How FinTechs can help reduce barriers due to pandemic challenges

By Stephen Deng and Alina Kaiser

Photo by naipo de on Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic will likely have lasting effects that will impact the Egyptian economy for years to come. Social distancing, inability for in-person customer engagement, especially in rural areas, and tracking and facilitating digital payments have all proved challenging for the FinTech sector. We see startups playing a part in the short-term and long-term solutions.

Under the host of the Central Bank of Egypt, DFS Lab has partnered with FSD Africa on a COVID-19 Innovation Sprint that aims to unearth, develop, and refine FinTech solutions that directly address the pandemic in Egypt. This series…


Here’s a list of resources, from funding to webinars

Sendy launches a home delivery solution to help flatten the curve. Photo credit: Tech Bahari

Startups of all sizes across Africa are responding to COVID-19 to alleviate some of the economic and health impacts their communities are facing. Nigeria’s PalmPay is waiving transfer fees and launched direct payments to customers who have COVID-19. Sendy is promoting their SendyGo delivery option and donating a support basket to families in need for every order placed. From our own portfolio, Pezesha has launched free financial education APIs for lenders and financial institutions to improve financial health among borrowers. …


And what you can learn

Authors: Stephen Deng and Alina Kaiser

Significantly more women than men around the world lack access to necessary digital financial services. This a problem for women and a problem for financial service providers.

DFS Lab saw it as an opportunity to take action — and we’re using digital financial product service design and execution as a way to do it. We’ve talked before about the importance of product design for women’s financial inclusion, and we’ve made sure our portfolio is gender-balanced with 50% female founders and 50% female customers. With our committed partners Flourish Ventures and FinEquity, housed at CGAP


By Annabel Schiff and Alina Kaiser

The world’s working-age population is growing — and nowhere more rapidly than in sub-Saharan Africa. To keep pace with this growing population, 600 million new jobs must be created globally over the next 15 years. That’s a tall order, but micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are making this goal achievable. MSMEs are the backbone of most economies worldwide, and they play a key role in developing countries, according to the United Nations.

In Kenya alone, there are roughly 7 million non-agricultural microenterprises with less than 10 employees that, in total, contribute roughly 30%…


An interview with Benjamin Fernandes, founder of Africa’s first offline payments app, NALA

Benjamin Fernandes, winner of the Ecobank Fintech Challenge, 2018

I had a chance to talk to one of our portfolio company’s founders, Benjamin Fernandes, about his journey with DFS Lab — from when we first connected with him, to where he is now with his fintech startup NALA.

NALA is the first app in Africa that allows users to pay with mobile money without an internet connection — which you can imagine is really useful in Sub-Saharan Africa where connectivity is limited.

Throughout the interview, Benjamin offers some great insight into being a founder operating a startup in Tanzania, and being a founder in general.

Alina: Can you walk…


Participants at our event exploring different platformization scenarios.

Platforms are a hot topic and for good reason. The digital “platformization” of markets is one of the defining forces of change in the shift to digital economies. Facebook and Google have leveraged network effects in social media and search to grow massive multi-sided markets in attention and advertising. Innovators such as Upwork, Uber and Kuhustle are revolutionizing the world of work. Amazon, Alibaba and Jumia are fundamentally changing how merchants sell to customers. These platforms are not only transforming online experiences but have real-world implications for users and the markets in which they work.

Platformization presents both new possibilities…


Content contributed by Pezesha

In a bid to bring sanity and security to Kenya’s ‘lending craze,’ Financial Education is at the heart of Pezesha’s digital marketplace. This October, they ventured to Embu to launch their official curriculum Pezesha Academy, in collaboration with Akili Group, an institution focused on value addition and training for farmers.

Members of Akili Group’s farmers network attending the 2 days of Pezesha Academy in Embu

The rise of FinTech in Kenya, and more specifically the boom of lending apps, has made access to credit easier and quicker than ever before. And whilst the widespread adoption of mobile money is clearly having a positive impact across the country, the elimination of traditional…


Entrepreneurs in emerging markets have it rough. It can be a very isolating experience. Supportive communities are few and far between, and Silicon Valley investors seem more like mythical beings from a children’s book. Without the right connections and support, starting a startup can be a lonely road. Our aim at DFS Lab is to give entrepreneurs in emerging markets a leg up, supporting their growth and connecting them to peers, mentors, and investors from around the world. For the last two years we have been running design sprint bootcamps, based on Jake Knapp’s Design Sprint methodology, for entrepreneurs building…


By Jessica Osborn

In May, the FiDA Partnership took a group of digital finance experts working in Africa to learn about the fintech boom happening in China. The immersive week was designed to get participants out of the boardroom to experience Chinese digital life firsthand. We viewed our experiences through the lens of Africa’s digital finance scene, hoping to learn how China’s innovations could be applied to sub-Saharan Africa. These eight things stood out for us:

1) The Chinese government provides an enabling environment

The Chinese government established an ecosystem that supports digital financial services. Thanks to a mandate requiring…


Chatbots are a familiar technology to many people in developed markets thanks to its widespread adoption and application. If you spend any time online, it’s likely that you have interacted with a chatbot, or at least had a chatbot offer to help you navigate an online task. But how can technologies like chatbots and natural language processing be applied in the developing world context and what are the use cases there?

Since we at DFS Lab aim to accelerate the next generation of fintech breakthroughs, specifically for emerging markets, we were in a great position to respond to the Bill…

Alina Kaiser

Communications consultant for @TheDFSLab, @FiDAPartnership, and @cariboudigital. Master of Communication from University of Washington.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store