The Zambezi Prize

The MasterCard Foundation & Legatum Center
at MIT
Innovations Competition.

MIT
The MasterCard Foundation

Elevate your financial inclusion venture

The Zambezi Prize raises awareness of entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, encourages the flow of capital to financial inclusion ventures, and advances entrepreneurship and financial inclusion to fuel broad-based prosperity.

The Zambezi Prize awards $200K USD annually to support ventures that contribute to financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The first place winner receives $100K USD. An additional $100K USD is divided among second and third place winners and a small group of finalists.

A small group of finalists participate in an MIT-sponsored boot camp to take advantage of MIT’s unparalleled entrepreneurial ecosystem and engage with experts in the fields of entrepreneurship and financial inclusion.

Application
Details

The prize is open to a wide spectrum of financial inclusion ventures demonstrating innovation and potential for impact, financial sustainability, and scalability.

Ventures could include – but are not limited to – electronic payment systems, customer-centered payment plans, new financial products, or mobile banking instruments.

The venture must advance financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The venture must advance financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The venture must be in its early stages, having progressed beyond concept.

The venture must be in its early stages, having progressed beyond concept.

  1. The venture must advance financial inclusion.
  2. The venture must have a presence in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  3. The venture must demonstrate potential for financial self-sustainability.
  4. The venture must have progressed beyond concept, demonstrating evidence of factors such as customers, revenues, business registration, patents or IP filings, working prototypes, institutional funding, or formal employees.
  5. The venture must not have received more than $10M USD in aggregate funding.
  6. The venture must not have more than $10M USD in annual revenue.
  7. The venture must have a founder or co-founder that work or plan to work full-time on the venture.
  8. If selected as semi-finalists, ventures must provide supplemental financial information.
  9. If selected as finalists, ventures must have a founder or co-founder to attend an MIT-sponsored boot camp.
  10. Individuals and teams are eligible.
Round 1

Application

  • Open: Sept. 1, 2014
  • Closed: Nov. 15, 2014

A selection committee reviews online applications and selects semi-finalists.

Round 2

Semi-Finals

  • Notified:

    Jan. 9, 2015
  • Supporting

    Materials Due:



    Feb. 1, 2015

Semi-finalists submit supporting application materials. Selection committee members rank semi-finalists and conduct interviews and site visits for top candidates.

Round 3

Finals

  • Notified:

    April 2015
  • Attend Boot Camp:

    June 2015

A small group of finalists participate in an MIT-sponsored boot camp. During the boot camp, finalists pitch their ventures to judges who are prominent champions of entrepreneurship and financial inclusion.

Winners Announced: July 1, 2015

Winners Announced:

July 1, 2015

Terms and Conditions of Eligibility

All applicants must comply with the following Terms and Conditions of Eligibility to be eligible for the Zambezi Prize.

General Eligibility

  1. The Zambezi Prize Organizing Team reserves the right to make the final determination of an applicant’s eligibility.
  2. The Zambezi Prize Organizing Team, Judges, and Selection Committee members and employees of The MasterCard Foundation and the Legatum Center at MIT may not apply and may not directly or indirectly have a material interest in any application.
  3. An application must meet the following Conditions of Eligibility:
    1. The venture must advance financial inclusion.
    2. The venture must have a presence in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    3. The venture must demonstrate potential for financial self-sustainability.
    4. The venture must have progressed beyond concept, demonstrating evidence of factors such as customers, revenues, business registration, patents or IP filings, working prototypes, institutional funding, or formal employees.
    5. The venture must not have received more than $10M USD in aggregate funding.
    6. The venture must not have more than $10M USD in annual revenue.
    7. The venture must have a founder or co-founder that work or plan to work full-time on the venture.
    8. If selected as semi-finalists, ventures must provide supplemental financial information.
    9. If selected as finalists, ventures must have a founder or co-founder to attend an MIT-sponsored boot camp.
    10. Individuals and teams are eligible.
  4. A founder or co-founder must be available for an MIT-sponsored boot camp if selected as a finalist.

Project/Company Status

  1. Projects/companies that have received funding (including but not limited to investment capital, as well as grant funding for research, technology, or product development) prior to the application deadline must disclose funding in applications.
  2. Projects/companies that have generated revenue prior to the application deadline must disclose revenue in applications.

