August 14, 2020
Hackathon Initiative Hopes to Boost Fintech in the Middle East
Hackathon Initiative Hopes to Boost Fintech in the Middle East

Innovation and collaboration are key themes that have helped encompass a knowledge-intensive industry such as tech as a whole. This includes the fintech sector, which in itself has not only been a sector in its own right but fostered its own global ecosystem and collaboration. For instance, not exclusive to fintech, has been hackathons. What exactly is a hackathon? It, in essence, is a tool that helps boost sustainable innovation in an accelerated manner in a narrowed timeline.

 

Those that take part with various backgrounds and specialties get to network, innovate and collaborate to solve a particular problem of concern, according to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) based Fintech Galaxy. Founded in the United Arab Emirates in 2018 by Mirna Sleiman, Fintech Galaxy is a regional platform that fuels innovation in the financial services sector, drives ecosystem collaboration and facilitates integration between financial institutions and fintech companies. From scouting to deployment, they aim to build the future of financial services across the 22 Arab Countries. They have FinX22, which is an open API platform that enables development, testing and deployment of fintech solutions, all according to its website.

Like the rest of the world, the wider Middle East region has had to mitigate the current travel and social distancing measures of the novel coronavirus Co-VID 19. With regards to events such as hackathons, which in its short yet impactful infancy, many of them have become virtual. Organised by Fintech Galaxy, they have begun accepting applications for four hackathons starting last month (all began accepting applications 16th June until the 20th August this month), each with a virtual base with their various partners.

First, Lebanon has the Arab Federation of Exchanges (AFE) Fintech Hackathon with a theme around digitising and sharing KYC in Arab markets. Its ecosystem partners are the American University of Beirut (AUB), Amazon Web Services (AWS), Flat6Lab Beirut, Hatch Quarter, and Oracle. The prize includes one year free Stars membership on FinX22 and access to Oracle’s Unique Accelerator Program “Oracle for Startups.” The solution needed would be a digital KYC, document sharing and trading history sharing via artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.

Second, Saudi Arabia has the Banque Saudi Fransi Virtual Hackathon with a theme around personal finance management. The prize is just like the AFE Fintech Hackathon. Commenting on the partnership with the Fintech Galaxy, Michael Cunningham, Chief Strategy & Digital Officer at Banque Saudi Fransi, said, “At Banque Saudi Fransi we are huge proponents of creating a sustainable financial ecosystem. Our digital ambition and supporting strategy is all reaching and one of inclusion. This means that we want to both enable and support Fintech, but we can only do this through proper open banking regulation and open platforms. FinX22 is the first link in us delivering this ambition. We’re very excited to see what will undoubtedly be a set of successful outcomes delivered.” The ecosystem partners are both Oracle and The Space.

Third, Egypt has the MINT Fintech Hackathon with a theme around digital lending and credit scoring for non-clients; the solution needed is a working prototype that can be developed into a financial solution. The hackathon’s ecosystem partners are Wamda, The GrEEK Campus, AWS, and Oracle. The prize includes, from EGBank, a $5,000 USD award to the 1st winner and the winning teams receiving a fast-track to the pitch day of the incubation screening. Fintech Galaxy will also provide as part of the prize a one-year free Stars membership on FinX22.

Finally, there is the BENEFIT Virtual Hackathon that is hosted in Bahrain. The BENEFIT Company was created to enable the financial services sector in Bahrain to forge strong and lasting connections with customers globally. According to Nezar Maroof, AGM Marketing & Innovation at BENEFIT, said, “BENEFIT is pleased to participate in such important regional initiative as it aligns with goals of embracing collaboration with Fintechs as well as identifying Fintechs which can help in providing innovative solutions to solve business problems leveraging better use of technology. We are confident that this initiative will pave the path for many more collaborations between associated stakeholders, helping tackle challenges while delivering smarter and more secure banking solutions for the future.”

The 1st winner of each theme receives BHD 1,000 ($2,650 USD) from BENEFIT while Fintech Galaxy will give one-year free STARS Membership for winners. This hackathon is seeking two key solutions: First, it needs innovative and feasible payment solutions for micro businesses and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Second, it is looking for an SME credit scoring model solution or application; its ecosystem partner is AWS.

Hackathons, like other events across the world, have been able to continue. Despite the current pandemic situation, hackathons such as those in the Middle East region are still generating buzz and attention. A pandemic can restrict travel and movements but definitely not innovation.

Author: Richie Santosdiaz