This article was sponsored by Ecobank
At the end of a nearly two-hour presentation of their applications in front of a warm and enthusiastic audience and the panel of judges, the Koree team took the first prize in the pan-African competition, worth $50,000.
The Makuta innovation from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) came second with a prize of $10,000, Flexpay Technologies from Kenya was awarded third place with $5,000.
Launched in 2017, Ecobank Fintech Challenge offers the largest cash prize in Africa for such an award, and brings together fintechs, regulators, investors, financial institutions, globally-focused technology companies, technology hubs, entrepreneurs and experts in Africa’s fast-growing financial sector.
Koree, an application that creates electronic wallets using loyalty cards to remedy the shortage of small change in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa, digitises payments to merchants, while empowering consumers through a system of incentive rewards.
Its application allows consumers to create loyalty cards which are used as wallets when there is a lack of change at the checkout of a store or supermarket.
Jeremy Awori, Ecobank Group CEO, praised the creative zeal of the three winners and eight finalists after the verdict.
“The competition was tough, and we’re proud of the digital innovations that came to fruition during this 2023 final. One of these applications is sure to become a global fintech giant in the years to come. I’m even more delighted that the top prize went to an African-led company. The 2024 edition will be even better in its organisation”, Awori said.
Call for even more female applicants
At the start of the 2023 finals , Awori made a vibrant plea to increase the representation of African women in the fintech ecosystem.
“We strongly encourage female applications for future editions. Three women have been finalists in the last six editions, and we’d like to see more female candidates involved in this competition, as well as in Ecobank’s ‘Ellevate program’, which supports female entrepreneurship in Africa”, he said.
Winner Koree aims to use its victory to by working with Ecobank around services and partnership) with a view to penetrating other digital markets.
“In particular, we’re planning to deploy in the DRC, which is a big market, and look to other French-speaking markets as part of our expansion”, Gauze-Sanga said.
The biggest year yet
A total of 1,490 fintechs applied for the 2023 edition, from 64 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Officially kicking off the competition on October 6, Cina Lawson, Togolese Minister for the Digital Economy and Transformation, said she was “impressed by the quality of the innovations proposed by the 8 finalist fintechs”.
“Many of these start-ups are proposing solutions that will be very useful for our countries in the future. The originality of the solutions proposed in 2023 is that they meet specific needs. We need to think about supporting these innovations and the start-ups behind them, through tax incentives for example”, she said.
Awori said that sixth edition of the Ecobank Fintech Challenge coincided with the celebration of the 38th anniversary of the creation of Ecobank, “and is a valid part of our banking group’s vision. The number of applications received for this competition in 2023 underlines Africa’s ability to provide African solutions to African problems”
Dr Tomisin Fashina, group director of operations and technology at Ecobank, said the challenge aims to be as impactful as possible.
“Let’s always keep in mind that the real reward of this competition lies in the positive repercussions that the applications created by innovators produce in the daily lives of individuals, SMEs and other spheres of the African economy”, he said.
The finale also hosted networking sessions, meetings with potential investors and debates around regulation in the fintech ecosystem in Africa.
The event attracted the support of a range of sponsors, including Arise (for the second year running) the multinational Huawei, Asky Airlines and Proparco (the technical arm of the French Development Agency).