The Sierra Leone Fintech Challenge 2017 was announced at an event on June 15th. The challenge is a jointly funded initiative by the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), the Financial Sector Deepening in Africa (FSDA) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). Salton Massally, the CTO of iDT Labs and representative of the Fintech Association of Sierra Leone, was also present at the launch to highlight the importance of this challenge and encourage participation.

The idea behind the Fintech Challenge is to invite local Sierra Leonean businesses, particularly banks, microfinance service providers, and technology companies, to come up with fresh and innovative ways as to how technology can be used to make financial services more inclusive and accessible for the unbanked segment of the country. This segment makes up about 87% of the population and comprises of agriculture workers, small business owners, women, the youth and marginalized communities.

The challenge will proceed in 3 rounds. In the first round, 3 entries will be selected and provided $13,000 to test and strengthen their proposed solutions. In the second round, 2 of the entries will be selected to present their solutions to UNCDF and FSDA. In the final round, the successful team will be awarded an investment of $100,000 to pilot test and scale their solution. According to Joe Abbas Bangura, country director of FSDA and Chairman of iDT Labs, the winning solution must be for the benefit of and operated mostly by Sierra Leoneans, but strategic partnerships with other parties are permissible.

Speaking on behalf of the Fintech Association of Sierra Leone, Salton Massally said:

“As an association, we see this challenge as not only a chance for us to further innovate along our value chain but also as a means to promote awareness and attract new stakeholders to this impactful and profitable sector. We exist to give the sector a voice amongst policy makers, support our members, and raise awareness of the sector.

I challenge all fintech organizations to set aside the common practice of working in islands and join forces to promote common goals.”

In lieu of the Fintech Challenge, Massally and the Fintech Association plan to engage all members of the fintech sector in dialogue, conduct sessions with the SLAMFI and Association of Commercial Banks to identify and partner on common interests and goals, and work with policy makers to ensure that they have a say in legislation regarding financial developments in the country.

If you are interested in learning more about this challenge, read this detailed concept description by BSL and FSDA here. You can also read about the Financial Inclusion Strategy 2017-2020 here.