WASHINGTON, D.C., October 27, 2021 – The Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) announced today the Inclusive Fintech 50 (IF50) competition’s 2021 cohort, recognizing 50 fintech startups that are leading the way in helping low-income customers and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. IF50 is sponsored by Visa, MetLife Foundation, and Jersey Overseas Aid & Comic Relief, with support from Accion and IFC. The winners of this year’s competition join winners from previous years in representing a range of impactful ways in which fintech startups are helping vulnerable, underserved users improve their financial lives.

The 2021 winners were selected from a pool of 377 applicants, representing 77 countries, with Sub-Saharan Africa representing 44 percent of all candidates. The winning startups represent a range of product offerings, from credit solutions to payments providers and fintech infrastructure. An independent panel of 22 expert judges selected the fintechs through a rigorous process that evaluated their inclusivity, innovation, traction, and scale potential.

Participation in the competition provides startups with visibility and credibility among investors, as well as media and partnership exposure. Nineteen winners from the 2019 cohort have since raised a collective $182.5 million in investment.

IF50 winners will further benefit from introductions to investors, including the Catalyst Fund Circle of Investors, and exposure during CFI’s Financial Inclusion Week, November 1-4, 2021. Visa, an IF50 sponsor, will also provide winners access to Practical Business Skills, a global digital platform created by Visa to deliver free educational resources to help small and micro business owners make confident, informed decisions to run and grow their businesses. IF50 winners will also automatically pre-qualify for Visa Fintech Fast Track, a program that advances the process of integration with Visa and its network of partners, helping fintechs enhance and introduce new, innovative payment experiences. These tools, together with the networking and platform that IF50 provides, deliver invaluable opportunities for startups at the earliest stages of their journeys.

The IF50 application process revealed some key facts about how fintech startups have adapted to support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

Most applicants report a growth year despite difficult COVID lockdowns. This growth reflects growing confidence in the use of digital financial services, accelerated by a desire to limit social contact during the pandemic, as well as fintech startups’ ability to adapt to meet users’ needs.

The pandemic may have caused setbacks for some startups, requiring measures to support users such as extending credit tenures, providing grace periods, or even waiving fees. Even those that experienced setbacks, however, are now optimistic as they predict increased demand for their services.

The fintechs that raised investment funds this year reported larger deal sizes than those in the year previous.

Applications from women-led fintechs accounted for 27 percent of the pool but constituted 36 percent of the winners.

Full profiles of the fintechs can be viewed at www.inclusivefintech50.com/2021-cohort.

Key quotes:

  • Beth Hurvitz, Global Head of Social Impact, Visa Inc.: “The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the importance of digital payments, which are often a lifeline for vulnerable communities and businesses. Visa believes that digital equity and inclusion are key components of rebuilding for a more inclusive and equitable world, and congratulates this cohort of IF50 winners who are critical to help achieve this vision.”
  • José Morell-Ducós, Portfolio Manager: Financial Inclusion, Comic Relief and Jersey Overseas Aid: “We are extremely pleased and excited to join in in the announcement of this year’s Inclusive Fintech 50 winners. These 50 start-ups represent some of the most remarkable resilience and adaptability that the sector can portray in face of crisis, and the innovative solutions that aim to help the most vulnerable and underserved users. We look forward to the conversations and impact this year’s winners will have on the fintech space.”
  • Tia Hodges, President and CEO, MetLife Foundation: “This exemplary group of IF50 winners demonstrates the impactful role that fintechs play in expanding access to innovative, affordable, and client-centric financial solutions. The shift from basic access and inclusion to a focus on creating sustainable financial health is key to building stronger communities for the long term.”
  • Jared Miller, CEO, Accial Capital and a judge of this year’s competition: “The winners of this year’s Inclusive Fintech 50 have stepped forward during COVID-19 to responsibly serve a growing set of underserved consumers and MSMEs. Today, these tech-enabled, specialist firms foster financial wellness and resilience in a uniquely challenging operating context. They are beacons of inspiration for stakeholders and an emergent set of entrepreneurs looking to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

About IF50

Inclusive Fintech 50 identifies promising early-stage fintechs driving financial inclusion around the globe through a competitive process led by an independent panel of judges from venture capital, technology, and financial services. Applicants are assessed on the degree to which their target market includes underserved people or businesses, and whether their innovation offers a new value proposition, shows early-stage traction, and can have a noticeable impact on the more than 3 billion financially underserved people globally. Inclusive Fintech 50 is sponsored by Visa, MetLife Foundation, and Jersey Overseas Aid & Comic Relief, with support from Accion and IFC. The initiative is managed by the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI). Learn more at inclusivefintech50.com.

About the Center for Financial Inclusion

The Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) works to advance inclusive financial services for the billions of people who currently lack the financial tools needed to improve their lives and prosper. We leverage partnerships to conduct rigorous research and test promising solutions, and then advocate for evidence-based change. CFI was founded by Accion in 2008 to serve as an independent think tank on inclusive finance.

About Visa

Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) is the world’s leader in digital payments. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable and secure payment network – enabling individuals, businesses and economies to thrive. Our advanced global processing network, VisaNet, provides secure and reliable payments around the world, and is capable of handling more than 65,000 transaction messages a second. The company’s relentless focus on innovation is a catalyst for the rapid growth of connected commerce on any device, and a driving force behind the dream of a cashless future for everyone, everywhere. As the world moves from analog to digital, Visa is applying our brand, products, people, network and scale to reshape the future of commerce. For more information, visit About Visa and @VisaNews.

About MetLife Foundation

At MetLife Foundation, we are committed to expanding opportunities for low- and moderate-income people around the world. We partner with nonprofit organizations and social enterprises to create financial health solutions and build stronger communities, while engaging MetLife employee volunteers to help drive impact. Our financial health work has reached more than 17.3 million low- and moderate-income individuals in 42 countries. To learn more about MetLife Foundation, visit metlife.org.

About Jersey Overseas Aid & Comic Relief

In 2018, Comic Relief and Jersey Overseas Aid announced a four-year £8 million partnership called ‘Branching Out: Financial Inclusion at the Margins’ to improve access to affordable financial services for those at the margins of society in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Zambia. Comic Relief and Jersey Overseas Aid believe that one of the best ways to do this is by transferring knowledge to build responsible and inclusive financial systems, incubating FinTech, and focusing on service delivery to increase bottom-of-the-pyramid access to financial services including bank accounts, savings, insurance and credit, providing low-income households with the means to plan for the future as well as unexpected events. The partnership grants support a diverse set of organisations, made up of international and local NGOs, with each grantee delivering programmes designed to meet different community and national needs in addressing financial inclusion.

About Accion

Accion is a global nonprofit committed to creating a financially inclusive world, with a pioneering legacy in microfinance and fintech impact investing. We catalyze financial service providers to deliver high-quality, affordable solutions at scale for the three billion people who are left out of — or poorly served by — the financial sector. For 60 years, Accion has helped tens of millions of people through our work with more than 170 partners in 55 countries. More at accion.org.

About IFC

IFC—a member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work in more than 100 countries, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries. In fiscal year 2020, we invested $22 billion in private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.

Media contact: Lauren Braniff, Vice President, Strategy and Communications, Center for Financial Inclusion: lbraniff@accion.org.

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