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Kenya central bank names fintech hackathon winner

Hackathon moderators Evelyne Kilonzo and Wallace Kantai | Credit: Central Bank of Kenya

Kenya’s central bank this week announced the winner of a hackathon on the topic of ‘Harnessing fintech in addressing COVID-19’s effects on healthcare, digital payments and economic recovery.’

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) declared that fintech companies from Cameroon, the United Arab Emirates/Tunisia and Libya were the top three finalists – from a shortlist of 15 – of the Virtual African Hackathon 2020.

A hackathon is an event in which participants gather – in current circumstances ‘remotely’ – to design and present innovative technology-based solutions to a particular challenge.

The Virtual African Hackathon, co-ordinated by the CBK and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), saw pitches on 31 August. SME Credit Pro from Cameroon was voted into first place by a judging panel, with Miza A2F Platform of UAE/Tunisia in second and MobiCash from Libya in third.

The Cameroonian victor, whose business boosts access to credit for small- and medium-sized enterprises and which was established less than a couple of years ago, is now ‘seeded’ into the finals of the ‘Global Fintech Hackcelerator’ that forms part of the annual Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF).

In total the African hackathon had 15 finalists selected from 74 submissions from 14 countries.

Singapore plans ‘hybrid’ event in December

The SFF is convened by MAS, which is Singapore’s central bank and integrated financial regulator, and Enterprise Singapore, the government agency championing enterprise development. The event, which is more fully known as the SFF x Singapore Week of Innovation & TeCHnology or ‘SFF x SWITCH 2020’, is this year due to be staged in a hybrid physical and digital format from 7-11 December.

The Virtual Africa Hackathon is part of the international programme of Global FinTech Hackcelerator, which – like the SFF itself – has run since 2016. CBK is the first partner of the international programme to announce its winner, with the rest due to be announced in due course.

Other planned activity at ‘SFF x SWITCH 2020’ includes an ‘online city’ where each participating organisation will be able to showcase tech in fields including fintech, blockchain and Artificial Intelligence, as well as areas such as healthcare and biomedical sciences. Separately, live-streamed speakers will address topics including financial inclusion.

‘Destination for global fintech community’

SFF x SWITCH 2019: major global gathering for the fintech community | Credit: MAS

“The Singapore Fintech Festival has been growing each year as a destination for the global fintech community to share their knowledge, innovations and insights,” said MAS’s chief fintech officer, Sopnendu Mohanty. “This year, the extraordinary challenges brought about by the global pandemic has triggered a paradigm shift for SFF x SWITCH. We are exploring a creative way to integrate global centres through an immersive digital engagement experience. We are confident that this approach will be able to bring together the global innovation community in spite of the current constraints in travel and meetings.”

The 2019 event, held last November, attracted more than 60,000 participants from almost 140 countries. Last year’s Global FinTech Hackcelerator was won by three firms, including one from Kenya – Pula Advisors, a micro-insurance company.

This year the Global FinTech Hackcelerator is seeking to recognise innovations that enable the financial sector to respond better to two key global challenges – COVID-19 and climate change – ‘in order to enhance the sustainability of the finance industry’.

Numerous public sector organisations worldwide have staged hackathons in response to the pandemic, such as the ‘#EUvsVirus’ initiative backed by European Union earlier this year.