Digital banking tech platform DreamStart Labs and free smartphone organization KEIPhone are teaming up to offer digital banking in underserved areas across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region that will bring free FinTech-enabled smartphones to unbanked women in Africa, according to a Wednesday (May 26) joint press release.
The partnership means every phone distributed by KEIPhone will now be pre-installed with the DreamSave app from DreamStart Labs. Women who get the free phones will view ads with relevant content targeted specifically to their needs, including mobile money services to help female entrepreneurs improve their small businesses, agricultural innovations to help farming communities increase profits, and pay-as-you-go solar products to improve access to affordable clean energy.
“Nearly 1 billion women around the world are excluded from formal financial services today,” said Wes Wasson, CEO of DreamStart Labs. “Our DreamSave app makes informal community banking fast, fun, and easy – even if you’ve never used a smartphone before.”
DreamStart Labs and KEIPhone will start with 10,000 women in rural Uganda before expanding the offering to other African countries later this year. Distribution and training will be conducted in partnership with non-government organizations and international development partners.
“Our passion at KEIPhone is to give women equal access to mobile technology, connecting them to the world and to each other,” said Lauren Hendricks, CEO of KEIPhone, in the release. “Providing women with smartphones is one of the most effective ways to improve the social, physical and economic health of entire communities.”
Earlier this month, Nigerian digital payments company Interswitch, Africa’s second unicorn, raised $110 million to help it expand, with strategic investments by LeapFrog Investment and Tana Africa Capital, which will work with Interswitch to “advance the payment ecosystem across the continent.”
Founded 10 years ago by Mitchell Elegbe, Interswitch provides electronic payments processing and switching services through its brands Verve, a debit card offering, and Quickteller, a multichannel consumer and business payments platform.
Interswitch reached unicorn status — referring to a private company with a valuation of more than $1 billion — in 2019, following a $200 million investment from Visa that gave that company a 20% stake in the Nigerian firm.