Rwanda: Startups Awarded in Inaugural Financial Technology Competition

Three local startups have scooped a total of $6,000 (about Rwf5 million) at the inaugural ‘DataHacks4Fi competition’, which took place in Kigali on Friday.

The three winners are; Hellojob that emerged the first and walked away with a $2,500; UPlus, the first runner-up that scooped $2,000; and MVend, which emerged third and were awarded $1,500.

The three emerged winners over seven others that had reached semi-finals of the competition that, among others, aimed at leveraging technology to deepen financial inclusion in the country.

Prior to selecting the winners, all the ten contestants pitched their ideas and a group of the jury came up with three finalists basing on varied criteria, including the relevance of the ideas, the scalability and how sustainable they are.

Organised by the ICT Chamber in partnership with Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR), the awarding ceremony was graced by different officials from the ICT sector, financial institutions, and was presided over by the Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean-Philbert Nsengimana.

The minister congratulated the winners and encouraged those who never made it in to the final to continue developing their ideas, using the available resources which he said the government has put in place.

He also told them that the fintech industry has great potential for the future of Rwanda’s economic growth, which he said young people should take advantage of.

“In my time, we didn’t have all these opportunities of trying out new things. By 2025, we want to bring a unicorn in this country and this is really possible with all the great ideas you the young people are creating. We are not naive by the size of the ambition and we know it’s going to happen in less than 10 years,” the minister told the contestants.

Highlighting the government and the private sector plans to launch a $100m Innovation Fund, Nsengimana noted that the future of fintech is good and the industry itself is rapidly growing.

Promoting financial inclusion

The ‘DataHacks4Fi Competition’ of which 4Fi means ‘For Financial inclusion’, is part of other series of competitions that will be bringing together data specialists (analysts and software developers) and financial service providers to leverage tools and technologies for crowdsourcing data-driven solutions to real-world problems.

Alex Ntale, the director of the ICT Chamber at the Private Sector Federation, said that the competition also seeks to build an ecosystem of tech providers who are creating solutions for financially excluded population of Rwanda but with scalability to the rest of Africa.

“We have less than 40 per cent banked population today. What we are looking for are the solutions from these young people that can bridge the existing gap. It’s just beyond the competition. We want new products that will be added to the financial services menu,” he said.

The competition was launched in November last year, and 38 applicants submitted their entries. Later, 20 teams were chosen and given a two-week intensive training but judges had to remain with 10 finalists who went through a two-month mentorship.

Meanwhile, Martial Batangana, of Hellojob, which emerged the winner, said that he wants to use the money to expand his business idea.

Hellojob connects the handymen (plumbers, cleaners, electricians, maids, carpenters, etc) to job opportunities using a web portal and their handsets.

“Currently, there’s no link between technical job seekers and employers. There’s no way they can even keep track of their records, that being trusted by employees is a challenge. We want to be their solution,” he said.

The competition aimed at promoting collaboration between innovators in Rwanda and financial service providers.

It was open to innovative minds across the country from university students, young innovators, and software developers, data Scientists, to statisticians and institutions with interest in data and new data trends leading to development of financial inclusion.

Source: The New Times

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