The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has announced the latest fintech start-ups to join an initiative aimed at boosting financial inclusion in Zambia.
Fifty-six applications were made to be part of the second cohort of the country’s ‘FinTech4U Accelerator Programme’, an initiative aimed at entrepreneurs who have recently started a fintech business with the potential to scale throughout Zambia and beyond.
Twenty-one candidates were interviewed and 10 companies were successful in making it into the second cohort of the programme, which runs for three months. In order to be selected, the companies had to demonstrate potential to improve financial inclusion among typically relatively under-served citizens, such as rural populations and women.
Five companies were in the first cohort of the scheme, which launched in January. The first round saw 70 expressions of interest and 35 completed applications.
The UNCDF – the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s least developed countries – announced the winners alongside BongoHive, a technology and innovation hub in capital city Lusaka. The 10 companies will receive technical assistance and support from the New York City-headquartered UNCDF and BongoHive, as well as regulators including the Bank of Zambia, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Zambia Information Technology and Communication Authority.
Three-month programme culminates in ‘demo day’
The three-month programme will culminate with a ‘demo day’ at which the entrepreneurs will present their businesses to a judging panel. The three best performing start-ups will receive funding of up to $5,000 to pilot and improve their product for Zambia’s market and beyond.
Among the 10 selected companies are: Onyx Connect Zambia, which offers a pay-as-you-go scheme that enables low-income earners to access/purchase bicycles, smartphones and solar lights at affordable price; Moti Solutions for Africa, a digital savings and lending product that aims to simplify access to finance through financial inclusion and literacy; and VillageSavers Technologies, which helps village banking groups digitise their financial transactions.
Zambia’s economic performance is seen to have stalled in recent years. In 2019, economic growth declined to 1.4% from 4% (2018), according to the World Bank. With an estimated population of almost 18 million, the landlocked country is one of the world’s youngest by median age.
“For the fintechs, joining the programme is an opportunity that ensures their services are prepared to thrive during the digital era and meet the needs of under-served Zambians. As Zambia’s digital economy grows, we look forward to more fintechs solving challenges for Zambians and enabling them to participate in the digital economy,” said UNCDF data and human-centred design specialist Brian Katimbo.
“This opportunity speaks to entrepreneurs that seek to leverage technology that meet demands and involves people previously excluded from using these services. In FinTech4U, we ask the entrepreneurs to think around leveraging financial services to make sure that every Zambian does have access to financial services,” said BongoHive co-founder and director of entrepreneurship Simunza Muyangana.