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SWIFT's Innotribe Startup Challenge heads to Africa

SWIFT's Innotribe Startup Challenge heads to Africa

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a member-owned and industry-driven cooperative, has announced that the Innotribe Startup Challenge to identify and showcase startup talent within the finance industry will, this year, be heading to Africa for the first time.

Innotribe is a SWIFT brand that has been established to facilitate interaction and networking between the global financial community and the fintech startup ecosystem.

This year the Initiative will partner with the Africa Regional Conference to showcase fintech startups from across the continent, from 5 -7 May in Cape Town, South Africa. Companies will have the opportunity to pitch to investors.

The Startup Challenge is used as a platform to engage the fintech ecosystem to seek out small-to-medium businesses that are innovating in various areas involving financial technology. This covers everything from cross-border payment to cryptocurrency and foreign exchange.

"Pretty much everything that a bank would consider part of its normal day-to-day operations," explains Kevin Johnson, SWIFT Innotribe Startup Challenge Manager.

The Startup Challenge introduces the world's brightest startups to highly qualified financial service experts, angel investors, venture capitalists, and global leading fintech and financial decision makers.

The Challenge serves as a forum through which startup operations have an opportunity to gain valuable exposure to the international industry and share their ideas, innovation, and where banks can better understand ideas and innovation and meet those responsible.

The competition is currently still accepting applications and has received 221 to date, of which between 10% and 15% has been sourced from Africa.

Johnson says the challenge is open to any venture that embraces fintech innovation and has a workable solution/product offering in place.

In 2014 Africa was responsible for 1% of applications, which did not surprise Johnso - given the fact that this competition was not in Africa and not readily marketed to the continent.

But, the situation in 2015 is different. SWIFT is looking to leverage its presence in the Africa market to source talent.

Africa focus

SWIFT's sub-Saharan Africa business, with its head office in Johannesburg, was established more than 30 years ago.

Hugo Smit, head of Sub-Sahara Africa, SWIFT, says: "The fact that Africa is rising is evident in various key economic indicators such as GDP growth, FDI and infrastructure investment growth. It is also corroborated by the growth in SWIFT traffic volumes. Such growth requires sound financial systems, securities systems and regulatory compliance. These are all areas where SWIFT can make an important contribution.

"SWIFT's collaborative approach and ability to offer solutions that benefit the entire community makes it a unique organisation. By opening offices in West and East Africa, we will not only be able to further improve our solution and services offering to customers but will be better placed to support local communities and the development of regional initiatives."

According to SWIFT six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa and recent World Bank figures show that capital flows to sub-Saharan Africa have continued to rise, reaching an estimated 5.3% of regional GDP in 2013, significantly above the developing-country average of 3.9%.

Recent data from SWIFT supports this trend and demonstrates that its business in Africa has outperformed the total growth of the SWIFT business globally. In 2014 eleven countries in Africa experienced traffic growth of above 20% and six countries saw traffic grow by more than 30%; in the same period.

Similar to 2014, over 500 industry experts, bank decision-makers, venture capitalists and angel investors, will judge the companies applying to the Startup Challenge, ensuring that the semi-finalists selected are addressing current industry issues.

Semi-finalists – 15 companies per regional showcase - get the opportunity to showcase their new concepts and products in front of an audience looking for the best in class and voting for the top 5 companies at the end of each showcase.

The 20 companies selected automatically secure their place as finalists in the Innotribe Startup Challenge Grand Finale, taking place at Sibos,a global financial services event organised by SWIFT. In 2015, the event will take place in Singapore, on 14th October.

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