Uprising Fintech Startups in Africa

A Case of the SADC Innovation Challenge in Tanzania

Sahara Ventures
4 min readSep 17, 2020


The final pitch day: In-country Finals

The SADC Innovation and Investment Challenge is a competition aimed at supporting the design of innovative technological solutions that promote use and access to financial services, for consumers at the base of the economic pyramid, marginalized populations, and MSMEs.

This challenge has been hosted virtually across countries utilizing in-country facilities. These countries include Tanzania, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia.

The opening call for application to invite the innovators across the 7 countries were opened with the following thematic areas:-

  • SMME Financing
  • Women and Saving
  • Digital Financial Identity
  • Access to basic services

The challenge attracted 242 applications from 7 SADC member states, with Tanzania leading the race with 88 applications in total. The best 27 teams were selected to attend the 7 days Bootcamp and only 20 out of them were fully committed to attending the Bootcamp leaving 7 out. The male participation in the challenge was slightly higher as compared to women, with only 5 female-led teams in the Bootcamp. Lastly, this challenge attracted more the youth group of the age range 19–27.

Bootcamp highlights

Pitching sessions

The pitching sessions helped them to familiarize themselves more with their ideas and be able to present it really quickly and impress the audience and the judges. After the boot camp final pitching, 10 final teams were able to present more viable business ideas and some with the Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) that would allow them to advance to the in-country final stage whereas 4 best teams were selected.

A diverse group of mentors

The mentors involved directly with the SADC innovation challenge participants were of diverse backgrounds and professions in relation to the program thematic areas.

  • Mr. Musa Kamata — He aimed at supporting the participants through the process of perfecting their ideas through a Lean Model Canvas tool.
  • Mr. Jumanne Mtambalike — Helped the attendees to understand their value proposition and their customer needs using the value proposition canvas. He also facilitated a session on the State of the Financial inclusion/Digital Economy.
  • Mr. Emmanuel Senzighe — Supported the participants to understand their customers’ needs as an important element in designing a product using empathy canvas.
  • Mr. Adam Mbyallu — Shared with the participants on Pitch presentation touching all key aspects of the Pitch Including; Pitching skills, pitch presentation, Pitch deck preparation.
  • Mr. Sadick Masomhe — Facilitated a session on the State of the Financial inclusion/Digital Economy: Women and Savings.
  • Mr. Innocent Mallya — Facilitated a session on the State of the Financial inclusion/Digital Economy: focusing on SMME Financing.
  • Mr. Reuben Mbwiga Akilipesa — Facilitated a session on the State of the Financial inclusion/Digital Economy: Access To Basic/Essential Needs. Or.

The final pitch day: In-country Finals

The virtual presentations took 2 days where 10 out of 20 teams were selected to go to the next phase and compete in the in-country finals. The 10 teams include:- Phema Agri, LOKOFIN, LyfPlus, MyHI , AFRICOBA, MFUKO PESA, OKAPI, JOINT PESA, and WaishaMalipo.

The 10 teams that participated in this phase of the competition, were competing for a 1000USD grant, and the price was eligible for the 4 best teams.

With only 4 teams in the ring, two of the four were selected as regional champions representing Tanzania. They won cash prize of 5,000 USD each plus technical support.

Meet the top 4 teams

  • Phema Agri — This team came up with an idea to introduce a digital marketplace for agriculture investment. The platform matches investors looking to make investments in agriculture and grow their money with farmers looking for short term working capital solutions. Additionally, this team is among the two teams from Tanzania that made it to the top 4 regional winners who won 5,000 USD cash prize to start their business.
  • LyfPlus — This team took the initiative of incorporating more subs to their existing products by featuring subscription packages that will allow specific groups of people (e.g. women in savings and credit associations) to buy in installments, through mobile savings providers. Also, they develop an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to allow users with no internet access, subscription to book appointments. Lastly, this team is also among the two teams from Tanzania that made it to the top 4 regional winners who won 5,000 USD cash prize to start their business.
  • MyHI — This team came up with an idea to create a mobile app that merges all insurance procedures and processes to enable users to buy and use health insurance on the app.
  • LOKOFIN — This team came up with an idea of creating an offline-Savings Group platform using AI to deliver credit rating and financial products marketplace for the unbanked population.

What are the learnings?

  • The fact that the Bootcamp was ideally intended to be conducted physically and we managed to run it virtually, has proven that Africa is ready to adopt new ways of doing things if virtual operations happen to be the new normal.
  • The virtual sessions were a success despite the rare connectivity issues which in turn is a calling for responsible stakeholders to look into ways to sort this matter since it might cause a future prospect of some people being left behind as a result of this problem if virtual operations turn to be the new normal.



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