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London Tech Week

In Focus: The Catalyst Fund’s $1.8M boost to spark African climatetech startups

Catalyst Fund Team
Catalyst Fund Team. Image credits; Catalyst Fund.

Africa, the world’s second largest and second most populous continent, has many challenges. Despite its wealth of natural resources, a large and mostly young potential workforce, and numerous rich cultures, it remains the poorest continent per capita. Although developing stronger economies is a key component to improving overall living standards, its people are just as concerned with environmental issues. Many are already witnessing the effects of rising temperatures from climate change, while protecting remaining habitats from pollution, deforestation, land degradation, and biodiversity loss are also critical focus points.

There is no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit among the population either. Everyone wants the chance to build a better life. However, despite the rising international investment and capital flowing into startups, especially climate-tech, Africa has been woefully overlooked. Estimates show that while the US, Canada, Europe, and China enjoyed 93% of investment inflow in 2020, only 0.2% was offered to African businesses. Lack of Connections in both the public and private sectors, unsuitable regulatory frameworks & infrastructure, low levels of accessible education, and high production costs, also prove substantial hurdles for African startups.

Making a financial difference

There are some international investors though, who seem to altruistically desire to help African startups, favouring them over those from more established economies. While not appearing to be an optimal move on the surface, they recognise the benefits to building close financial relationships with a continent that has the potential to become an economic success, with climate-tech as one of its predominant drivers.

The Catalyst Fund, one such investor, has reaffirmed its commitment to driving climate adaptation and resilience in Africa, with a $1.8 million investment in nine early-stage climate tech startups across the continent. This marks the second round of investments by the Catalyst Fund focused explicitly on startups addressing climate change challenges. The selected startups span eight different markets: Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Diverse climate-smart solutions across sectors

The Catalyst Fund is dedicated to supporting tech entrepreneurs scaling solutions for a climate-resilient future in Africa. The fund focuses on mission-driven, local, and women founders offering climate adaptation solutions to enhance the resilience of African climate-vulnerable communities.

The investment portfolio reflects a diverse range of innovative climate-smart solutions across various sectors, including agriculture, healthcare, energy access, and waste management. These startups aim to tackle pressing climate-related challenges and provide impactful solutions. Noteworthy ventures include a solar cold chain solution for small-scale aquaculture in Kenya, affordable telemedicine health services in Tanzania, financing for decentralised solar energy for SMEs, AI solutions for climate-smart inputs and soil mapping, waste recycling, and more.

Empowering communities for climate-positive growth

Maelis Carraro, Managing Partner at the Catalyst Fund, expressed excitement about supporting ventures that empower communities to adapt to the changes brought about by climate change. “We are thrilled to invest in these 9 new ventures bringing innovative climate-smart solutions to the communities that need them most,” said Maelis Carraro. “Their groundbreaking models directly empower farmers, healthcare providers, waste workers, and small and medium businesses to adapt to the changes brought by climate change and drive climate positive economic growth.”

The nine startups that secured investments are,

Earthbond (Nigeria), One-stop-shop for SMEs that need financing for reliable solar energy.

Keep It Cool (Kenya), Solar cold chain solutions and e-commerce platform for the white meat value chain.

Mazao Hub (Tanzania), AI-powered end-to-end farm management software and soil testing services for small-holder farmers.

Medikea (Tanzania), Virtual and in-person healthcare services building resilience to climate-related health shocks.

NoorNation (Egypt), Solar energy and water desalination solutions for farmers and rural communities.

Scrapays (Nigeria), Digital waste collection solution for small businesses.

Thola (South Africa), Unlocking compliance automation for food and agriculture value chains.

Tolbi (Senegal), Satellite data and analytics solutions to support climate-smart agricultural practices.

Zebra Cropbank (Nigeria), Solar-powered micro-warehousing and trading solution for farmers.

Each startup will not only receive financial backing but also benefit from bespoke venture-building support provided by the Catalyst Fund’s team of experts. This hands-on approach is designed to accelerate the startups’ impact and growth potential.

Hands-on support for growth

The fund’s Operating Partner, Maxime Bayen, highlighted the level of innovation demonstrated by these entrepreneurs, “With these new investments, we aim to continue diversifying our portfolio in models, climate adaptation sectors, and geographies. The level of innovation we see among these entrepreneurs is incredibly exciting, and we look forward to working with them hand in hand through their growth journeys, accelerating the rise of climate tech solutions on the continent.”

Continued commitment amid global market growth

Launched in 2016, the Catalyst Fund has gained support from various entities, including FSD Africa, FSDAi, Cisco Foundation, USAID Prosper Africa, the Global Environmental Facility, JPMorgan Chase & Co., the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), PayPal, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The fund’s General Partner is BFA Global.

The $1.8 million injection comes amid global market growth and recent successes for the Catalyst Fund, including key engagements with commercial operators and allied governments across Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America. The fund remains committed to its mission of fostering climate tech solutions, keeping space safe and secure, and supporting innovative AI-powered insights for space operations. The Catalyst Fund plans to continue its investments throughout 2024, contributing to the growth of African climate ventures through its VC investing model and hands-on support.

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