Johannesburg, 17 July 2023−Ten innovative Southern African start-ups received awards for their solutions to bridge the gap in financial access for underserved communities. The Fintech Challenge was part of the ecosystem development initiatives under the Southern Africa Innovation Bridge Portal supported by the World Bank to crowd-source new and impactful ways to utilise the latest innovations in fintech. The initiative is aimed at providing low-cost and appropriate savings and de-risking products for the low- and middle-income market and lending solutions for SMEs.

“The region’s most innovative and impactful fintech companies unveiled their solutions to enable greater financial access to the poor, after an eight-week investment readiness program which included masterclasses and mentoring,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nellie, World Bank Country Director for Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa“Of the 15 participating startups, 10 were awarded financing. These businesses are investment ready and now eager to engage further with interested investors.”

The ten Southern African start-ups were each awarded $5,000 (almost R100 000) to get their businesses investment ready at a recent awards event. The Fintech Challenge’s key objective is to provide underserved entrepreneurs with access to markets, business networks, and investment opportunities. The training helped the start-ups to better engage with investors and enhance their chances of successful capital raising. All the entrepreneurs have businesses that have notable traction and are now ready to grow and engage with pre-seed and seed investors.

The Innovation Bridge Portal Entrepreneur Community is an initiative of the Department of Science and Innovation / Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in partnership with the Department of Small Business Development. The initiative is establishing a digital platform for innovation, collaboration, co-creation, knowledge sharing, and matchmaking amongst ecosystem actors in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, eSwatini, and Lesotho.

Said Awelani RuhalaniDeputy Chair of the Intergovernmental Fintech Working Group (IFWG), at the awards event. “To date, over 170 fintechs have had regulatory guidance from the IFWG. There has been such high interest in the sandbox process that we have changed the approach from testing specific cohorts to a rolling approach. In other words, applications for the sandbox are always open,”

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs provided funding for the Fintech Challenge“South Africa’s financial services sector is well regarded and we are thrilled to be actively promoting fintech in partnership with the World Bank. There are many untapped opportunities to be explored,” said Marino Cuenat, Deputy Head of Mission for the Embassy of Switzerland.

The following start-ups received awards:


Country: South Africa

abela is a mobile payments company building an ecosystem to enable people to digitally send, receive, use, and save money, creating access to the most basic of financial services. The platform is cost-effective and easy to use, providing customers with financial autonomy and security.

Founders: Tom DavidAmery Winter and Hayley Knol

Abela pitch video

Bento Technologies

Country: South Africa

Bento is a holistic and affordable employee benefits platform that aims to transform an antiquated industry that has failed to support customers with personalized solutions. Bento puts the power in employees’ hands, enabling them to choose, manage, and own their benefits, giving them access to financial and wellness products while guiding them to achieve future financial security. Bento makes the employer’s task of looking after employees much easier and more cost-effective, resulting in happier, more productive employees.

Founders: Claudia Snyman and Dennis Williams

Bento Technologies pitch video


Country: South Africa

Fintr is a gamified platform that allows teens to learn about finances, apply what they learn in a safe environment and be rewarded for their decisions.

Founders: Danei Rall and Elijah Djan

Fintr pitch video

Moya Money

Country: South Africa

Moya Money solves administrative issues that businesses face in working with African freelancers. Moya Money is a platform that simplifies businesses’ financial operations to manage and pay African freelancers, ensuring they get paid on time, every time. The mission is to make self-employment sustainable in Africa, where remote freelancing is expected to grow exponentially.
Founders: Thulani Masebenza and Sabica Pardesi

Moya Money pitch video

Sum1 Investments

Country: South Africa

Sum1 Investments is a short-term investment stokvel that enables low-middle-income consumers to invest in easy-to-understand assets in their communities to create above-market returns to help them reach their financial goals.

Founder: Kurhula Baloyi

Sum1 Investments pitch video


Country: South Africa

Thumeza uses smart contracts to provide access to credit to small-scale transporters active in the supply chain sector.

Founders: Gugulethu Siso and Tebogo Manakana

Thumeza pitch video


Country: Lesotho

Chaperone is solving the challenge of financial exclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa by working with corporates to digitize their ecosystems. Chaperone develops tailor-made digital financial solutions for corporations and governments with the goal of better serving and ensuring access to financial services for SMEs that form part of clients’ ecosystems.

Founder: Mohau Mochebelele

Chaperone pitch video


Country: Namibia

FundRoof is Africa’s mortgage game-changer, connecting home buyers, lenders, and developers in one integrated housing platform. The mission is to extend access to finance for the millions of homebuyers across the region, while empowering lenders and developers with leads and conversion tools.

Founders: Samuel Akinin and Carlos Campos

FundRoof pitch video

Ipachi Capital

Country: Botswana

Ipachi is an AI-powered app that seamlessly creates financial reports in real-time that small businesses can use to prove their creditworthiness and get access to credit.

Founder: Shine Chivia

Ipachi Capital pitch video

Prime Capital

Country: Lesotho

Prime Capital is a microfinance institution that provides access to capital for SMEs in Lesotho. It aims to help high-growth businesses achieve their full potential by offering flexible financing solutions tailored to their needs, and in turn, drive economic growth and job creation in the local economy.

Founders: Nini Rose Moru and Tekane Ledimo

Prime Capital pitch video

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Ibn Bacar
A dedicated editor spotlighting African startups, investments, technologies, and the expansive innovation landscape. With a keen eye for transformative stories and a passion for Africa's entrepreneurial spirit, Bacar expertly curates a platform that not only celebrates the continent's innovators and their breakthroughs but also delves into the intricate foundation of Africa's burgeoning innovation ecosystem.


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