Nala, a Tanzanian Payment App emerged winner of the recently concluded Ecobank Fintech Challenge 2018 in Togo’s capital Lome. The winning team led by Nala’s founder and CEO Benjamin Fernandes took the top prize of USD 10k in addition to being admitted to the club of Ecobank Fintech Fellows. This win for Nala also opens the possibility of partnering with Ecobank to access their vast market presence in Africa. Nala which in Swahili means “I’m eating” has already enjoyed 10,000 downloads from google playstore proving admirable early traction from users.
Tanzania in 2014 led other East African countries in allowing interoperability of mobile payments without which Nala’s business model would have proven difficult to achieve. Nala’s unique feature is its ability to provide a seamless app without internet connection giving it offline functionality. As reported on their blog, they also did numerous user interviews to offer a solution that solves a user’s unique problems.
This is the second year that Ecobank is sponsoring this Fintech Challenge which was designed in partnership with the advisory firm Konfidants. According to the CEO of Ecobank Ade Ayeyemi “We, at Ecobank, believe that the current winds of change led by technology and innovation will redefine how banks do business, and indeed the relationships people have with their money. We want to be at the forefront of this change, in partnership with Africa’s rising start-ups, and that is why we created the Ecobank Fintech Challenge.” Nigeria’s Wallet.ng took the second position and the third slot went to South Africa’s Virtual Identity winning USD 7k and USD 5k respectively.
All three winners are believed to benefit from multinational product roll-out support; for the start-ups deemed commercially viable to grow their businesses across any of Ecobank’s 33 markets in Africa. They can also expect service provider & ecosystem partner deals; for startups with deep capabilities to become product partners within Ecobank’s ecosystem. In addition, they are entitled to technical & mentoring support: during the six months fellowship period, fellows will benefit from technical support from Ecobank’s global network of technology leaders, fintech experts, investors, and management coaches.
Nala’s win proves that financial services that use technology to deepen service availability across diverse users are still a viable enterprise in East Africa.