Wala awarded 2018 Zambezi Prize for innovation in financial inclusion

wala 31Wala wins 2018 Zambezi Prize for innovation in financial inclusion. (Image source: Legatum Centre for Development and Entrepreneurship)The Legatum Centre for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with support from the Mastercard Foundation, has named South African startup Wala as the grand prize winner of the 2018 Zambezi Prize for Innovation in financial inclusion

The announcement came during the Open Mic Africa Summit in Nairobi on 29 August 2018.

Wala is a mobile financial platform geared toward consumers operating outside the formal financial system. Using a blockchain system, it enables zero-fee, instant, borderless micro-payments for emerging market consumers. Through the Wala platform, users receive a cryptocurrency wallet and can access transactional banking, remittances, loans and insurance.

Wala was chosen from among 10 finalists for the Zambezi Prize. All of them joined leaders from the MIT and African tech ecosystems for the 2018 MIT Open Mic Africa Summit at Strathmore University in Nairobi. The summit, featuring cohort-building, panel discussions and MIT hackathon exercises, culminated in the announcement of Wala as the US$100,000 grand prize winner. Tulaa (Kenya) and RecyclePoints (Nigeria) each won US$30,000 as runners-up.

The seven remaining finalists won US$5,000 each. They are Apollo Agriculture (Kenya), Bidhaa Sasa (Kenya), FarmDrive (Kenya), Farmerline (Ghana), LanteOTC (South Africa), MaTontine (Senegal), and OZÉ (Ghana).

An additional US$5,000 will be awarded to an African entrepreneur—to be named later this year—who has demonstrated great leadership in unifying Africa’s tech ecosystem.

“Innovators like Wala and the other Zambezi finalists are vital to driving a more inclusive prosperity,” said Georgina Campbell Flatter, executive director of the MIT Legatum Centre.

All 10 Prize finalists will attend the Zambezi boot camp on the MIT campus during the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) gala in Boston from 5-9 November. As the Zambezi Prize winner, Wala also won the IIC Africa Prize in the Financial Inclusion category. The startup will join the three other winners of the IIC Africa Prize, to represent Africa at the IIC global tournament which awards more than US$1mn in prizes. The IIC event is part of the MIT Initiative on the digital economy and, along with the MIT Legatum Centre’s initiatives, exemplifies MIT’s global commitment to the future of work.

Past Zambezi finalists include Kifiya, PlusPeople, MFS Africa, Tugende, Chamasoft, Nomanini, First Access, AgriLife, M-Changa and mJara. Several attended this year’s Open Mic Africa Summit to engage with the new cohort.

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