The team from Kanzu Code took part in the Women In Fintech (WIFT) Hackathon and Summit 2020, the first of its kind in Africa. And, they walked away with the topmost prize, for their innovative idea, Kanzu Money. Kanzu Money is an online bank working to make financing more accessible, especially for local women. It is a mobile and web application that will enable Individuals, as well as Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) gain credit and do mobile transactions between each other. It will help peer to peer dealings (P2P) through cross border remittances, inbound and outbound and ease the flow of money within the country since it requires minimal human interactions. Businesses will also benefit from the credit it will extend to them to finance their operations and pay suppliers. Kanzu Money garnered a 2,000 USD cash prize that will be directed towards finessing the functionality of this technology, as well as facilitating its journey to the market.
The Kanzu Code team was only one among 15 shortlisted candidates who took part in the Hackathon; A five-day workshop that ran under the theme “Fostering leadership, innovation and championing women empowerment”. This platform sought to offer mentorship from industry players and business leaders to the younger developers, expose them to a global network of their contemporaries, and familiarize them with the most cutting-edge technologies in Fintech today. Besides Kanzu Money, innovations from E-Moments, Anchors, Affinity and Hack Girls were also acknowledged in the top 5, won a cash prize as well as the opportunity to be a part of a year-long incubation process where the technologies will be made ready for the market. Each of the participating teams consisted of a majority of women, had female leaders and could only consist of between 2 to 4 members. Joy Amanda, Mary Angella, Timothy Kasasa, the team that created Kanzu Money, were led by Patricia Atim.
With only 8% of leadership positions in the fintech space being occupied by women, there is an urgency to empower and connect professional women in financial technology and mentor the coming generations to join in as well. Dr Maggie Kigozi, one of the keynote speakers at the Summit, championed education as the means of achieving this goal of digital and financial inclusivity. She said that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) should be taught in schools right from the get-go, and through till graduate level so that more and more of our population becomes digitally literate. She also added that the current global pandemic justifies the need for an aggressive ICT implementation strategy. It has highlighted both to government as well as the public, the innumerable advantages digitized companies and businesses have over the analogue ones.
The Hackathon and Summit were events put together by, HiPipo, to create financial solutions tailored to the specific needs of women. This idea was birthed after HiPipo, a company dedicated to fostering financial inclusion, realized the disparity between the percentage of women benefiting from the technology on the market right now and their male counterparts. Innocent Kawooya, the CEO at HiPipo commented that it is important to involve women in the process of creating technological solutions because it results in more accessible technologies that better serve the female population. A key demographic to service well, because, although they form only 30% of the total workforce, they consist of a 75% majority in the informal business sector. Consequently, they would benefit the most from technologies that are inclusive and would also provide the most reliable customer base.
HiPipo partnered with Crosslake Tech, ModusBox and Mojaloop Foundation to create this forum; described by Damali Ssali, a Trade Development Expert, as a pipeline, for more representative solutions. She applauded the effort to get women involved right from the stage of conception and hoped that this would continue through to the development and roll-out stages. She even commented that companies that include women in their creative processes as well as in senior management positions are not just doing the right thing, but also the more profitable one.
The HiPipo campaign to “Include everyone” is a necessary undertaking for the equitable growth of Uganda’s economy. Judith Nabakooba, the Commissioner Ministry of ICT explained the successful prospects of such a movement sighting that more and more women are receptive to the progress that technology affords them, and are adopting ICT in their businesses. They use it for online trade: to purchase goods and services, advertise their products as well as reach both national and international markets.
Innocent Kawooya emphasized to the participants in this year’s hackathon the importance of foresight and persistence while developing a fintech solution. He said that a product is only as good as the lives it transforms. And, implored them to be diligent in their development process, first seeking to understand the need of their customers before they can aptly create the solutions.
However, it was also observed that there is a tendency for developers to fixate on a product for too long before getting to the market. Yet, assessing the practicality of any product is solely based on how helpful its users find it; necessary revisions are best applied to the technology in response to the feedback from the targeted demographics. It does not serve the designer to perfect in isolation, because they may not be able to correctly anticipate the needs of the customer. Therefore, a balance has to be struck between the attention to perfecting a product and its eventual functionality.
HiPipo committed to being a partner to the developers by searching for funding opportunities, marketing their products as well giving ongoing advice on how to develop their business cases and perfect code, with the help of interoperable solutions like Mojaloop as well as guidance from International resources like the Level One Project Principles and others from the World Bank. He concluded by urging the teams to keep doing what they were doing, with their eyes fixed on the goal, because even Rome was not built in a day. The clarity of vision of HiPipo coupled with the immense capacity of the women in fintech today only spells good things for the development of our digital space in the years to follow.