The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with support from the MasterCard Foundation, has named South African startup Wala as the grand prize winner of the 2018 Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion.
The announcement came during the Open Mic Africa Summit in Nairobi yesterday August 29. Wala went home with US$100,000 grand prize while Tulaa of Kenya and RecyclePoints of Nigeria won US$30,000 each as runners-up.
An additional US$5,000 will be awarded to an African entrepreneur—to be named later this year—who has demonstrated great leadership in unifying Africa’s tech ecosystem.
the Executive Director of the MIT Legatum Center, Georgina Campbell Flatter said at the award ceremony: “Innovators like Wala and the other Zambezi finalists are vital to driving a more inclusive prosperity. We’re excited to work with them.
“We are immensely proud to support the Zambezi Prize,” said Ann Miles, Director of Thought Leadership and Innovation at the Mastercard Foundation. “It shines a bright light on the creativity and talent of Africa’s young people, and the thinking they bring to financial inclusion. This is making real differences in the lives of poor people on the continent.”
All the 10 Prize finalists will attend the Zambezi boot camp on the MIT campus during the MIT Inclusive Innovative Challenge (IIC) gala in Boston on November 5 to 9. As the Zambezi Prize winner, Wala also won the IIC Africa Prize in the Financial Inclusion category.
The startup will join the three other winners of the IIC Africa Prize, to represent Africa at the IIC global tournament which awards over $1 million in prizes. The IIC event is part of the MIT Innovative on the Digital Economy and, along with the MIT Legatum Center’s initiatives, exemplifies MIT’s global commitment to the future work.
Wala is a mobile financial platform geared toward consumers operating outside the formal financial system. Using a blockchain system, it enables zero-fee, instant, borderless micro-payments for emerging market consumers. Through the Wala platform, users receive a cryptocurrency wallet and can access transactional banking, remittances, loans, and insurance.
“We’re especially grateful to the Zambezi Prize Board, our global ecosystem collaborators, and the 40 African tech leaders who served as Zambezi judges and whose dedication to entrepreneurship and financial inclusion helped us discover this new generation of innovators.”.