The first Fincluders Startup Challenge outside Europe is set to feature prize money of up to USD 15,000 for fintech entrepreneurs with solutions and concepts for spreading financial inclusion in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), says the event’s organizer, the Technical Assistance Facility of the SANAD Fund for MSME.
The event, modelled on the highly successful first installment of the challenge held in Berlin last year, is scheduled for 3-4 May in Amman and seeks to identify and promote fledgling fintech companies offering products for expanding access to finance in MENA. To be fully anchored in the region, SANAD has secured the support of Jordan-based Oasis500, a local fintech vanguard.
Estimates say some 2 billion adults in the world remain outside the formal finance system and lack services as basic as a bank account, and regional officials have been highlighting the issue. The Startup Challenge in Amman closely follows the Arab Day of Financial Inclusion on 27 April, a day designated by the Council of Arab Central Bank Governors to increase focus on expanding access to finance in the Arab region. Since its inception, SANAD and its technical assistance facility have helped spread financial inclusion in MENA through investments totaling almost USD 300 million and a wide-ranging program of training seminars and workshops for local financial institutions and businesses.
The SANAD Technical Assistance Facility will offer finalists a trip to Jordan and accommodations during mentoring sessions conducted by fintech industry experts. Following the training, the finalists can present their innovative products and services to a hand-picked jury of top finance industry managers and an audience of investors, regulators, and development finance specialists in a format similar to the television shows Dragon’s Den in the United Kingdom and Shark Tank in the United States. Interested fintech companies and industry experts can learn more about the Fincluders event at sanad.fincluders.com.
The Amman event builds on the success of the first Fincluders Startup Challenge, where organizers carefully weighed the merits of each of the more than 90 applicants before selecting 15 finalists. These qualifying fintech startups received airfare to and accommodations in Berlin for mentoring and the ultimate challenge, the pitch contest. Some of the electric atmosphere surrounding the two-day event has been preserved in this video.
SANAD Board Chairman Wolfgang Reuss said, “By bringing the extraordinarily successful Fincluders Startup Challenge to the Middle East and North Africa, SANAD continues to employ the most effective methods available for identifying the best innovations for bolstering micro, small and medium enterprises and fostering economic development and job creation in the region. The training and funding for products and ideas that spread financial inclusion in the region are an investment in the future.”
SANAD Technical Assistance Facility Committee Chairman Ines Ebrecht said, “The Fincluders Startup Challenge serves as a natural extension of our technical assistance activities. Providing mentors to help guide companies, especially new ones, is integral to our mission, and our capacity-building goals include the creation of platforms for entrepreneurs that provide access to much-needed capital for companies in their infancy. Such funding helps ensure startups can finance the critical phases of their product and business development.”