The Digital Finances Lab is an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to serve as an accelerator for African fintech startups and they have recently announced plans to invest USD 200K in four companies.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to invest in companies that are creating products that will improve, simplify, and enrich people’s lives,” said DFS Lab Director Dr. Jake Kendall. “Our current set of portfolio companies are using technology to create solutions for low-income and unbanked populations, providing high-impact advancement. We look forward to seeing these companies grow and encourage others to look at Africa and Asia for investment opportunities.”
According to a press release, DFS Lab’s mandate is to focus on startups that maintain a “focus on consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.” Before choosing the four companies to get funding, DFS screened startups from Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, France, Cameroon and the United States. The startup contenders were taken through an intensive week-long boot camp before choosing four finalists to receive the DFS funding.
The incubator has had an extensive impact on the development of startups in the continent with a hand in the development of startups like Pezesha amongst others.
Alumni of the accelerator have only had words of praise for the progress and milestones achieved under the mentorship of DFS.
“The DFS Lab feels like Y Combinator in 2006. Something is cooking.” Benjamin Fernandes, Founder of NALA, Cohort 3.
The four startups, part of the third cohort of DFS in 2018 are Kenyan based Cherehani Africa, Tanzania based NALA, Nobuntu from South Africa and the fourth although unnamed due to their stealth mode status is also from Kenya.
Cherehani Africa is leveraging mobile-based technology to provide credit and distribute personalized financial literacy content to women and adolescent girls who own micro-enterprises. NALA is building a Venmo-like interface to create a single, unified wallet for Tanzanian smartphone users. Nobuntu is led by a three-man team looking to develop “a community-minded savings product designed to help South Africans prepare for retirement.” The fourth startup on the list, still in “stealth mode,” aims to be the most compliant digital lender in Kenya.