South African startup, Wala, has been named the winner of the 2018 Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion; an initiative that is the result of concerted efforts between the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Mastercard Foundation.
During the announcement which was made at the 2018 MIT Open Mic Africa Summit at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, on Wednesday, the South African team emerged winners of this year’s Zambezi Prize as one of ten finalists drawn from various African countries.
On the backs of its offering which is a blockchain technology-enabled financial platform that is designed to cater to the needs of customers operating outside the formal financial system, Wala was adjudged to have merited the award which also came with a grand prize of USD 100 K in funding.
The zero-fee, instant, borderless micro-payments served up by the platform with emerging markets in mind appears to have caught the attention of the judges which included industry leaders from the MIT and the African tech ecosystem. The solution offered by Wala enables users to receive and access transactional banking, remittances, loans, and insurance.
The Summit which featured cohort-building, panel discussions, and MIT hackathon exercises, also rewarded Kenyan startup, Tulaa, as well as their Nigerian counterparts, RecyclePoints, with USD 30 K apiece for finishing as runners-up.
The seven remaining finalists; Apollo Agriculture (Kenya), Bidhaa Sasa (Kenya), FarmDrive (Kenya), Farmerline (Ghana), LanteOTC (South Africa), MaTontine (Senegal), and OZE (Ghana), were each awarded USD 5 K for their efforts, with an additional USD 5 K set aside for one African entrepreneur – to be named this year – who has played a vital leadership role in bringing together Africa’s tech ecosystem.
All 10 finalists will be afforded the opportunity to attend the Zambezi boot camp on the MIT campus during the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) gala slated for Boston, this November.
As part of the perks that come with their triumph in, Wala are also winners of the IIC Africa Prize in the Financial Inclusion category. The platform will now represent Africa at the IIC global tournament, alongside three other winners of the IIC Africa Prize, where they will fancy their chances of winning over USD 1 Mn in Prizes. Being part of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and the MIT Legatum Center initiatives, the IIC is an event which also brings the commitment of the MIT to the future of work to the fore.
The Zambezi Prize and the Open Mic Africa tour are key elements of the strategy of the Legatum Center for Africa; a global vision to improve lives through principled entrepreneurial leadership facilitated by tapping into the MIT’s ecosystem. The Legatum Center’s strategy for Africa is also a vital component of the MIT Africa initiative which highlights collaborations with the continent as a global priority.