Coding, collaboration and competition: The 2017 Mobile Money Hackathon in Dar es Salaam

July 27, 2017 | Mobile for Development | Mobile Money | Sub-Saharan Africa | Tanzania | Mia Ryan

Over the first weekend of July, 15 teams from across East and West Africa came together in Dar es Salaam to participate in the Mobile Money Hackathon, hosted in conjunction with Airtel Tanzania and their platform provider Mahindra Comviva. These 50 developers spent the weekend building, testing and refining their products for a chance to win all-expenses-paid tickets to Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. The result of this intense endeavour? 15 innovative solutions building on use cases supported by the API, and one big celebration.

Day One began with introductions and a summary of the task at hand: to build and test solutions for harmonised API use cases addressing one of three challenges: mass transportation, merchant payments and bulk disbursements. For every scenario, the emphasis was on making the payment process as frictionless as possible for merchants and customers.

The competing teams comprising start-ups, banks, aggregators, and payments switches then set to work, with many coding into the early hours of the morning to define the nature of their API solutions. Day Two started early as the teams refined their products before a round of practice presentations and feedback sessions from the Airtel, Comviva and GSMA teams prior to the main event: presentations to the judges.

The Judging

Our judges for the day were Isack Nchunda, Marketing Director of Airtel Tanzania, Beatrice Singano, Director of Communications at Airtel Tanzania, and the GSMA’s own Max Cuvellier, Head of the Ecosystem Accelerator Programme. The judging criteria was based on five main factors: innovation; user experience and design; functionality; impact to the end user; and commercial viability.

One-tap payment apps, merchant payment apps for the advertising community and payment wallets for Kenya’s Madaraka Express train passengers were among the diverse range of products pitched by the teams. After the judges’ careful deliberation, the top three teams were announced.

The Prize Winners

The AccessBank team was awarded the Judges’ Choice Award for their focus on building an innovative mobile money enterprise solution – an often overlooked need – with each team member receiving a Camon CX smartphone courtesy of event sponsors TECNO Mobile. Next up, Beatrice Singano presented the runners-up trophy and an Oculus Rift to Team Bizy Tech, who leveraged the merchant payment API to create a solution to improve bus ticketing services and fleet management.

And finally, the Mobile Money Hackathon winners were announced: the newly-named ‘RuPesa’, comprising team members from Phinix Ltd and Somaapps, were awarded first place prize and two all-expenses-paid tickets to Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. As judge Max Cuvellier summarised, “RuPesa demonstrated a great use of the mobile money API as well as great teamwork, working together for the first time over the hackathon weekend!”

We want to thank the hackathon judges, sponsors, and above all our hackathon participants for their excellent work testing the APIs and their great examples of pan-African teamwork and collaboration.

What’s next for the harmonised mobile money APIs?

The APIs, which were jointly designed by key stakeholders — mobile money providers, platform vendors, third party service providers and industry partners — combine best practices in the technology industry and aim to equip the industry with modern tools and to avoid fragmentation in the mobile money ecosystem. The GSMA Mobile Money API was implemented on the Airtel/Comviva Mobile Money platform for the hackathon, and is being implemented across the mobile money industry with other operators in Africa and beyond.

Look out for further upcoming events in the Mobile Money Hackathon series, and for further updates on API implementations across the industry.

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