Rwandan start-up competition offers winners seed money

Sunday November 12 2017

ICT exhibition stands during the Transform Africa Summit 2015 in Kigali, Rwanda.

ICT exhibition stands during the Transform Africa Summit 2015 in Kigali, Rwanda. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

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Rwandan tech start-ups could benefit from an upcoming regional competition that offers investment opportunities and mentorships for firms that use data to create technological solutions for the finance sector.

The competition dubbed “DataHack4FI” is open to start-ups from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana and Zambia. The participants will need to use data to develop new, evidence-based solutions that support financial inclusion.

The participants will present their ideas and the successful firms will move to the final stage of the competition, which will be held in Rwanda in May 2018.

The winners will get funds from investors.

Steve Shema, the founder of Exuus ltd, a data analysis company that designs financial technology (fintech) products, says the use of data in financial services is still relatively new in Rwanda, but it is a sector that is growing.

The use of data in fintech for evidence-based solutions is growing in Africa.

Ben Roberts, the Group chief Technology Information officer, at Liquid Telecom — one of the organiser’s of the competition — said, “Africa’s future belongs in data science. It offers a new generation of African entrepreneurs the chance to utilise the volumes of data generated by mobile devices to offer solutions.”

Access to data

While the use of data in business is growing in the local market, Mr Shema said it is still challenging for businesses to access some data.

In May, the Cabinet approved the data revolution policy, which seeks to promote use of data in the country and make it easily accessible for users.

Data experts said the policy is expected “to enhance transparency, create new business opportunities, monitor progress towards development goals, provide researchers with new data sources and improve mapping information in the country.”

The 2018 ‘DataHack4FI’ innovation competition hopes to attract more investments in start-ups, while promoting collaboration Africa’s financial service providers and the fintech community.

Mr Shema said it is difficult to get investments for fintech, compared with others start-ups in general.

“We struggle to raise funds from various sources,” he said.

In the previous competition, dubbed i2i DataHack4FI, organisers said over 120 entrepreneurs competed, with three start-ups attracting funding from investors at the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali.

Some of the fintech innovations presented were financial management solutions for small and medium-sized companies in Uganda and insurance products for students in Zambia.
While speaking at an Open Data event, ICT  and open data expert Rajiv Ranjan, said more data was being made available by the National Institute of statistics, but more needed to be done to promote the use of this data.