As you know the COVID-19 virus is spreading throughout the world at an alarming rate, with organisations taking precautions to avoid the spread of the virus by avoiding large gatherings. FMT Innovation and our in-country partners are working hard to ensure the competition continues in a safe manner, while ensuring participants are able to extract maximum value under these difficult circumstances. See the revised timeline on this site.

We have decided to introduce additional virtual engagements to assist you in the design and development of your ideas into impactful solutions. These will include additional webinars – focussed on the fundamentals of creating viable products and businesses, and “Office hours” sessions – where the thematic experts and mentors will provide additional opportunities for engagement with participants. Please continue to monitor the Slack channel and your emails for all SADC Innovation Challenge-related news and information.


SMME Financing

An introduction to the problem statement by SMME specialist, FinMark Trust - Obert Maposa
Moderator - Robert Jones

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Presentation by SMME specialist, FinMark Trust - Obert Maposa

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View additional information about SMME in financial inclusion

Additional content

Women and Savings

An introduction to the problem statement by gender specialist, FinMark Trust - Petronella Tizora
Moderator - Dumisani Dube

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Presentation by gender specialist, FinMark Trust - Petronella Tizora

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View additional information about women and savings in financial inclusion

Additional content

Financial Identity

An introduction to the problem statement by Head, FinMark Trust Zimbabwe - Nkosi Ncube
Moderator - Kgomotso Tolamo

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Presentation by Head, FinMark Trust Zimbabwe - Nkosi Ncube

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View additional information about digital financial identity in financial inclusion

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Access to Services

An introduction to the problem statement by Head, FinMark Trust Zimbabwe - Nkosi Ncube Moderator - Nicola Schoeman

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Presentation by Head, FinMark Trust Zimbabwe - Nkosi Ncube

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View additional information about access to basic services in financial inclusion

Additional content

Webinar 2

Tech-enabled innovation

Panelists Botlhale AI and Bongani Sithole explain how too leverage technology to develop solutions for the SADC innovation and investment challenge.

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ABOUT The SADC Innovation Challenge Process

The challenge will be implemented over a 16-week period, with 8-10 teams selected per country. Four winners will be selected from each country, one for each thematic challenge, to participate in the Grand Finale to be held in in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

You can expect to develop your data science and entrepreneurial skills through a series of webinars and bootcamps, including a free online course in design thinking from IBM Digital – Nation Africa. Successful applicants will receive support and mentorship through a dedicated Slack channel.

What you can expect from the SADC Innovation Challenge

The SADC Innovation Challenge provides you with support from mentors and sector experts, through a series of a series of webinars and design bootcamps. Country winners will be awarded cash prizes and incubation support, as well as sponsorship to participate in the Grand Finale.

Young innovators from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa , Tanzania, Zambia are invited to apply. Participants are tasked with developing innovations that address four key challenges that represent practical community problems, leveraging data and data analytics to design scalable solutions.

The solutions developed by the winners of the SADC Innovation Challenge will receive incubation towards further development, commercialization and operationalisation.

Identify and surface

Identify and surface early stage innovations that are relevant to financial inclusion within the 4 thematic areas: SMME Financing, Digital Financial Identity, Women and Savings, and Access to Basic Services


Skills development

Skills development through webinars, online courses and bootcamps.


Regional data innovation

Support data driven innovation in the region



Support data driven innovation in the region


Applications are now closed

SADC Innovation Problem Statements 1. SMME Financing

Very few SMMEs get access to credit and other financial products from the formal sector and banks. The bulk of funding is received informally, through family or lenders. Alternative service providers, such as MFIs (Micro Finance Institutions), SACCOs (Savings and Credit Co-Operative Societies) and Mobile Money Institiutions are emerging to cater for this market. These providers are arguably smaller, more flexible, and have a better understanding of the sector – different operating and business models can help to more efficiently and effectively serve SMME business and finance needs. SMMEs are considered high risk by FSPs (Financial Service Providers) and also face further barriers to accessing traditional FSP products and services. This presents a market opportunity to develop products and services for primary and secondary agro-businesses, which make up the bulk of SMMEs in SADC.

Develop a solution that addresses SMMEs unique financial needs (sustainability, liquidity, payments and resilience), with a mind to alternative funding business and operating models. This solution can be designed to be a standalone product or be integrated into other existing solutions and channels such e.g. business registration, input-based lending or value chain finance.

2. Digital Financial Identity

As a result of increased regional growth through the years, there are rising forces that point to the case for a regional digital financial ID in SADC. These include:
  • Increasing digitisation of financial services and growth of e-commerce
  • Progression of regional electronic payment arrangements
  • Indication that public policy drivers favour a digital ID
Develop a solution to address the possible use cases for a digital financial ID in SADC – identify a challenge, build a viable business case and technically feasible solution. Keep in mind the impact on stakeholders, regulation, and market opportunity, amongst others

3. Women and Savings

Women, young and old, all over Southern, Eastern and North Africa have invented a concept of saving within their own networks for a shared purpose. Groups are formed with other members of the community, and money is saved into a central fund. However, these groups face the risk of financial mismanagement through poorly kept records.

Create a platform which allows for peer to peer savings, tracking and management of savings and credit scoring without removing the social interactions of women.

4. Access to Basic/Essential Services

Basic services are those that are necessary to ensure the full social inclusion of people in society, meet basic human needs and eradicate poverty. Differences in the quality-of-life between and within African regions is largely determined by the availability of basic services such as water, sanitation, health care, education and electricity. Large segments of the population within the SADC region still lack access to basic public goods, such as piped water or sewage facilities. Most people live in places that are historically underserved, geographically isolated, and economically marginal. Despite progress throughout the region to improve access to basic services, a considerable amount of work remains to achieve universal access to these standard-of-living basics.

Digitalisation has proven to be a key tool for increased access to financial services as well as basic services. Develop a digital solution that broadens access to basic services for the poor in water, education, electricity (or energy), sanitation or health care, through the use of mobile or other digital payment systems accessible to the poor.

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"Failure is an option here. If things are not failing you are not innovating."

Elon Musk