Catalyst Fund, the startup accelerator focused on “inclusive tech solutions for underserved communities,” recently announced its tenth fintech cohort. Four of the selected companies are from Africa – and all four have an agrifood flavor to them:
- AquaRech (Kenya) – management hardware and software for fish farmers, plus a digital marketplace helping them to source quality feed, sell their produce, and access credit to enable growth
- ColdHubs (Nigeria) – modular, solar-powered cold rooms, for localized off-grid cold storage of fresh produce and perishable foods on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis
- TopUp Mama (Kenya) – online B2B platform for restaurants, where they can purchase inventory — including perishable goods requiring an cold supply chain — at wholesale prices and access working capital
- Tulix (Kenya) – digital wallet to enhance visibility of funds between migrant workers and their beneficiaries back home
Last year, the Catalyst Fund — which is affiliated with BFA Global — published an investment brief that explored areas of opportunity for early-stage investors to drive greater innovation in fintech in order to boost climate resilience. It gives an indication of how the accelerator zeroed in on business models and products that it believes are capable of mitigating the risks that smallholders and rural communities face from climate change.
“We aim to catalyze a vibrant ecosystem that can support innovation in this space working with fintech startups that aim to improve the resilience of climate-vulnerable populations,” said Maelis Carraro, managing director at Catalyst Fund.
“Private-sector innovation in digital financial services is key to unlocking affordable access to these solutions,” she told AFN.
The Catalyst Fund — which has headquarters in Boston, US and Nairobi, Kenya — plans to back 100 entrepreneurs “at the forefront” of financial and climate resilience innovation over the next four years, Carraro said.
“We intend to help each company [we accelerate] understand emerging opportunities to integrate a climate lens into their products and services, or opportunities to embed fintech into their existing climate-resilience propositions to deepen the reach and affordability of these solutions.”.
According to Carraro, Kenya presents a “unique opportunity” because of its skyrocketing mobile penetration rate, with the number of mobile plan subscriptions 12% higher than the country’s population. “Fintech innovations have followed,” she said.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria — home market of ColdHubs and a secondary market for TopUp Mama — small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for around 96% of businesses, 84% of employment, and almost half the country’s GDP.
“Despite the significant contribution of SMEs to the Nigerian economy, challenges still persist that hinder [their] growth and development. The impact of climate change on SMEs in Nigeria can vary from warming temperatures and extreme weather events [to] health impacts as well as economic impacts,” Carraro said.