After a period of selection and voting, the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) in collaboration with Financial Sector Deepening Africa (FSD Africa), UNCDF’s Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P), with support from USAID and the Sida-funded Last Mile Trust Fund, will today announce the finalists of the Sierra Leone FinTech Challenge 2017.
Commenting on the challenge, Ahmed Dermish, the Ecosystem Specialist, Digital Finance at UNCDF’s MM4P said: “UNCDF commends BSL’s leadership in promoting innovations in digital finance and their commitment to support new service providers. We are excited to be a partner in this process and look forward to helping the BSL continue to shape the landscape of digital innovations in Sierra Leone.”
The announcement of the finalists comes at a time when the Government of Sierra Leone has identified access to financial services as a key pillar in the President’s Post Ebola Recovery Priority Plan. Sierra Leone has a large number of licensed financial intermediaries. However, less than 15% of the adult population have access to financial services and 87% of the population are unbanked. Digital financial services have been identified as a key intervention area in the recently launched National Strategy for Financial Inclusion 2017 – 2020. The FinTech challenge is a strategic response needed to scale up outreach and design digital client-centric products.
The aim, successfully achieved was to encourage and catalyze the development of FinTech solutions that are useful and relevant to the people and businesses of Sierra Leone. Over 20 applications were received from various entrepreneurs in the country as well as from Kenya and Ghana. Three finalists have been selected and will each receive US$13,000 seed capital and access to the Regulatory Sandbox. This capital will help test designs, buy in expert support and clarify the business case. Up to two of the strongest fintech products and solutions will have the chance to win up to US$100,000 to pilot and scale-up in round two of the challenge.
The proposals were judged by representatives from FSD Africa, UNCDF MM4P, Bank of Sierra Leone and consumers’ group. Commenting on the finalists, one of the judges, Tamara Cook, the Head of Digital Innovations at FSD Kenya said: “The ideas submitted in the competition reflected fintech innovations from across the globe. The winners rose to the top because each addresses real problems that fintech solutions can help solve.”
It is expected that the challenge will foster collaboration between regulators, non-traditional market players, licensed financial institutions and other partners to pilot innovative products, services and solutions in Sierra Leone. With the improved financial access and usage, Sierra Leoneans and their businesses will have new tools to flourish. The FinTech Challenge 2017 has the potential to kick-start this process.
1.DataPool - Credit Reference Services to non-bank Providers of credit.
“Check-Up” is a technology-based solution that helps non-bank providers of credit and credit-worthy consumers and borrowers in the informal and semi-formal sectors, to transact in a transparent and relatively low-risk manner. This solution is expected to increase credit-based commercial activities outside the banking sector. The product will allow providers of credit to give information on their debtors and their performance on their debts. It will also allow potential creditors to get reports on potential borrowers on their level of indebtedness and performance rating to inform their credit decisions.
2.Ace Ltd - App to track MSMEs’ (Micro, Small & Medium Businesses’) finances.
Ca$hr app is a simple and elegant tool for MSMEs to record business transactions. It has been specifically designed to fill the accounting needs of MSMEs in Sierra Leone, as current available options are inadequate (either too complicated, expensive, unreliable, or lack ability to analyze data in a meaningful way). The app functions as a point of sales and bookkeeping tool for business, whilst also aggregating these businesses’ data to track trends and give insight on the market.
3.Salone Microfinance & InvestED - Smartphone-based entrepreneurship education program linked to microcredit via mobile money.
InvestED provides a platform for free phone-based training for low-income entrepreneurs. Learners who successfully complete curriculum in financial literacy and business skills – along with quizzes, surveys and chat interaction – qualify to apply for loans. Credit officers use a web dashboard to see loan applications and a creditworthiness rating provided through predictive analytics, and the tool allows them to execute disbursement, communicate with the borrower and manage the loan via mobile money. These drive the shared goals for customer empowerment, meaningful engagement and adoption of mobile money and digital financial services.
About UNCDF MM4P
Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) is a programme launched by UNCDF in partnership with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation. MM4P provides support to digital financial services (DFS) in a selected group of least developed countries (LDCs) to demonstrate how the correct mix of financial, technical and policy support can build a robust DFS ecosystem that reaches low income people in LDCs. For more information about UNCDF MM4P visit:
LinkedIn: UNCDF MM4P
Sida is a government agency working on behalf of the Swedish parliament and government, with the mission to reduce poverty in the world. Through our work and in cooperation with others, we contribute to implementing Sweden’s Policy for Global Development (PGU). For more information about sida visit:
About FSD Africa
FSD Africa is a non-profit company which aims to increase prosperity, create jobs and reduce poverty by bringing about a transformation in financial markets in SSA and in the economies, they serve. It provides know-how and capital to champions of change whose ideas, influence and actions will make finance more useful to African businesses and households. It is funded by UK aid from the UK Government. For more information about FSD Africa’s activities and current updates follow our social media platforms:
Linkedin: Financial Sector Deepening Africa (FSD Africa)