Content and Intellectual Property

  1. All descriptions and content contained in applications must be the original work of the applicants.
  2. All information contained within all materials entered into the Zambezi Prize must be factual.
  3. Applicants that rely on intellectual property that has been created or invented or is owned by a third party (“Third-Party IP”) acknowledge that they have obtained permission from any such third party to use the Third-Party IP as a basis to support their application.
  4. It is the responsibility of the applicant to determine that no third party has any rights on the content of the application that may prevent its use.
  5. Plagiarism of any kind, including reproduction of images or other content without reference to the original source, or without permission from the content owner or creator where appropriate, is strictly forbidden. Any images or other content contained in an applicant’s application materials must include all necessary citations for the applicant to be eligible.

Confidentiality

  1. The Zambezi Prize Organizing Team, Selection Committee, and Judges and employees of The MasterCard Foundation, the Legatum Center at MIT, and MIT will not enter into non-disclosure agreements with applicants. Measures will be taken to protect confidentiality of applications, but applicants must recognize that any information submitted through applications is at risk of “public disclosure.”

Judging

  1. All judging decisions made at the discretion of the Selection Committee and Judges are final and not subject to appeal.
  2. The Zambezi Prize Organizing Team, after consultation with the Selection Committee and Judges, reserves the right not to award a prize in the absence of suitable applicants.
  3. Should the Selection Committee or Judges identify a concern that, in their opinion, causes an entry to violate the Terms and Conditions of Eligibility, they will advise the Zambezi Prize Organizing Team as such. The Zambezi Prize Organizing Team will make the final decision whether to disqualify the entry.

Miscellaneous

  1. Failure to comply with the Terms and Conditions of Eligibility or to accurately make any disclosures required by the Zambezi Prize or its affiliates, as determined at the sole discretion of the Zambezi Prize Organizing Team, may result in disqualification from the Zambezi Prize and/or the requirement that any awards be forfeited and/or returned.
  2. These Terms and Conditions of Eligibility may be revised periodically by the Zambezi Prize Organizing Team. In the event that they are changed after an applicant’s application has been submitted, but prior to judging, such applicant shall have the opportunity to make any changes to his/her submission to ensure compliance with the most recent Terms and Conditions of Eligibility.

Q: Can I apply if I do not live in Sub-Saharan Africa?

A: Yes, however your project/company must operate in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Q: Can I apply if my project/company is not yet generating profit?

A: Yes, however your project/company must show potential for profitability.

Q: Can I apply if my project is a not-for-profit?

A: Yes, however you must have a clear plan to transition your project to a financially self-sustaining, for-profit venture.

Q: Can I apply for more than one project/company?

A: Yes, provided that the projects/companies are recognizably different.

Q: Can I complete the application in a language other than English?

A: No, at this time, the application is only available in English.

Q: I see that the finalists must be available for a boot camp. What are the dates and details for this boot camp?

A: The exact dates are to be determined. Please continue to check the Zambezi Prize website for updates.

The Finalists

Umati Capital

Kenya

Umati Capital is a start-up financial services company that aims to revolutionize access to finance through the consistent and innovative use of technology.

Launched in September 2012, Umati Capital is a non-bank financial institution focused on the provision of credit and related payment technologies.

Umati Capital is currently focused within agri-business supply chains and leverages proprietary technology to provide branchless financial services to small-scale suppliers, trading companies and industrial processors. Learn More

Kifiya Financial Technology PLC

Ethiopia

Kifiya Financial Technology PLC (Kifiya) is a digital finance and payment services provider, delivering customer centric products to simplify transactions. Kifiya leverages innovative technology to build and enable distribution channels that make financial and non-financial services affordable and accessible.

The company’s services allow financial institutions, companies, NGOs and government institutions to deliver their services to customers more efficiently, while consumers can easily access and make transactions to receive basic services. Learn More

Tugende

Uganda

Tugende breaks the poverty trap for motorcycle taxi drivers in Africa by providing an affordable and transparent lease-to-own option. Ownership significantly increases income, job security and road safety. Across Uganda motorcycles help drive the economy, mitigating traffic jams and bad roads as well as offering hundreds of thousands of jobs for those with little formal education.

Tugende helps motorcycle taxi drivers own their own motorcycles instead of renting indefinitely. They are proving that millions of self-employed entrepreneurs can receive credit to own the equipment they use, even without credit histories or collateral. Learn More

Nomanini

South Africa

Nomanini provides a mobile­-first Point Of Sales platform designed for the vast and underserved informal retail trade in developing markets. The platform is comprised of simple, rugged terminals used by merchants, which are seamlessly integrated to a vending back-end managed by local pre-paid distributors.

