The Legatum Centre for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in association with the Mastercard Foundation, wednesday announced the launch of the 2018 edition of the pan-African Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion.
A statement by the centre said the competition, which awards a total of $200,000 in prizes, was established to discover Africaâ€™s most promising and innovative early-stage start-ups that support and advance financial inclusion on the continent.
It said: â€œThe Zambezi application is now open for early-stage African tech start-ups who are furthering financial inclusion in Africa. Applicants will be judged on their ability to solve one of the financial inclusion challenges put forth by the Prize; their current and potential impact on the local ecosystem; the scale of their innovation; and the feasibility of the solution.â€
The competition involves many awards and opportunities for finalists, with the grand prize winner being awarded $100,000 and the two runners-up ach receiving up to $30,000. Each of the top 10 finalists are guaranteed to receive up to $5,000 in cash prizes as well as VIP tickets to the Zambezi Award ceremony, cohort-building activities, international media exposure, and personalised introductions to the MIT Legatum network of investors and mentors.
Past Zambezi finalists have led projects ranging from agricultural finance for the small dairy farmer to an employee-centric boda boda (bicycle and motorcycle) taxi business model.
The statement added: â€œThe top three winners will also be invited to attend the Zambezi boot camp during the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) gala on the MIT campus in Boston and fast-tracked to the global grand prize with up to $1 million available. The IIC event is part of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and, along with the MIT Legatum Centreâ€™s initiatives, examples of MITâ€™s global commitment to the future of work.â€
The statement noted that this yearâ€™s competition would be supported by the MIT Legatum Centreâ€™s annual Open Mic Africa tour, a cross-continent tour in search of Africaâ€™s most innovative entrepreneurs that will debut in Spring 2018.
The Legatum Centre, with support from Techpreneur Africa and the late Bolaji Finnih, hosted the premiere event of the 2017 Open Mic Africa tour in Lagos.