Awarded to Small Enterprise Assistance Funds (SEAF) and facilitated through CEED, the MEPI FinTech Catalyst Program began in 2019 and was designed to engage and support talented young tech entrepreneurs in the MENA region by connecting them to corporations in their local markets that need the innovative technologies they offer, such as e-wallets, block chain, and artificial intelligence (AI) customer service. The program is currently operating in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria and seeks to create resilience and adaptability by providing targeted resources, networking, and mentoring to generate the financial health, sustainability, and measurable growth of the startups, even during critical periods like the COVID-19 pandemic.

As one of the main drivers of disruption, especially in the time of COVID, the MEPI Fintech Catalyst Program has been reshaping the financial services industry in the MENA region by facilitating the creation of new solutions and services and seeing the rise of emerging new technologies, without the restrictions typically associated with traditional banking.

For the last year and based on the recent CGAP (Consultive Group to Assist the Poor) report, Morocco has been the third largest fintech hub in the Arab world, hosting 13% of all 400 active fintech solutions, or about 40 fintech solutions. Due to our partnerships with MEPI and the US Department of State, CEED Morocco has been one of the leading actors operating in Morocco and supporting Moroccan fintech by offering tailored support and bridging the challenges faced by private sector companies and banks and the needs of fintech startups with innovative solutions.

During the implementation stage of the first cohort in Morocco in 2019, and after many weeks of discussion and negotiation, CEED Morocco successfully engaged Attijariwafa bank , a leading banking and financial group in North Africa, WAEMU (West African Economic and Monetary Union) and EMCCA (Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa) that for many years has played a decisive role in the modernization of the Moroccan financial sector, making its mark on the national economy and its industrial fabric. Attijariwafa bank joined the program as one of four banking and financial institution partners. This first cohort would focus on challenging topics for startups such as building an innovative solution that supports the distribution of credits to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on social networks and digital channels to promote financial inclusion, and building a digital platform to strengthen the commitment and motivation of bank employees in order to better serve the banks clients.

Fintech Catalyst First Cohort 2020 – Building a Successful Partnership

Initially during the first cohort, Attijariwafa bank was skeptical about the success and added value of CEED’s fintech catalyst approach and the reliability of the support that CEED would offer to Attijariwafa bank and its beneficiaries. Attijariwafa bank had had a previous experience negatively impacting their position in the innovation ecosystem. Because of CEED Morocco’s efforts and support to instill a culture of innovation within the bank employees, informing them about the innovation challenges that would impact their businesses in the short or medium term, CEED Morocco succeeded in changing Attijariwafa bank’s view of the program and recruited more than 40 mentors and referrals from Attijariwafa bank senior managers and employees to support the success of the challenges addressed by the startups. In partnership with Attijariwafa bank, the first cohort ended with more than 30 corporate mentoring relationships, over 20 coaching sessions, one purchase order, and other technology partnerships with the onboarded fintech startups.

“For us, working with CEED Morocco on this innovation oriented program brought the bank the necessary agility and speed on the marketOur objective behind partnering with CEED was to accelerate the emergence and implementation of our transformation projects within the bank and accelerate our fintegration.”—Mohamed Moullouze, Attijariwafa bank Head of Innovation

Fintech Catalyst 2nd Cohort 2021 – Long-Lasting Partnership

After a successful partnership with Attijariwafa bank, CEED Morocco contacted the bank to join the second cohort of the program in late 2020 for a potential kick off in March 2021. The main objective of the discussion was asking the bank and its subsidiaries to join program in order to have a better impact on the Moroccan fintech ecosystem. Transitioning the partnership from Attijariwafa bank to the Attijariwafa Group involved long discussions and a difficult negotiation process to determine the real value of bringing the group subsidiaries into the program. After approximately 10 weeks of delays, CEED Morocco successfully partnered with Attijariwafa Group subsidiaries, such as ATTIJARIWAFA BANK, Bank Assafa, Wafaimmobilier and Wafa Gestion, covering 12 innovative topics and onboarding 10 startups in total.

The partnership with Attijariwafa Group helped the fintech catalyst beneficiaries to conclude 7 purchase orders for a total value of $651,626 and $1,099,700 still in negotiations. The partnership with ATTIJARIWAFA BANK also served as a great reference for the startups to raise funds among investors and financial institutions for a total value of $768,750.

The 12 challenges that Attijariwafa Group addressed to startups represents a real innovation and technologies needs for the groupthe group installed a fast track process to facilitate the negotiation phase for the startups and optimize the industrialization.”—Elise Brouum – SmartUP Innovation Manager