14 Kenyan firms eye top prize in Citi innovation competition

i-Hub office in Nairobi. 18 Kenyan software developers are among finalists competing for $100,000 in the Citi Mobile Challenge. PHOTO | FILE
The i-Hub offices in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE 

Fourteen Kenyan software developers are among finalists drawn across Europe, the Middle East and Africa competing for $100,000 in the Citi Mobile Challenge.

The competition is aimed at building innovative solutions based on Citi’s digital platform.

On Wednesday, the 14 teams showed how their innovative ideas can be applied in the banking industry.

They were among 165 teams from Kenya that registered for the global competition that attracted a total of 750 entrants from more than 100 countries. Kenya had the highest number of entrants. Overall winners will be announced in May.

The global CiTi Bank initiative is aimed at inspiring technology developers to re-imagine mobile banking and payments and to stimulate digital progress in the industry.

Citi has teamed up with a number of partners to provide the developers with tools they can use to build solutions to benefit consumers either through mobile applications or the Internet of Things.

Jorge Ruiz, Global Digital Acceleration Head, said Citi’s vast global network gives developers an opportunity to have their ideas tried in markets all over the world.

“These ideas can also bring the added benefit of expanding financial inclusion, enabling new kinds of access to financial systems and services for previously-underserved communities,” Mr Ruiz said.

Other demonstrations will be held in Jerusalem on April 26, Warsaw on April 28, and London on April 30.

A panel of industry experts and financial technology leaders yesterday evaluated the innovative solutions.

“Finalists compete for an opportunity to take their technologies into production with Citi’s support, plus a share of $100,000 in cash awards and a suite of services from Citi Mobile Challenge sponsors,” he added.

While building their applications, developers had access to APIs from Citi and several partners including MasterCard and Uber.

Among the 14 teams are Craft Silicon which showcased its mobile commerce platform, ELMA, Cellulant with smart value chain and Fintech Group which has a solution known as Collect-RMdashboard for corporate customers.

Others were Nondescript with a solution called Ruka-Line—a mobile payment for efficient public services, Umati Capital which showcased its digital solution for supply chain and Kytabu , with an electronic education solution.

Craft Silicon’s ELMA is an end-to-end e-commerce hosted platform that allows large and small companies to launch interactive mobile channels without any capital costs.

It works on entry level GPRS handsets and can be used to pay utility bills among other things such as buying movie tickets and shopping.

Cellulant, a Kenyan software firm, was in 2012 awarded a four-year Sh745 million contract by Nigeria’s federal government to run an e-mobile registration and validation system for subsidised fertiliser — joining a host of Kenyan ICT firms in clinching lucrative deals abroad.

Under the deal, Nigeria sought to build an efficient distribution channel to deliver fertiliser to farmers, empower them to increase their yields and encourage a shift from subsistence to commercial farming.


In the Nigerian case, an accredited farmer receives an allocation of fertiliser through a pin sent to his phone which he takes to the bank and pays for the product at a subsidised rate.

After the payment, the farmer is given a voucher which he uses to collect the fertiliser from an accredited agro distributor.

The system was expected to boost the average farmers’ incomes from Sh58,100 ($700) to Sh149,400 ($1800) over three to four seasons.
Before the deal, Nigeria had provided subsidy through distribution via its network of warehouses across the country.

But only 11 per cent of the fertiliser reached farmers. This slowed down growth of the agriculture sector, threatening food insecurity.

Citi Mobile Challenge in EMEA follows highly successful programmes in Latin America and the US in 2014. In Latin America, Citi received 150 submissions and hosted 50 finalists at events in Buenos Aires and Bogotá.

Citi Mobile Challenge US received 744 submissions from 62 countries and hosted 60 finalists at events in Silicon Valley, New York and Miami. Citi is currently evaluating several pilots from the top innovations presented at previous Challenges.