In a feat which has all the makings of an unprecedented coup, four Kenyan startups have been named in the final ten of the 2018 edition of the prestigious Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion. This announcement was made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Legatum Center and MasterCard Foundation.
Since coming into existence in 2015, the competition which is committed to recognizing and unearthing some of the most promising and innovative early-stage startups that are making significant strides in the area of promoting and advancing financial inclusion on the continent has remained resolute in its pursuit of excellence. And it is poised to deliver even more ‘diamonds-in-the-rough’ with its latest edition which promises up to USD 200 K in prizes for the participating startups.
The four Kenyan startups that not only made the cut but are also looking to dominate proceedings having led the rest of the top ten are Apollo Agriculture, Bidhaa Sasa, FarmDrive, and Tulaa. The rest of the top ten is made up of the likes of South Africa’s LanteOTC and Wala, Ghana’s Farmerline and OZE, and the duo of RecyclePoints and MaTontine from Nigeria and Senegal respectively.
As pointed out in the earlier published H1 2018 African Startup Funding Report put together by WeeTracker, figures in the current financial year have already eclipsed the mark set in the whole of the previous year, as the African startup landscape has raked in a sizeable USD 168.6 Mn in funding since the turn of the year, with over 20 startups boasting USD 1 Mn or more in raised funds.
As the report indicates, while the Nigerian startup scene may have attracted most number of deals (29) out of the 120 deals that were closed during the period under review, the Kenyan startup climate actually takes the cake as the valuation of the deals recorded and funds amassed in the East African nation’s tech ecosystem far outweighs that of Africa’s most populous black nation, posing a remarkable USD 82.86 Mn against the USD 29.41 Mn from their West African counterparts.
Throw that in with the current development and it affords further evidence to the notion that the East African ecosystem and the Kenyan startup scene, in particular, might just be the dark horses that have not only come to punch above their weight but also take everyone else by surprise by securing pole position in the proceedings. Having four Kenyan startups selected as part of the final ten and more remarkably, in the first four, is a feat in its own right which gives further testament to the fast-paced and far-reaching growth that the ecosystem is currently witnessing, whilst underlying its position in the African entrepreneurial landscape.
To perhaps further buttress this point, Apollo Agriculture is a Kenyan startup that is in the business of making high-quality inputs available to small Kenyan farmers on credit, as well as enhancing their operations by providing them with crop insurance and voice-based training. The agritech startup was also recently reported by WeeTracker as having secured an investment of USD 500 K from Dutch FMO and Rabobank Foundation.
More so, Kenyan agritech/fintech startup, Tulaa; the creation of Hillary Miller-Wise, was also recently covered by WeeTracker as having raised USD 627 K in seed funding from AHL Venture Partners and other investors. The startup is known to offer assistance to smallholder farmers through the utilization of mobile technology with a view to promoting self-sufficiency and economic independence.
FarmDrive is a platform which provides alternative credit-scoring for smallholder farmers. It does this by using mobile phones, alternative data, and machine learning to close the critical gap that prevents financial institutions from lending to credit-worthy smallholder farmers. Bidhaa Sasa, on the other hand, is a startup that is driven by the vision of improving the quality of life of families in rural Kenya by making technology goods accessible and affordable to the underserved and unbanked.
These four Kenyan startups will now join other finalists and they will all have the opportunity to meet with leaders from the MIT and African tech ecosystems in an event tagged; the 2018 MIT Open Mic Africa Summit, slated for August 28th and 29th, in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. And they might just go all the way.
Some of the perks that are expected to accompany the latest edition of the competition are a Grand Prize of USD 100 K for the winning startup, USD 30 K for two runner-ups, as well as cash prizes of USD 5 K for the seven remaining finalists, amongst a number of other benefits and rewards.
With the current development, Kenya is staking a claim as a force to be reckoned with on the African startup scene. This trend, if continued, should see the country remain on the right trajectory towards socio-economic emancipation.
Image Source: cio.co.ke