In a significant move to foster technological innovation and entrepreneurial growth, Safaricom, alongside M-Pesa Africa and Sumitomo Corporation, has introduced nine pioneering startups selected to participate in the inaugural Spark Accelerator Program.

This initiative is tailored to provide these startups with the necessary support to expand and thrive.

The startups were chosen from a broad spectrum of applicants spanning categories such as Embedded Finance, Future Fintech, SME Productivity Tools, and Content.

The Spark Accelerator Program is designed to offer a holistic support system, including training, mentorship, and access to markets, technology, product development, and capital.

Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa emphasized the importance of leveraging technology to drive meaningful innovation as the foundation of the Spark Accelerator program. He highlighted that by supporting and investing in tech-enabled startups, the program aims to foster significant societal change and economic growth.

Ndegwa expressed excitement about collaborating with visionary founders who represent the promise of the future and the potential impact they will make in their respective sectors.

"Leveraging technology to drive meaningful innovation is a strong premise under which the Spark Accelerator program was founded. By supporting and investing in these tech-enabled startups, we aim to drive significant societal change and economic growth. We are excited to work with visionary founders who represent the promise of tomorrow and to see the impact they will create in their respective sectors," Negwa stated.

In the Embedded Finance category, the selected startups are Chumz, which utilizes mobile money, gamification, and behavioural psychology to foster a savings community, and Nobuk, which enhances payment collection and reconciliation for African groups, easing financial reporting.

The SME Productivity Tools category features Chpter, which streamlines sales, marketing, and payments on social platforms through AI; Faidi HR, a comprehensive cloud-based payroll and HR solution; Churpy, which automates repetitive office tasks for CFOs; and Twiva, a social-commerce platform that leverages influencers to enhance market access.

Under the Content category, HealthX Africa and BlackRhino VR were shortlisted.

HealthX Africa focuses on providing primary healthcare through both digital and physical touchpoints, aiming to ensure every Kenyan has access to a doctor.

BlackRhino VR empowers creators and brands to produce immersive and interactive stories.

VunaPay, selected in the Future Fintech category, provides instant payment solutions to smallholder farmers through agricultural cooperatives.

Katsuya Kashiki, General Manager of Smart Communication Platform SBU at Sumitomo Corporation, highlighted the partnership’s potential.

"By leveraging our extensive global business know-how with excellent operations and customer base of Safaricom and M-Pesa Africa, we are excited to expand digital financial services and contribute to the development of the Kenyan and African economies, human resource development and a more prosperous life through supporting and collaborating with advanced startups," Kashiki stated.

Nissi Madu, Managing Partner at iHUB/CcHUB, also expressed enthusiasm.

"In alignment with our commitment to accelerating innovation for African prosperity, we are excited to welcome these startups into the programme," Madu said.

"Their unique solutions harness transformative opportunities to leverage technology to significantly improve the quality of lives of millions of Kenyans. We look forward to supporting the startups to optimize their offerings, scale their solutions and expand their impact."

This initiative follows the strategic partnership formed last year between Safaricom, M-Pesa Africa, and Sumitomo Corporation, which was approved by Safaricom's board and shareholders to restructure the Spark Fund and launch the Spark Accelerator.

The program aims to drive innovation across various industry sectors, supported by a team of founders and industry experts.