The financial services sector is currently witnessing the emergence of technologies that have the potential to offer new and innovative financial services. It has been widely recognized that financial technology (FinTech) may be an important driving force to effective competition, consumer choice and innovation in the financial industry.
Eswatini has a unique opportunity to “leapfrog” redundant and inferior eras of technological advancement, and address financial challenges, especially for the unbanked rural population. In this regard, the Central Bank of Eswatini (CBE) in partnership with the Royal Science and Technology Park (RSTP), the Eswatini Communications Commission (ESCCOM) and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) have taken the initiative to stimulate financial sector innovations through the CBE Fintech Challenge.
About the challenge
The CBE Fintech Challenge incentivizes the adoption of emerging technologies and encourages collaboration between regulators, incubators and fintechs to modernize the financial industry in Eswatini.
The challenge aims to achieve the following objectives:
- To encourage and accelerate innovation in the financial sector.
- To incentivize the adoption of the latest financial technology.
- To explore offline (dead-zones) payment solutions.
- To promote collaboration in the local financial industry ecosystem.
- To reduce the costs of regulatory compliance for existing and new entrants.
- To obtain input to inform regulatory reforms to meet the demands of fintech environments.
Scope Of Interest
The CBE Fintech Challenge invited financial technology startups, teams and individuals to come up with innovative, novel, exciting, impactful and viable solutions for the listed themes:
- Social Finance: Technology driven solutions to help underbanked customer groups get better access to affordable financial services and products.
- Digital on boarding: Solutions that address remote or digital verification of customers.
- Digital Payment Solutions: Solutions to help Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) accept affordable, faster and easier digital payments (particularly engaging the underbanked population).
- Remittances: Solutions to deliver secure and faster transfers within Eswatini and across borders at affordable rates.
- Offline Mobile Payments: Solutions that leverage on technology to enable customers to carry out mobile financial transactions without internet connectivity (Dead Zones).
- Savings: Technological solutions that help people and MSMEs start saving and plan for the future.
- InsureTech: Technology driven solutions to offer and manage insurance products.
- Borrowing and Credit: Solutions to improve access to credit, and help customers understand and better manage credit.
- RegTech: Solutions to facilitate the delivery of regulatory requirements.
- Cyber Security: IT solutions against cyber-attacks in the financial sector.
- Wild card: Develop a solution to a problem in the fintech space that inspires you.
Submissions will be evaluated for creativity and novelty, technical sophistication and business merit. The judges are experts in the technology and finance industry.
Applications will be judged on the following criteria:
- Sustainability, integration and scalability of product or service.
- Impact on the financially excluded and under-banked population (finclusion).
- Underlying technology, feasibility and effectiveness of solution.
- Time proposed for completion of prototype.
What Is On Offer?
Thirty (30) shortlisted teams will attend a 4 day Bootcamp training on starting a business, innovation and financial regulation. Participants will be awarded with certificates of attendance upon successful completion of the training.
Top Ten (10) Finalist
The top 10 finalist will enjoy the following benefits prior to the final selection:
- Coaching and training by industry specialists.
- Guidance on the regulatory framework relevant for your product(s) from the CBE, RSTP, ESCCOM and FSRA.
- Technical expert advice on programming and software development.
- An opportunity to meet financial industry executives and potential investors.
- A cash prize of SZL 5 000 each, to help further develop your product.
- A Samsung Galaxy Tablet each, to assist towards developing your idea.
- Marketing opportunities at the CBE fintech conference.
Grand Prize: Three (3) Winners
The top three (3) winners will receive the following benefits:
- 12 months internet connectivity subscription each, worth a combined SZL 28 800.
- A cash prize of SZL 16 600 each, to help further develop your product.
- A business incubation program consisting of office space, business development services, technical advice and market entry support, worth over SZL 140 000 per team member per year.
- An opportunity to enter the CBE Regulatory Sandbox.
The deadline for applications was September 14 and we closed with 82 applications, 37% more than the initial target of 60. Swati students within and outside the country (as far as UK) submitted great ideas. Swati led start-ups, teams of young professionals and experienced business personnel also submitted outstanding technology-anchored financial services delivery proposals.
We received applications from a diverse range of start-ups, teams and individuals, both Swati and none Swati. Twenty (20) applicants made it through the first round of judging. The 20 participants attended a five-day Bootcamp where they received training on innovation, business planning, financial regulation, telecommunications regulation and software development to support them further develop their ideas.
We received ideas aimed at addressing multiple gaps and taking advantages of opportunities in the financial services sector. The proposed solutions target improving customer experience, providing alternative access to financial services and digital infrastructure for informal marketplaces and Fintech support for SMEs and the main sectors of the economy.
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