2021

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