Nala, a FinTech startup from Tanzania that has a mobile money app that works offline without the need for an Internet connection or using USSD, has been selected as the winner of the 2018 Ecobank FinTech Challenge. South Africa's Virtual Identity and Nigeria's Wallet.ng were announced as the first and second runners up.
What is eye raising is the prize money awarded by Ecobank to the top 3 winning startups. Nala, Virtual Identity, and Wallet.ng walked away with "cash prizes worth $10,000, $7,000 and $5,000 respectively" according to a statement from Ecobank. Although some in Afrika's startup ecosystem might argue that the prize money is better than nothing, in my view, startup's are better off not entering such a competition especially if they are past the idea stage as the prize money alone is likely only good enough for startups looking to ideate.
"We are proud of the impressive start-ups that made it to our 2018 final. They are shining examples of the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity that will propel our continent’s global competitiveness in the commercial services markets, and I sincerely expect some, if not all, of them to be the business titans of tomorrow. They have my congratulations and we look forward to working closely with all eleven Fellows over the next year to deliver innovative banking services at better price-points that will improve the lives of Africans," said Ade Ayeyemi, Group CEO at Ecobank.
FinTech startups in Afrika
The positive thing abouth the 2018 Ecobank FinTech Challenge is how it shines the spotlight on how FinTech startups have evolved and grown across Afrika. Take Nala, the winner as an example, they developed a monile money app but instead of yet-another-Afrikan-mobile-money-app they adressed a problem, that of being able to still transact without an Internet connection or using USSD.
Nala provides a unified user experience in which multiple financial services can be connected to using their app. Nala's app also has the ability to host multiple SIMs, enabling users to manage their mobile money spending and take control of their finances.
An added bonus for the 11 startups selected as finalists is that they will all be inducted into the Ecobank Fintech Fellowship, a one-year business program where they can explore opportunities for commercial partnerships with the Ecobank Group, to launch and scale products across Ecobank’s 33 country markets in the continent.
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