The global inclusive tech accelerator has also announced its latest cohort of companies bringing inclusive fintech solutions to underserved communities.
Global inclusive tech accelerator Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global, today announced its ninth cohort of fintech companies that are building solutions designed to improve the resilience of underserved customers and communities. The Catalyst Fund Inclusive Fintech program also welcomes PayPal as a new supporter, as it explores the role of digital finance in enabling climate resilience with select companies over the next two cohorts. PayPal joins existing supporters the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
“We are extremely excited to welcome PayPal as the latest supporter of the Catalyst Fund, and to announce an additional focus on digital finance solutions for climate resilience,” said Maelis Carraro, managing director of the Catalyst Fund. “Climate change is already severely impacting low-income populations in emerging markets, who lack financial safety nets to cope with these additional shocks. Digital finance can be a game-changer in enabling climate-resilience solutions to better reach vulnerable populations; we’ve already seen the ways in which it can enhance the breadth, depth, and affordability of solutions across industries. We look forward to exploring this space and continuing to build the resilience of vulnerable populations across emerging markets via fintech innovation.”
The companies joining the ninth Inclusive Fintech cohort are:
Crop2Cash (Nigeria): Unlocks affordable financing for smallholder farmers and provides digital finance solutions along the agriculture value chain, increasing efficiency and productivity.
HealthDart (South Africa): Offers easy and affordable access to medication and primary health services via pharmacies, to patients in low-income areas.
Kazi (Kenya): Connects skilled and casual informal workers with jobs on demand and provides them with access to business advisory and financial services such as digital payments and tools leasing.
Ohm Mobility (India): Offers affordable financing for informal workers to purchase electric and ICE three-wheel vehicles via a pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) model.
PocketFin (India): Enables access to digital financial services (savings and insurance) for nearly one million people in tier 2-4+ cities via a network of 4,500+ women agents.
Verqor (Mexico): Offers affordable agro-financing and access to agricultural inputs via a digital platform catered to smallholder farmers.
These companies will join Catalyst Fund’s existing portfolio of 45 companies that receive catalytic capital, bespoke and expert-led venture building support from BFA Global, and direct connections with investors and corporate innovators that can help them scale. Catalyst Fund will begin to explore the opportunity for inclusive fintech innovators to enhance the climate resilience of vulnerable populations with select members of this and the following cohorts, to create more resilient and sustainable economies.
PayPal is already working to improve the financial wellbeing and health of its US workforce through the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative, and to accelerate small-business recovery and inclusive growth efforts in Latin America as part of the Tech for Good Partnership. Its support of the Catalyst Fund will help broaden its reach to underserved, climate-impacted communities and businesses worldwide.
“At PayPal, we believe that financial technology can help underserved individuals and communities build resilience to climate-related disasters and capture economic opportunities in the global climate transition,” said chief corporate affairs officer Franz Paasche. “We are proud to partner with Catalyst Fund to support these innovative startups at the forefront of developing new tools and technologies focused on the intersection of financial inclusion and climate resilience.”
Underserved communities in emerging markets are the most vulnerable and exposed to the impact of climate change, though they contribute the least to harmful emissions. These populations tend to rely on the physical environment for their livelihoods and domestic food consumption, are more likely to live in climate disaster-prone areas, and have more of their wealth in physical assets prone to destruction during climate-related disasters. These populations are also most likely to be excluded from formal financial services and lack social or financial safeguards. Worsening climate change impacts can therefore push households and small businesses further back into poverty and exacerbate their vulnerability.
“In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, this new accelerator cohort has unique potential to transform the financial lives of people in hard-hit communities across the world,” said Sarah Willis Ertur, director of financial health at JPMorgan Chase. “Helping ensure that these individuals have access to fintech tools that can advance their financial health is key for an inclusive economic recovery.”
A truly sustainable economy will be one that is inclusive and accessible to all. The growing recognition of this in the past few years has spawned targeted efforts by the finance industry — including CNote’s Wisdom Fund and CapStone Holdings’ GameAbove Capital, and greater corporate support of community-development finance institutions — to make finance itself more equitable and even regenerative, by embracing previously underserved communities.
To date, Catalyst Fund has raised more than $247 million in follow-on funding and reached over 6.5 million low-income customers.