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Mastercard announces winners of 2024 Women SME Leaders Awards

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Mastercard has announced the winners of the third edition of its Women SME Leaders Awards which celebrates the achievements of women-owned and led businesses across diverse sectors in the Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (EEMEA) region.

The winners included women entrepreneurs from Egypt, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, Lithuania, UAE and Ukraine

The Mastercard Women SME Leaders Awards which was launched in 2022, is the first initiative of its kind to recognize outstanding female entrepreneurs shaping the future of the region, according to Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development, EEMEA, Mastercard.

“At Mastercard, we believe when we support women entrepreneurs, we are not only supporting the economy but also their desire to solve real needs,” Ajmal said while announcing the winners of the award.

“That’s why we are committed to creating an enabling environment for women to fulfil their potential as business leaders. The Mastercard Women SME Leaders Awards is an integral part of our women’s empowerment journey.

“This initiative helps us generate momentum so we can continue to uplift the most impactful women changemakers,” Ajmal stated.

He added that this year’s edition of the awards was “open to all women owning or leading businesses with a turnover under $13.6 million and 6-50 employees that have their offices or offer their services in the EEMEA region.”

The Women SME Leaders Awards 2024 jury included Mastercard’s Ajmal, Tamara Pupic, Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East, and Nezha Alaoui, Founder and CEO, Women Choice.

“The Women SME Leaders Awards aligns with Mastercard’s global pledge to connect 25 million women entrepreneurs to the digital economy by 2025 as part of its efforts to build a more sustainable and inclusive world,” Amjal said.

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Mastercard Foundation expands EdTech Fellowship to Egypt

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The Mastercard Foundation has extended its EdTech Fellowship Egypt following earlier programmes in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.

The EdTech Fellowship, which was launched in 2019, is an entrepreneurship acceleration programme that supports promising African ed-tech ventures.

According to the tech giant, the Fellowship provides critical business, financial, and educational support to help ed-tech companies scale, achieve sustainability, and increase impact.

“The fellowship has already supported dozens of companies in countries like Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya, and has now expanded to Egypt in partnership with EdVentures, the investment arm of Nahdet Misr Group and a leading ed-tech venture capital firm in the MENA region,” Mastercard said while announcing the launch.

“Twelve startups have been chosen for the initial eight-month programme, comprising specialised training, mentorship, workshops, networking, and access to courses.

“Each startup will receive $60,000 in equity-free funding. Over the next three years, the fellowship will support a total of 36 ed-tech startups, driving positive change in the education sector,” it said.

The inaugural Mastercard Foundation EdTech Fellowship cohort are 5 Quarters, a dental student learning application; Armstrong, an interactive STEM e-learning platform; Business بالعربي, an Arabic self-development and business skills podcast.

Others are Career 180, a career development and job placement solutions for youth; Deaf Gain, consulting services for the deaf and hard of hearing; and Fednee, a platform for networking, career development, mentoring, and collaboration.

The cohort is completed by iSchool, which is teaching AI and coding for kids ages 6-17; Mharet Tefl: a speech therapy programme for children; Nafham by Tayro, an online learning application; OTO Courses, an online one-on-one English and other courses; Science Street, which promotes science literacy; and Bayt Alkhyata, which fosters social development for women and their communities.

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Ecobank Group launches $50,000 Fintech Challenge

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Pan-African financial services company, Ecobank Group, has opened applications for its 2024 Fintech Challenge with a whopping $50,000 prize money up for grabs.

The annual competition which is in its 7th edition, invites early-stage and mature fintech startups to partner with Ecobank, with the winner taking home the princely sum and a chance of scaling their solutions across Ecobank’s extensive network spanning 35 African countries.

Jeremy Awori, Chief Executive Officer of Ecobank Group who made the announcement in a statement on Tuesday, said the Ecobank Fintech Challenge provides a unique opportunity for Fintech entrepreneurs to address their challenges by not only offering financial rewards but by also providing Ecobank’s expertise in diversified markets operations and the right solutions to scale across its pan-African footprint and international presence such as France.

“Building partnerships with fintechs is a catalyst for driving financial inclusion in Africa. At Ecobank, we prioritize fintechs in our Growth, Transformation, and Returns strategy “, said Awori.

“We have enhanced this new edition of the Ecobank Fintech Challenge to continue to provide fintech entrepreneurs with a premier platform to showcase groundbreaking solutions, while creating unparalleled opportunities for growth and expansion across 35 markets in Africa,” he added.

The Ecobank Group CEO noted that despite the fintech eruption in the African continent, a McKinsey report reveals that fintech start-ups in Africa are still facing several challenges such as reaching scale, navigating an uncertain regulatory environment, or managing scarcity of funding.

“Last year’s competition attracted 1,490 entries of real quality, which underscores the significance of this pan-African challenge.

“Successful applicants reaching the Grand Finale and Awards Ceremony in October 2024 will have the chance to join the highly coveted Ecobank Fintech Fellowship programme, with the overall winner receiving a cash prize of US$50,000.

“Ecobank Fintech Fellows will gain access to numerous opportunities through collaboration with Ecobank and its partners, potentially including:

“Other multinational product rollout include an opportunity to integrate their solutions with Ecobank, opening doors to potential product launches within Ecobank’s expansive 35-country Pan-Africannetwork.

“Selected fintechs may become Pan-African service partners within the Bank’s ecosystem while Fellows will receive exclusive access to Ecobank’s cutting-edge APIs, enabling them to test and develop their products for the Pan-African market.”

The Ecobank Fintech Challenge is designed in partnership with international advisory firm, Konfidants, and is supported by various partners.

Applications for the 7th Ecobank Fintech Challenge are now open to fintechs and developers from across Africa, as well as global Africa-centered fintechs.

Interested parties can find out more about the competition and submit their applications through the official website: EcobankFintechChallenge.com.

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