10 sub-Saharan Africa fintech startups to watch in 2021

With favorable demographics, a shrinking reliance on natural resources and rapidly expanding infrastructure, Africa is ripe for innovation in financial-services technology.

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Across sub-Saharan Africa, fintech (financial technology) is emerging as a major technological enabler, changing the competitive landscape for financial services and serving as a catalyst for innovation across other industries, from agriculture and retail to transport and insurance.

African fintech companies embody the principle that necessity is the mother of invention — Kenya's M-Pesa, for example, spotted a massive need among people who did not have access to traditional banks, and disrupted traditional financial services with mobile technology that  captured a previously untapped market.

Today, the posterchild for financial inclusion offers over 41 million people a safe, secure and affordable way to send and receive money, top-up airtime, pay their bills, get paid and even secure short-term loans. While M-Pesa may be the first and most successful mobile money payment service, they are not Africa's only success story.

According to a white paper from the International Monetary Fund, these fintech businesses challenge traditional structures and create efficiency gains by opening up financial services to many.

Fintech is essentially technology that is applied to financial services or the management of transaction operations within businesses. "Technological innovation and infrastructure development can play key roles in allowing the continent to transform its demographic dividend into jobs, growth and rising living standards for all," according to the IMF, but only if policymakers are able to navigate the perennial race between fast-moving innovation and the slow pace of regulation.

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