The tools that Nomanini provides empower merchants in informal markets to facilitate electronic transactions in their local community. Nomanini enables the efficient electronic distribution of pre-paid mobile and electricity vouchers and facilitation of micropayments in frontier markets across Africa and beyond. By doing so, Nomanini creates wider access to these essential services to the unbanked and under-banked majority. Learn More

Pluspeople

Kenya

Pluspeople has a vision of improving the efficiency and professionalism of SMEs in East Africa. Many SMEs operate without keeping books, relying on the cash/bank balance to determine business progress. It is deemed expensive to establish the required capacity to implement proper accounting within the organization.

Pluspeople plan to bridge this gap by providing “international quality” solutions, built with a strong local focus, where the system is adopted to fit the way SMEs really run their businesses in East Africa. Peopleplus is tightly integrated with local stakeholders, relevant to SMEs, thus automating many of the processes that have to be handled manually. Learn More

Agrilife

Kenya

Agrilife is a cloud-based platform that offers solutions based on the needs of small scale farmers by collects credible data in the form of bio-data, produce, farm status, and historical data.

The platform captures crop quality, yield, and type of inputs (fertilizers). It provides market linkages enabling processors to buy from smallholder farmers and pay based on yield and quality of produce.

More importantly, banks and financial service providers have access to farm data including the Agrilife farmer score. The granular data allows Agrilife to develop an accurate and more predictive credit scoring or lending model. Learn More

Chamasoft

Kenya

Chamasoft is a cloud-based financial management platform for savings and investment groups, which automates activities while providing members with confidence, transparency, accountability and traceability.

Chamasoft will enable savings and investment groups to be financially included and at the same time leverage transaction-level data and gain a complete picture of their unique financial situation and needs, through a simple to use web and mobile platform. Learn More

F3 Life

Kenya

The CEOs and COOs of African financial institutions frequently lack the resources and information necessary to roll out new low-risk credit products, designed for smallholder farmers, to expand their agricultural lending portfolios. In response to this need, F3 Life provides an off-the-shelf credit-scoring system and loan product designed to help financial institutions increase agricultural lending and simultaneously reduce default risk. Learn More

First Access

Tanzania

First Access offers the first instant risk assessment and underwriting platform for financial institutions in the developing world. Partnerships with mobile network operators allow subscribers to get credit approval from local institutions for a variety of different purposes, including trade, production, transportation, farming, housing, education and energy.

First Access builds customized, dynamic credit scoring and loan-decision models for financial institutions to use in real-time, from any mobile device, to underwrite loans at the point of sale. Financial institutions can now automate their customer acquisition at the touch of a phone, expanding faster and at a lower cost into underserved markets. Learn More

M-Changa

Kenya

Over two thirds of the world’s population lives in communities without an adequate social safety net. This leaves millions of people worldwide without the means to smooth over financial and lifestyle shocks---including medical care, school fees, and others. In absence of formal support, many in the developing world--and particularly in Africa--turn to family and friends on a reciprocal basis many times over the course of the year.

However, rising urbanization and geographical dispersion have put this system of reciprocal giving under serious strain, as fund collectors attempt to reconcile payments from multiple payment systems and remotely convince their donors that funds are being used appropriately. M-Changa solves this problem by tracking community payments and providing a safe, transparent and mobile accounting space for life’s most critical causes. Learn More

Mjara Savings & Credit

 

Mjara Savings & Credit is a micro-savings and micro-credit product that allows customers to save and borrow money quickly, securely and affordably through a USSD menu accessible by any mobile phone.

Requiring only a mobile phone and mobile money account, Mjara Savings & Credit provides customers with secure savings as well as convenient, discreet access to credit. Savings contributions and loan repayments are deducted automatically at a schedule set by the customer.

Leveraging robust data on mobile money usage to determine baseline credit scores, the product offers financial institutions an inexpensive, low-risk channel to acquire customers from the base of the pyramid. Learn More

Sponsors

The Zambezi Prize is presented by the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT and The MasterCard Foundation.

Collectively, these organizations focus on entrepreneurship and financial inclusion as catalysts for broad-based prosperity in low-income countries—unlocking the potential of ordinary citizens to improve their livelihoods.

Contact Us

Candidate Eligibility Inquiries:
application-zambezi@mit.edu

General Inquiries:
info-zambezi@mit.edu

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