6 greatest pitches of the African FinTech Awards 2017

The African FinTech Awards 2017 ended in a historic tie between ThisIsMe and reigning champion EasyEquities for the title of overall winner, but there were many fascinating pitches during an intense two days at the Finance Indaba Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre on 12 and 13 October.

The Awards recognises innovative and disruptive financial technology companies operating on the continent that have excelled in their sphere of business. The extensive voting process involving the public and expert judging panel culminated in two days of intense pitching battles.

EasyEquities once again stormed to victory in the InvesTech division and CEO Charles Savage said last year's winner was not resting on its laurels. The company, which focuses on broadening access to stock investment through online means, has made great strides in marketing, investor education and platform development over the past year, along with securing R100 milion in investment from Sanlam.

"We solve the lack of access to education through social media and an intuitive brand interface. In three years, we've saved R100 million in investment fees, which over the course of an investor's career could mean the difference between retiring wealthy and not at all. We don't build what we think our customers need - we build what they want us to build," said Charles.

Along with overall honours, ThisIsMe also took the Innovative Banking title at the first time of asking. ThisIsMe helps clients to comply with Know Your Customer and Fica legislation via a revolutionary online platform. The company can complete the Fica process in under three minutes - an African record - and has completed over one million verifications and has more than 15 000 individual users.

"The business is growing and we plan to attract new talent. We are growing globally into Africa and other markets and we are constantly enhancing our technology," said CEO David Thomas.

ThisIsMe has been selected as one of three finalists in the Accenture Innovation Index Awards and also recently participated in Gartner's Aspiring Innovators Programme 2017.

FNB emerged as the winner of the Incumbent Bank category for the second year running under the astute guidance of visionary CIO Peter Alkema. The bank, which has earned global plaudits for its digitalisation efforts, was the first bank in Africa to offer integrated telco service in 2015 with FNB Connect, and launch its own branded smartphones. FNB Connect has more than 500 000 active SIMs and has sold more than 75 000 FNB-branded ConeXis smartphones.

FNB CEO Jacques Celliers said: "This accolade demonstrates our consistency in creating solutions that prioritise exponential helpfulness to address the needs of our individual and business customers. For us, innovation is a journey that is rooted in customer-centricity."

The Sun Exchange, an online socially conscious solar power marketplace, once again reigned supreme in the Blockchain and Bitcoin category, with charismatic CEO Abe Cambridge saying its global success has been based on the key innovations of fractionalised panel ownership and blockchain universal asset leasing.

"Using our platform, anyone can earn income from the sun. Anyone can achieve solid returns than shared nuclear fusion reactor in the sky, the sun. Solar power provides a predictable yield of over 10% a year, but many companies can't afford it. Our marketplace allows anyone to buy into commercial solar projects starting with a single panel. South Africa's sunlight is worth $620 billion a year and $3,4 trillion is being invested into renewable energy globally. The time for solar power is now," he said.

Kenyan financing and payments app Kocela clinched top spot in the Payments and Transfers category. Kocela is a digital enabler providing user-focused payment solutions in the mobile space, with a presence in five countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. It has the number one payments app in Central and East Africa.

"We focus on customer, not on the product and we don't expect the customer to fit in with us. We allow customer carve a path for himself. The product must evolve to fit into life," said CEO Abel Masai, stressing the customer-centric approach that has been key to the company's success.

Ovamba took home the Lending honours. Ovamba is an African funding and logistics services provider for small and medium enterprises and focuses on addressing the funding gap left by the formal banking sector and micro-finance institutions. Ovamba has offered business support to hundreds of businesses in Cameroon and has also been internationally recognised for impacting the growth outlook for African SMEs.

"For us, the best award continues to be the trust that SMEs place in us to deliver "Growth-As-A-Service," said Marvin Cole, co-founder and CEO.