Yesterday at the Fairview Hotel the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation announced the winners of the Zambezi Prize competition. The Zambezi Prize raises awareness about entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, encouraging a wide spectrum of financial inclusion ventures to participate in the competition. The winning projects demonstrated innovation, potential for impact, a keenness to drive financial sustainability and scalability.
The overall winner was Umati Capital from Kenya which was awarded USD 100,000 for their start-up venture that focuses on the provision of credit and related payment technologies. Munyutu Waigi of Umati said that the money would be used to finance inputs for farmers and also to sustain business operations.
Kifiya from Ethopia won the second prize of USD 50,000. Kifiya is a digital finance and payment services provider, delivering customer centric products to simplify transactions. Tugende from Uganda, whose project focuses on breaking the poverty cycle for motorcycle taxi drivers in Africa by providing an affordable and transparent lease-to-own option, won USD 25,000 setting them at third place.
Five countries namely, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa produced the 11 finalists that were recognized in yesterday’s event. Six of those who were selected were from Kenya. The finalists underscore the diversity of entrepreneurs in the competition.
Six of the selected projects are from Kenya and are representative of a broad range of platforms and services present in the finance industry. Other finalists were as follows;
• Chamasoft (Kenya) • First Access (Tanzania) • Nomanini (South Africa) • MFS Africa • Pluspeople (Kenya) • Agrilife (Kenya) • M-Changa (Kenya) • F3 Life (Kenya)
Speaking during the ceremony, the Legatum Center’s Assistant Director of Programs Elizabeth Henry said,
“We are aware that many financial service providers have been slow to develop appropriate products and services that are inclusive of marginalized groups. Hence our commitment to support innovative ideas such as these, that have the potential to grow to scale and more importantly, have a deep social impact throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
Entrepreneurs, who understand the needs of people in low-income countries, are essential in developing scalable and sustainable solutions to bring about broad-based prosperity. Through this competition, we are raising awareness of how entrepreneurs can do this in financial inclusion. ”
The Zambezi Prize supports entrepreneurial ventures in financial inclusion which have progressed beyond concept, demonstrating evidence of factors such as customers, revenues, business registration, patent, working prototypes, institutional funding or formal employees. These projects include – but are not limited to – electronic payment systems, customer-centered payment plans, new financial products, or mobile banking instruments.
The select group of finalists will also participate in a seminar (boot camp) sponsored by the Legatum Center at MIT in Cape Town in November 2015. This forum will present them with an opportunity to engage with a global entrepreneurial ecosystem and learn from experts in the financial inclusion field.