Kenyan startup Umati Capital wins $100k Zambezi Prize

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Kenyan startup Umati Capital, which uses innovative technologies to revolutionise access to finance, has won the annual Zambezi Prize for financial inclusion, walking away with US$100,000 in prize money.

Organised by the MasterCard Foundation and the Legatum Centre at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Zambezi Prize awards US$200,000 annually to support ventures that contribute to financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The prize seeks to raise awareness of entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, encourages the flow of capital to financial inclusion ventures, and advances entrepreneurship and financial inclusion to fuel broad-based prosperity.

Umati Capital, which launched in September 2012 and is a non-bank financial institution focused on the provision of credit and related payment technologies, came out on top to take home US$100,000 in prize money, while four other African startups shared the remaining US$100,000.

First runner-up was Ethiopia’s Kifiya Financial Technology, a digital finance and payment services provider which delivers customer centric products to simplify transactions, while Ugandan startup Tugende, which provides an affordable lease-to-own option for motorcycle taxi drivers in Africa, was second runner-up.

Sharing the position of joint third runner-up were South African mobile point of sale (PoS) solution Nomanini and another Kenyan startup, Uhasibu, which provides an online accounting system aimed at SMEs.

“Uhasibu is very proud to announce that we were named third runner-up and were awarded US$6,500 as cash prize. We are very grateful to the Zambezi Prize sponsors for the opportunity and recognition of our work towards improving financial inclusion in East Africa,” Uhasibu said.

The finalists had participated in an MIT-sponsored bootcamp to take advantage of MIT’s unparallelled entrepreneurial ecosystem and engage with experts in the fields of entrepreneurship and financial inclusion.

“All the finalists for the Zambezi prize were well selected and we were honoured to be among them. It was great to see the African fintech ecosystem maturing as companies start to specialise on the niches that are large in the Pan-African context,” Nomanini chief executive officer (CEO) Vahid Monadjem told Disrupt Africa.

“The most important part of these competitions is being able to connect with a peer group of entrepreneurs. These markets are severely underserved and it will take a group effort to really move the needle. We look forward to collaborating and growing with the friends that we made at Zambezi.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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