Ten southern African start-ups have picked up funding from World Bank for their solutions to bridge the gap in financial access for underserved communities.
The group was rewarded at a recent fintech challenge, an initiative under the Southern Africa Innovation Bridge Portal, supported by the World Bank to crowdsource new and impactful ways to utilise the latest fintech innovations.
The Innovation Bridge Portal Entrepreneur Community is an initiative of South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in partnership with the Department of Small Business Development.
The initiative is establishing a digital platform for innovation, collaboration, co-creation, knowledge sharing, and matchmaking among ecosystem actors in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, and Lesotho.
The programme is aimed at providing low-cost and appropriate savings and de-risking products for the low- and middle-income market and lending solutions for SMEs.
The companies rewarded for their solutions are: Abela, Bento Technologies, Fintr, Moya Money, Sum1 Investments, Thumeza, Chaperone, FundRoof, Ipachi Capital, and Prime Capital.
The ten start-ups were each awarded $5 000 to get their business’s investment ready at a recent event.
In a statement, The World Bank says the fintech challenge’s key objective is to provide underserved entrepreneurs with access to markets, business networks, and investment opportunities.
It says the training helped the start-ups to better engage with investors and enhance their chances of successful capital raising.
The bank says all the entrepreneurs have businesses that have notable traction and are now ready to grow and engage with pre-seed and seed investors.
Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank country director for Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, commented: “The region’s most innovative and impactful fintech companies unveiled their solutions to enable greater financial access to the poor, after an eight-week investment readiness programme, which included masterclasses and mentoring.
“Of the 15 participating start-ups, 10 were awarded financing. These businesses are investment ready and now eager to engage further with interested investors.”
Awelani Ruhalani, deputy chair of the Intergovernmental Fintech Working Group (IFWG), said: “To date, over 170 fintechs have had regulatory guidance from the IFWG. There has been such high interest in the sandbox process that we have changed the approach from testing specific cohorts to a rolling approach. In other words, applications for the sandbox are always open.”
Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs provided funding for the fintech challenge.
“South Africa’s financial services sector is well regarded, and we are thrilled to be actively promoting fintech in partnership with the World Bank. There are many untapped opportunities to be explored,” said Marino Cuenat, deputy head of Mission for the Embassy of Switzerland.