Britain has announced a Sh1.3 billion fund to help Kenyan startups working to disrupt the financial sector through technology.
The investments announced in Nairobi on Tuesday by The Lord Mayor of the City of London Alderman Peter Estlin will focus on Kenyan fintechs that increase financial inclusion for low-income and underserved consumers.
Mr Estlin is in the country on a visit aimed at cementing investments between Nairobi and London.
“Today’s announcement highlights the mutual benefits of closer financial co-operation to both the UK and Kenya,” Mr Estlin told a gathering of early stage startups in Nairobi.
Mr Estlin, who was flanked by the British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott, is expected to enter into discussions with State officials and businessmen ahead of the upcoming UK-Africa Investment Summit.
Britain has been losing out to China, India, and Japan whose share of business with Kenya has been on the rise.
The trio of Asian countries target Kenya with clothing, vehicles, electronics and pharmaceuticals — which also top the UK’s dealings with East Africa.
“By forging partnerships across Africa, the UK’s financial services sector can turbocharge national economies and empower individuals financially, creating thousands of jobs and enriching lives across the continent,” said Mr Estlin.
The funds will be channeled to Kenya via the Catalyst Fund, which seeks to “support business development and investor opportunities for early stage fintech companies in emerging markets”.
It is managed by BFA, a consulting company headed by Amolo Ng’weno co-founder of Africa Online, East Africa's first internet provider.
Ms Ng’weno said with support from the UK Department for International Development, the Catalyst Fund will help connect 30 local fintech companies with international investors and mentors, including Kenyan fintech companies.
“In Kenya, access to digital financial services is no longer the major issue - today we need to work toward ordinary citizens improving their financial health, gaining new access to opportunity and accessing basic services,” she said.
Nairobi, dubbed the Silicon Savannah, has emerged as a thriving tech ecosystem in the region where global tech investors and venture capital firms are pitching tent to scout for early stage startups.