Dar es Salaam. A Tanzanian innovator, Mr Benjamin Fernandes, who developed the Nala application, has won the Y-Combinator Awards.
The Nala application, which scooped $150,000 (about Sh345 million), allows Tanzanians to access mobile financial services without using internet.
This is the first time for a Tanzanian innovation project to win the award since Y-Combinator was established 13 years ago.
Y-Combinator has been consistently ranked the first accelerator programme in the US due to its success.
Numerous technology companies around the globe such as AirBnB, Stripe, DropBox, CoinBase, Twitch and InstaCart have won awards and have managed to build large conglomerates, producing competitive products around the world.
Mr Fernandes told The Citizen in an interview that his application was selected for the accelerator and is available in the Google Playstore for Tanzania and that it works offline.
According to him, the award was issued at Silicon Valley in California on December 6, this year, and companies winning the award benefit from getting investments, mentorship as well as help in building products that make them better for global markets.
“Starting in January 2019, Nala came on top of over 12,000 companies around the world who applied to be part of the Y-Combinator accelerator programme, which has a 1.6 per cent acceptance rate,” he said.
He added that there are only about two or three African companies selected in every batch, and that Nala was the only company from East Africa.
“Companies that go through the Y-Combinator have very high chances of becoming successful,” he stressed.
He explained that Nala is a mobile money application that simplifies USSD based transactions, making them work seven times faster, safer and convenient for mobile money users in Tanzania.
He said so far Nala has won five awards including Stanford Graduate School of Business – Frances and Arjay Miller Award, EcoBank Africa FinTech Challenge 2018 – Beating 412 African FinTech companies to win the number one financial technology company in Africa for 2018.
He said that he never thought he could win all the awards and appreciated recognition of his hard work, adding that the most important thing is to understand the market and needs of the community.
He stressed technology is growing and Tanzania has no option but to go with the pace of changes.
“This is just the beginning, we as a country need support in the technology space otherwise we will be left behind,” he said.
He said 99 per cent of FinTech funding goes to Kenya and just one per cent goes to Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.
He noted that Y-Combinator’s global accreditation meant a lot for the potential future investment in Tanzania.
“This is an opportunity to drive investment to Tanzania where we can pave the way for other Tanzanian companies to be supported as well.
“Nala to me, is a pan-African company, we have already been invited to other markets, which want our presence in their countries. I want to start this at home first. It’s about time Tanzania was on the global map for technological innovations,” he said.