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ITU invites African startups to contest on global stage



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The International Communications Union (ITU) has extended invitations to African startups to apply for three of its innovations challenged with winners given the chance to attend a flagship ITU event and gain support in scaling.

In a statement on Friday, the union explained that the 2020 edition of the ITU Innovation Challenge is a global open competition platform for innovators, startups  and ecosystem builders to present their ideas and projects, empowering them to transform their communities into thriving digital societies.

The competition features three distinct challenges including the women in technology challenge, for innovators with digital projects that create impact for women in their communities.

While the second is the digital change-maker challenge, for those with ideas that create digital impact in their communities, the third puzzle for startups is the ecosystem best practice challenge, for ecosystem builders with good practices that nurture an enabling environment for innovators in their communities.

“Winners will attend a four-day global flagship ITU event to learn, network, innovate and scale up,” the global communications body noted.

Meanwhile, the invitation crept in amidst jubilation for Lupiya, a Zambian microfinance startup that just raised a $1 million funding round to help it continue to scale and roll out its services that ensure Zambians, especially women, are able to participate in the economy through its financial inclusion strategy.

Lupiya is a branchless, digital microfinance platform that leverages technology to make the process of borrowing simpler and easier for people and businesses located across the country.

The funding comes from Enygma Ventures, a ZAR100 million ($6.8 million) fund launched late last year with a focus on investing in women entrepreneurs in the SADC region.

“We are thrilled with this investment, it has come at the right time in the interesting financial climate many businesses are experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lupiya chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder Evelyn Kaingu.

The investment will enable Lupiya to continue ensuring Zambians can easily access financial services when they need them. With around 70 per cent of Zambians lacking the necessary collateral to secure a loan, the startup works to close this gap.

“We are excited to partner with Lupiya to make an extraordinary difference to the lives of particularly female Zambian business owners, who run small and medium sized businesses,” said Sarah Dusek, managing partner and co-founder of Enygma Ventures.

“We believe the access to capital is a key strategic initiative to enable job creation, enterprise stimulus and in turn economic growth,” she added.


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