Innotribe opens doors for East African fintech startups

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SWIFT expects even greater innovation and a shift away from mobile technology at the 2016 Innotribe Startup Challenge for Africa.

The Challenge, now open for applications, will take place at SWIFT’s African Regional Conference (ARC) in Mauritius on 17 to 19 May 2016.

This is the second year that Innotribe, SWIFT’s innovation arm, is partnering with ARC to bring the Startup Challenge to Africa, showcasing financial technology startups from across the region.

Africa’s technology startup community has grown exponentially in the last few years with mobile payment innovation, especially in East Africa, often leading the way.

A trend spurred by the need to innovate due to a lack of access to formal financial infrastructures. Mpesa, for example, is now used by more than 20 million Kenyans and earned parent company, Safaricom, Ks19.4Bn ($190m) at its financial year end in September 2015.

Fabio Maffioli, Innotribe Startup Challenge Manager who is showcasing the 2016 Challenge in Nairobi this week, confirms how much fintech startups in Africa are growing overall, especially outside the mobile payments sector.

“The year 2015 saw a large number of African startup applicants exploring mobile payments, lending, big data and investment management. We hope this year’s entries will reveal opportunities to build on existing mobile payment platforms and that active tech hubs in East Africa will highlight the region’s potential to deliver other disruptive technologies,” says Maffioli.

Ugandan based iwiafrica, and one of the finalists from last year’s competition delivers mobile applications on top of existing mobile wallets to help banks and merchants increase mobile e-commerce.

“While mobile money and e-commerce is still a growing sector in Uganda and across East Africa, in the future a number of additional factors will shape the state of play for mobile money and force firms to keep innovating at every level. These include the convergence of mobile banks and e-wallets, the necessity for greater financial inclusion and more prevalence for the use of crypto currencies,” says Allan Rwakatungu, Iwiafrica Chief Executive Officer.

Last year’s other finalists included South Africa-based YueDiligence, Green Model, Notafy and ZAQ Finance. The Innotribe Startup Challenge provided these new technologies, which are defining the future of the financial industry, the opportunity to showcase their products and receive expert coaching and mentoring.

“Participating in the Innotribe Startup Challenge was incredible valuable, particularly being able to meet not only startups participating in the programme, but also large banks and vendors from all over the world, making connections and closing collaboration deals,” says Rwakatungu.

This year the Innotribe Startup Challenge will focus on emerging fintech ecosystems, supporting innovation where demographic trends, economic growth and regional integration projects are creating fertile ground for new technologies to emerge.

Innotribe will select twelve companies to compete in in Mauritius during ARC. The event attracts up to 500 high-level delegates from more than 40 countries, providing the ideal platform for startups to showcase their new concepts and products to Africa’s financial community.

Three finalists will then be selected to attend Sibos, SWIFT’s annual global financial services conference on 26 to 29 September 2016 in Geneva.

There the finalists will share the stage with fintech experts and receive a $10 000 cash prize each.

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