African startups are among the projects to have secured grant funding from the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity (FRP), which has provided nine companies from seven countries with more than US$9 million to support projects that expand financial inclusion in rural areas.
The nine companies were selected from more than 300 firms competing in the first two phases of the fund’s 2017/2018 rolling competition, which launched in June 2017 and closed in January 2018.
Mastercard’s goal with the fund is to find and support providers of innovative and scalable financial products and services that improve the lives of poor people living in rural areas of Africa. Financing for another group of companies, assessed as part of the third and fourth phases of the competition, will be announced in 2019.
Phase one selected companies include Kenyan agri-tech startup Apollo Agriculture, which received US$1.09 million to assist in further rollout of its customised package of farm inputs and advice on credit to rural farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ugandan solar startup SolarNow bagged US$740,000.
Among the phase two selected companies was Ghana’s Farmerline, which leverages innovative mobile technology to extend access to financial services, information, and high-quality input directly to farmers resulting in increased yields and incomes. The startup secured US$692,000 in grant funding.
“For African-led ventures or entrepreneurs solving problems in their own communities or country, it can be a struggle to attract the right capital and resources to scale. There are daily challenges around perceived risk, ability to execute and proof of traction,” Alloysius Attah, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Farmerline, told Disrupt Africa.
“This funding from the Mastercard Foundation comes with the credibility and endorsement that is rapidly unlocking new forms of capital and is pioneering a wave of investors that are boldly investing in entrepreneurs who understand the problems and are building generational solutions from lived experiences. At the time when the continent is battling the question of extreme youth unemployment and job creation, the work of the Mastercard Foundation in supporting youth-led ventures becomes important today more than ever.”
The nature and geographical diversity of the new projects saw the Fund expand its presence to four additional Sub-Saharan countries: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity portfolio now includes 30 projects in 11 countries in Africa.
“We are excited to add nine more companies to our growing portfolio that is having a positive impact on the lives of millions of people across Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Wambui Chege, team leader of the Fund for Rural Prosperity. “Today’s announcement reinforces our belief that there is a wide range of innovative, Africa-led projects that, with a little support, can drive financial inclusion across the continent.”