World Bank awards 10 Southern African fintech startups $5,000 each

10 Southern African fintech startups have each received $5,000 (R94,020) from the World Bank to help bridge the gap in financial access for innovative emerging companies in underserved communities.

The award was part of a Fintech Challenge aimed at helping underserved entrepreneurs in the region get their businesses investment ready to boost their access to markets, improve business networks and open up new investment opportunities. It was part of the ecosystem development initiatives under the Southern Africa Innovation Bridge Portal supported by the World Bank to crowd-source new and impactful ways to utilise the latest innovations in fintech.

The Innovation Bridge Portal Entrepreneur Community is an initiative of the Department of Science and Innovation / Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in partnership with the Department of Small Business Development. The initiative is establishing a digital platform for innovation, collaboration, co-creation, knowledge sharing, and matchmaking amongst ecosystem actors in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, eSwatini, and Lesotho.

“The region’s most innovative and impactful fintech companies unveiled their solutions to enable greater financial access to the poor, after an eight-week investment readiness program which included masterclasses and mentoring,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nellie, World Bank Country Director for Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa. “Of the 15 participating startups, 10 were awarded financing. These businesses are investment ready and now eager to engage further with interested investors.”

The startups included Abela , Bento Technologies, Fintr, Moya Money, Sum1 Investments, Thumeza from South Africa Chaperone, Prime Capital and Prime Capital from Lesotho, FundRoof  from Namibia as well as  Ipachi Capital from Botswana

The Fintech Challenge’s key objective is to provide underserved entrepreneurs with access to markets, business networks, and investment opportunities. The training helped the startups to better engage with investors and enhance their chances of successful capital raising. All the entrepreneurs have businesses that have notable traction and are now ready to grow and engage with pre-seed and seed investors.

Awelani Ruhalani, Deputy Chair of the Intergovernmental Fintech Working Group (IFWG) said. “To date, over 170 fintechs have had regulatory guidance from the IFWG. There has been such high interest in the sandbox process that we have changed the approach from testing specific cohorts to a rolling approach. In other words, applications for the sandbox are always open,”

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs provided funding for the Fintech Challenge. “South Africa’s financial services sector is well regarded and we are thrilled to be actively promoting fintech in partnership with the World Bank. There are many untapped opportunities to be explored,” said Marino Cuenat, Deputy Head of Mission for the Embassy of Switzerland.

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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech and African startups. Founder and Editor of TechTrends Media. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to

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