Yesterday, Pan-African entrepreneurial training program, seed fund, and incubator MEST, closed its third successful MEST Africa Summit, which saw leading entrepreneurs, investors and corporate executives from Africa and across the globe – including Silicon Valley, Europe and Asia – discussing trends, challenges and opportunities facing tech entrepreneurs on the continent under the theme The Year of the African Scaleup?
Speakers this year included Jason Njoku, Pule Taukobong, Polo Leteka, as well as representatives from Facebook, MTN Group, Knife Capital and IFC. Following a showcase of pitches from MEST portfolio company founders, the three-day event culminated in an announcement of the winner of the MEST Africa Challenge; a Pan-African pitch competition which saw Nigeria’s Accounteer awarded $50,000 in equity investment from the Meltwater Foundation, along with space and support in the MEST Incubator Lagos.
With MEST in its 10th year, the Summit, held at the Avenue at the V&A Waterfront, welcomed 350 guests from over 15 countries and saw MEST & Meltwater Founder & CEO Jorn Lyseggen, as well as Proud Dzambukira, Strategic Product Partnerships Manager, Africa at Facebook, give a keynote address, as well as a fireside chat between Quartz Africa’s Yinka Adegoke and Facebook’s Julien Decot, head of Platform Partnerships EMEA.
Launching with a lively debate over which African nation, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya or South Africa, is best suited for start-ups to succeed, themed panels delved into the latest developments from the industries making an impact in technology and innovation, including fintech, SaaS, agritech and blockchain.
Additionally, the Summit showcased in-depth discussions from leading female founders in the African tech space, a conversation around how technology can be used to help artists, musicians and brands to reach Pan-African and global audiences, and an investor panel that dove into the investment landscape on the continent titled Rethinking Silicon Africa.
MEST expanded its footprint into Nigeria in 2015, Kenya in 2016, and South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire in 2017 by welcoming Nigerian, Kenyan, Ivorian and South African Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs) into the program. Today, the MEST Pan-African vision continues to come to life, with the launch of incubator spaces in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa; and a plan to formally launch its next fully-fledged incubator in Nairobi, Kenya later this year, where entrepreneurs will be offered the same level of support, mentorship, network and access to resources as its other incubators.
Aaron Fu, Managing Director at MEST, says, “We’re thrilled at the outcome of this year’s Summit. We welcomed the continent’s leading entrepreneurs, investors and visionaries for some incredibly engaging discussions around how we can execute on propelling and scaling the continent’s leading tech scaleups while serving as a celebration of a decade of growth at MEST.
The success of this year’s summit, as a meeting ground for Africa’s top ecosystem partners and enthusiasts, has created a forum for honest discussion about change on the continent which we hope will lead to tangible actions and delivery. I’m also extremely excited about our upcoming incubator launch in Nairobi, as we look to strengthen our Pan-African footprint.”
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 $20M in total funding to date, with portfolio companies going on to receive follow-on funding.
There have been four exits to date, digital insurance claims company Claimsync, e-commerce marketing tools RetailTower and AdGeek and messaging app Saya. More than 50 companies have been funded, with nearly 300 entrepreneurs trained. Over 400 highly skilled jobs have been created through their incubator companies with MEST itself seeing over 100 highly skilled job created.
“When MEST was founded a decade ago, the goal was to find a way to create wealth and jobs here in Africa by nurturing the massive amount of talent that exists on the continent. By empowering people to become software entrepreneurs, I believe Africa can take their fair share of the value creation that we know is going to take place in technology and software over the next generation. Today, we’re proud that MEST is the first truly Pan-African tech incubator of its kind,” says Jorn Lyseggen, Founder and CEO of Meltwater and MEST.