COVID-19 is a pandemic of both historic public health and economic proportions. In addition to its health implications, it has exposed and exacerbated the instability of our financial and economic systems.
Among the most affected segments are informal and daily wage workers, gig economy workers, and small business owners who are suffering from loss of work and income. The pandemic is, therefore, putting the financial health of individuals, communities and entire countries at stake.
While most governments are doing the best they can to provide healthcare and financial support, times like these require swift global cooperation between both the public and private sector.
With support from MetLife Foundation through the i3 Program, the UNCDF Financial Innovation Lab (FinLab) launched the COVID-19 Financial Health Challenge, focusing on solutions that can help build and improve financial health and resilience of individuals and small businesses; as well as solutions that directly address the financial health needs of people who are most impacted by the pandemic, including women, youth and the elderly.
Nine teams were selected to take part in a Bootcamp and Innovation Programme to further develop their solutions to improve the financial health of individuals (youth, elderly and women) that are typically excluded from quality financial services. The teams went through a Human-Centred Design (HCD) training, conducted user testing and were guided in their journey by our global network of mentors. This Bootcamp and Innovation Programme allowed the teams to fine-tune and localize their solutions to their respective user groups and target markets.
During the final pitches, a global panel of judges selected the top two solutions to receive support from UNCDF to further develop their solutions, to improve their financial resilience and help people have better control over their financial lives. These teams will also join the MAS Global Fintech Hackcelerator and have the chance to present their solutions at the Singapore Fintech Festival in December 2020. The two selected solutions are AwanTunai from Indonesia and Zigway from Myanmar.
AwanTunai’s goal is to modernize the traditional domestic demand trade in Indonesia so as to make the previously underbanked segment of micro merchants bankable. Their order management system and digital payment acceptance in the offline fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and staple food supply chain captures transaction data for credit underwriting.
ZigWay provides subscription services for essential goods and services to low-income households, using a mix of technology and local Super-Users, enabling them to purchase in bulk direct from suppliers with favorable payment terms.
In addition to the top two solutions, UNCDF is also exploring partnerships with three additional teams that have promising solutions to improve financial health. These teams are Aeloi Technologies from Nepal, HeyAlfred from Malaysia and Reach52 from Singapore.
Aeloi Technologies unleashes the entrepreneurial potential of 400 million informal sector enterprises by automating the process of micro-loan and fund monitoring using digital tokens, thereby fostering trust to invest in the grassroots economy.
Through machine learning and personalized insights, HeyAlfred’s AI-powered, chat-based platform allows its users to better visualize and manage their finances, enabling them to make better financial decisions.
Reach52 is a social impact organization committed to improving access to health and financial services for lower-income populations in rural or remote areas of low and middle-income countries (LMICs).
At UNCDF, we look forward to seeing the impact of these solutions to improve the financial health of their users, as UNCDF continues to offer “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development.
The COVID-19 Financial Health Challenge was organised in partnership with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and funded by MetLife Foundation through the i3 (Innovate, Implement and Impact) Program.
These teams will also join the MAS Global Fintech Hackcelerator and have the chance to present their solutions at the Singapore Fintech Festival in December 2020.