Village Capital and MetLife Foundation are launching an investment readiness program for Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Turkey-based startups that are using tech to help low-income individuals and families manage their day-to-day finances, build short- and long-term savings and wealth. The accelerator is a collaboration between Village Capital, MetLife Foundation, and PayPal. We’re encouraging applications from entrepreneurs building high-growth, scalable solutions focused on the following regional challenges:
Gender inequality. The World Bank reports that 1.2 billion adults have secured a bank account since 2011. While there has been considerable improvement in global financial inclusion, this progress has not developed in all regions and sections of society proportionally. Of the 380 million people living in the Middle East and North Africa, 52% of men and only 35% of women have an account with a financial institution or mobile money provider, resulting in the region having the world’s largest gender gap, and some of the world’s largest unbanked populations. Women’s labor force participation in the region is also the lowest in the world, negatively affecting women’s economic security.
Youth Unemployment. 60% of the population in MENA is under 25 years old, and the region suffers from the highest rate of youth unemployment in the world, meaning that by 2025, an additional 20 million jobs need to be created in order to stabilize youth unemployment. A lack of stable income-generating opportunities also make it difficult to build financial health, buy or rent a home, save, and build wealth - all of which are key enablers to economic mobility.
Access to finance for MSMEs. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) account for 96% of registered companies and about half of employment in the region, yet only receive 7% of total bank lending - the lowest in the world. An International Monetary Fund report shows that there is considerable opportunity to increase SME access to finance in the region, and doing so will result in greater financial inclusion regionally.
Digital Identity. Displacement patterns in the MENA region have become increasingly more complex, with many populations having been uprooted and displaced over multiple borders. The per-capita refugee populations of Lebanon and Jordan have become three to six times greater than any other country in the world, and many people throughout the region are living without the basic identification needed for access to fundamental services.
Entrepreneurs will benefit from Village Capital’s award-winning curriculum, intensive feedback from their peers, and connections and one-on-one mentorship with potential customers, investors, industry experts, and MetLife employees. Village Capital will cover the costs associated with travel and two participating startups will be selected by their peers to each receive a MetLife Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Grant of $70,000 (USD).