The Ecobank Fintech Challenge, previous editions of which were won by Tanzania’s Nala and Nigeria’s IroFit, was open to submissions from all startups and developers in any of Africa’s 54 countries.
After a competitive process, 10 finalists were eventually selected from a pool of over 600 applicants. Each of these finalists have been inducted into the Ecobank Fintech Fellowship, a one-year programme which will give them the opportunity to explore opportunities for commercial partnerships with the bank, but three of them walked away with cash prizes after a virtual pitch event last week.
The overall winner was Ghana’s Nokwary, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to promote financial inclusion. The startup’s banking solution offers an opportunity for users to carry out transactions in their own language using popular social media channels like WhatsApp, and secured US$10,000 in prize money from Ecobank.
Second place and US$7,000 went to South Africa’s Ukheshe, which has developed a card acceptance platform that allows unbanked merchants to accept and make digital payments, while third position and US$5,000 went to another South African company – Growth Factor, which provides trade financing solutions designed for MSMEs.
Ecobank Group chief executive officer (CEO) Ade Ayeyemi congratulated the winners and welcomed all the 2020 fellows.
“The quality of the products and pitches we saw in the final this year were amazing. Clearly it is evident that banking in Africa is moving onto a new dimension with these fintechs leading the way. That is why we are so proud to have had them in this year’s competition and are excited to engage further with them over the next year. It is our expectation that we will build a few lasting partnerships which will help improve the lives of Africans all over the continent,” he said.
Nokwary CEO and co-founder Dennis Asamoah Owusu said his team was excited to have been named overall winner.
“Our company is rather young and to be recognised like this on such a stage was really exciting as well as a validation for our focus on creating inclusive technology right from the start. It is also very encouraging to note that a major bank like Ecobank places such a premium on inclusion and is willing to back and promote innovative and cutting-edge technologies towards that purpose. We are looking to work together with Ecobank to bring an AI-first digital banking platform over WhatsApp, as well as other innovative solutions to Ecobank’s customers,” he said.