Launch of the Sierra Leone FinTech Challenge 2019-2020 for Financial Inclusion

  • March 28, 2019

  • Freetown, Sierra Leone

Contact Information

For further information about the Sierra Leone FinTech Challenge, please contact:

Wycliffe Ngwabe
Digital Financial Services Expert, UNCDF


Leveraging advances in technology, the Bank of Sierra Leone has taken an active and enabling role in facilitating the development of right business models for digital infrastructure at the community-level to shift from informal cash-based transactions to digital financial services.

Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone announcing the finalists of the first edition of the FinTech Challenge 2017-2018

Today, Bank of Sierra Leone in partnership with the United Nations Capital Development Fund and the IBSA Fund launched the Sierra Leone Fintech Challenge 2019-2020, under the theme of “Domestic resource mobilization”, to further support the financial inclusion of the middle and low-income population.

The world is currently experiencing unprecedented increases in connectivity and global data flows. And the rise of ‘superplatforms’ is starting to enter the African markets and will have significant implications for consumers, incumbent financial institutions, local entrepreneurs as well as for regulators.

In that context, Sierra Leone is facing a wave of new opportunities. Rapid mobile phone and network penetration across the country is opening the door to new services, making it easier than ever for people to use digital payments in their everyday lives. Adoption of digital financial services (DFS) in the country continues to grow — active adult users increased from 6 percent to 10 percent from 2016 to 2017. As DFS become more mainstream, domestic resource mobilization has emerged as a new frontier in Sierra Leone where the informal economy represents a whopping 53 percent of GDP. According to the recent DFS Annual Provider Survey, at least $23 million from the cash economy is being digitized at mobile money agents, representing only a tip of the iceberg.

The Sierra Leone FinTech Challenge 2019-2020, funded through the IBSA Fund, has the overall goal of improving Sierra Leone’s domestic resource mobilization and the economic well-being of Sierra Leoneans living in rural and underserved areas. It aims to harness the growing digital economy in order to develop and test innovative solutions as a way to leapfrog access to finance, and consequently build out government and private sector platforms to operationalize the benefits of the digital economy.

It will test and build business models for digital infrastructure to shift from informal cash–based transactions to digital financial services that can mobilize domestic resources and address the latent needs around health, education, agriculture and help save and plan for the future.

The focus will be nationwide, with emphasis on rural areas, smallholder farmers, women groups and youth.

The Sierra Leone FinTech Challenge 2019-2020 will have a two-pronged approach:

  1. Engagement and partnerships with innovation hubs and local players
  2. Catalytic investments to scalable partnerships and solutions

In order to address the following key challenges:

  1. How to digitize informal savings and lending groups such that it leads to access to greater access to financial services – bigger loans, savings, other financial services, and non-financial services such as energy, education, knowledge, market linkages among others.
  2. How to digitize payments and collections, for example revenue collection, energy, health and education payments.

And it will be implemented in three phases:

  1. Define & Kick-off (January 2019 – February 2019)
  2. Design & Test (March 2019 – August 2019)
  3. Invest & Pilot (August 2019 onwards)

The Sierra Leone FinTech Challenge 2019-2020 is led by the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), in partnership with UNCDF with funding support from the India, Brazil and South Africa Facility for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation (IBSA Fund) at the UN South-South Office.

The Bank of Sierra Leone will provide two finalists access to the Regulatory Sandbox – a safe space for unregulated financial sector innovations to grow under the guidance of the Bank of Sierra Leone staff and other specialists.

For further details about the FinTech Challenge and for applications, please visit:

  1. Applications -
  2. FinTech Challenge -


About the Bank of Sierra Leone

The Bank of Sierra Leone is the central bank of the Republic of Sierra Leone and is charged with developing the country’s financial sector. It led the development of the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion 2017–2020 and provides leadership and coordination support to the Digital Financial Services Working Group.

About the IBSA Fund

The India, Brazil and South Africa Facility for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation is a unique initiative to enhance South-South cooperation for the benefit of nations of the South. This fund facilitates the execution of human development projects to advance the fight against poverty and hunger in developing countries.


The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) makes public and private finance work for the poor in the world’s 47 least developed countries. With its capital mandate and instruments, UNCDF offers last mile finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development. By identifying market segments where innovative financing models can have transformational impact and address exclusion and inequalities of access, UNCDF contributes to a number of different SDGs.

For more information, visit or follow @UNCDF and UNCDF Facebook