Recently, SWIFT announced that it would expand its Innotribe arm to support innovation in emerging financial technology ecosystems, including those in Africa. This expansion will include a new Industry Challenge, an initiative that will encourage collaboration among members of the SWIFT community in these countries. The goal is to encourage the creation of technical solutions that will advance the financial services industry not just in Africa, but worldwide.
SWIFT’s Innotribe was founded to keep track of emerging trends in financial services technology and help ensure that these innovations have a positive impact on the industry. With the Industry Challenge, the Innotribe team will work closely with SWIFT member organizations to identify opportunities for collaboration and envision the future of financial technology services.
For the second year, Innotribe has also officially extended its Startup Challenge to African companies. The competition welcomes African financial services startups, who will work with the SWIFT African Regional Conference as they ready their products and ideas for the competition.
African Companies in Innotribe’s Startup Challenge
In 2015, Innotribe selected 14 companies from Africa to participate in its Startup Challenge. It was the first time the organization had included African startups in the competition. Altogether, Innotribe received 370 Startup Challenge applications that were judged by more than 500 individuals across the financial, investment, and technology communities. Around 13 percent of the applications came from Africa. A total of 60 startups from around the world were ultimately selected to pitch their ideas before financial services experts, as well as venture capitalists and angel investors, at regional showcases in London, Singapore, New York, and Cape Town.
Of the 14 African startups selected to compete in the Startup Challenge, five were chosen to move on to the finals, where the companies competed for a $50,000 prize. These five highly promising startups were:
- Intelworld: Aiming to create a single platform for payments and e-commerce among businesses in emerging markets, Intelworld makes its solutions available across virtually any device. Businesses who adopt the platform can accept a wide range of payment methods over mobile channels. In addition, the platform provides full integration of business processes for greater automation. The company has also created APIs that businesses can use to build e-commerce applications and monetize their apps.
- Notafy: This South African company has created a bulk messaging app that allows companies to communicate with their customers without incurring high SMS text messaging fees. There are no per-message fees to use the app, which is available for purchase via a subscription plan, and the technology gives brands a dedicated, reliable platform for interacting with their customers.
- YueDiligence: This company offers due diligence automated solutions. Designed for entrepreneurs and investors as well as service providers, YueDiligence offers a wide range of helpful tools, including gap analysis, key action items, and data room management. Gap analysis helps identify major gaps in key functional areas so that users can resolve them quickly. Key action items represent the major steps needed to get businesses or investments closer to end goals. The data room offers an interactive due diligence checklist to reduce uncertainty and encourage informed business and investment decisions.
- 2Quins: The engineers at 2Quins have created the proprietary Green Model product, which uses artificial intelligence inferences to process business data in real time. This information is delivered to the user in a customized format. The company’s engineers also draw on extensive business experience to incorporate various other tools and features that provide additional value for the end user. Overall, Green Model makes business processes simpler and faster so that decision-makers have access to the information they require.
- ZAQ Finance: The experts at ZAQ Finance aim to make finance processes as simple as possible by offering independent advice on various investments, as well as risk solutions and retirement benefit products. The company currently works primarily in South Africa and Namibia and provides valuation of IAS 19 and IFRS 2 employee benefit liabilities.
Africa’s Promise for a Win in 2016
In the end, the five African companies who participated in the SWIFT Innotribe Startup Challenge did not win the final prize in 2015. The final event was held in Singapore, and American startup Hyperledger walked away with the grand prize. In 2016, however, Africa has a great chance of claiming the top prize. In 2014, Africa was not an officially recognized region in the competition, and the total number of African applicants totaled only a single percent of all applications that year. Considering that that figure increased to 13 percent in the 2015 Challenge, it will be exciting to see how many African startups enter the competition this coming year and what unique solutions they bring to the financial services sector. Africa has emerged as a leader in the financial services industry, especially in terms of digital money exchange, and the applications of this technology are seemingly endless.