In a monumental step towards addressing the challenge of financial inclusion across the Eastern Caribbean, the EU-UNCDF-OACPS Digital Financial Inclusion Programme joined forces with the Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Center (TTIFC) with invaluable support from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to launch the Caribbean FinTech Sprint for Financial Inclusion. This initiative aims to dismantle the barriers constraining digital financial inclusion across the Caribbean.
The Caribbean FinTech Sprint was not just another event; it was a call to action. It invited both local and global FinTechs to present market-ready solutions that can address pressing challenges identified by various implementing partners within the Caribbean. These challenges ranged from improving the accessibility and usage of digital payment solutions for Credit Union's underserved users and piloting and scaling online marketplaces for smallholder farmers, to developing a secure and innovative KYC solutions to streamline the remote onboarding of customers of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank’s Digital Currency, D-Cash.
The journey for applicants was rigorous. After an initial screening, shortlisted applicants were invited to a technical workshop in the Caribbean. This workshop was not just a meet-and-greet. It was an intensive session where applicants met with implementing partners and key players to refine their proposals. They also benefited from capacity-building sessions, ensuring that their solutions were not just innovative but also feasible and impactful.
From an overwhelming response of over 50 applications, 13 stood out. These 13 promising applications, with a significant representation from the Caribbean region, advanced to the in-person Bootcamp phase. The Bootcamp, held from July 19th to 21st at One FinTech Avenue within the TTIFC offices, was a landmark event. It marked the inaugural event hosted in One FinTech Avenue since its inception and symbolized a significant stride towards a more inclusive digital finance ecosystem across the Caribbean.
The finalists, representing solutions for each problem statement, included renowned names like MLajan Financial Technology Services Ltd (Dominica), Zeepay Ghana Limited (Ghana), mMoney Inc. (Barbados), MOEDA SEMENTE BRASIL MEIOS DE PAGAMENTOS LTDA (Brazil), PayMedia (Pvt) Limited (Sri Lanka), and Rhino Partners Pte Ltd (Singapore), Paymaster Limited (Trinidad & Tobago & Jamaica), PayWise Limited (Trinidad & Tobago), Zed Labs Limited (Trinidad & Tobago), Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (Trinidad & Tobago), Unqueue Distributors Limited (Trinidad & Tobago), Nio Digital Limited (Trinidad & Tobago), and Diagon Consulting Limited (Trinidad & Tobago).
The Bootcamp was not just about competition; it was about collaboration. It emphasized the importance of financial inclusion in reducing crime, bolstering economic resilience, and fostering regional collaboration. The event was graced by speeches from key dignitaries, including European Union Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, H.E. Peter Cavendish, Director General of OECS H.E. Dr. Didacus Jules, Trinidad and Tobago Ministers the Hon. Foster Cummings and the Hon. Brian Manning, Mr. Richard Young Chairman of TTIFC, UNCDF Deputy Director Shaima Hussein, and UNDP Resident Representative Ugo Blanco, Deputy Resident Representative Sharifa Ali Abdullah and UNCDF Caribbean Regional Representative Helen Gradstein. Their insights and support were instrumental in propelling this initiative.
The Caribbean FinTech Sprint Bootcamp was not an end but a beginning. It marked the successful completion of Cohort 1 of the Caribbean FinTech Sprint, setting the stage for future innovations in the Eastern Caribbean's FinTech landscape. The event was a testament to the dedication of partners like the Trinidad and Tobago IFC, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, RHAND Credit Union Co-operative Society Limited, CLICO Credit Union, and NAMDEVCO.
As the curtain came down on this event, awards were presented to winning FinTechs in recognition of their contribution to the journey towards financial inclusion. The Caribbean Sprint awardees included, MLajan Financial Technology Services Ltd (Dominica), Paymaster Limited (Trinidad & Tobago & Jamaica), Rhino Partners Pte Ltd (Singapore), and Unqueue Distributors Limited (Trinidad & Tobago).
Additional engagements are being explored with Zeepay Ghana Limited (Ghana), mMoney Inc. (Barbados), and Zed Labs Limited (Trinidad & Tobago) to develop proofs of concept and pilot solutions. Others will also be engaged for follow up on technical assistance and acceleration programming.