Pacific and ASEAN regions connect for financial innovation challenge

March 22, 2019

Singapore innovators attending the information session on the Pacific-ASEAN Financial Innovation Challenge


Suva, Fiji – A competition, calling on financial technology providers to develop innovative solutions for financial inclusion barriers in the Pacific has been launched by the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) – FinLab from Malaysia, with support from MetLife Foundation, Singapore Fintech Association and the University of the South Pacific.

The competition, branded as Pacific-ASEAN Financial Innovation Challenge, provides a platform for innovators from Pacific island countries, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore to develop their ideas into practical solutions for four different financial service providers from the Pacific.

Pacific markets come with unique challenges to financial inclusion and in particular to financial technology driven innovations. Small and dispersed populations concentrated economic activities around capital towns and limited digital infrastructure create unfavorable market conditions for overseas based financial technology firms (FinTechs) to explore for business opportunities in the Pacific. On top of that, the local tech community that can offer digital solutions to financial service providers is nascent at best. This hampers the ability for Pacific based financial service providers to innovate and deliver cutting-edge technology solutions to their customers.

The Pacific-ASEAN Financial Innovation Challenge aims to provide a platform for innovators from the Pacific and South-East Asia to develop their ideas into practical solutions for four PFIP partners: Vodafone Fiji, FijiCare Insurance, Kina Bank and the National Bank of Vanuatu. The objective of the challenge is to de-risk the entry for FinTech firms from South-East Asia into Pacific markets and for the Pacific-based FinTech firms to get an opportunity to connect with their peers from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, thereby creating a network of FinTech innovators in both regions.

During the past weeks PFIP, together their colleagues from UNCDF-FinLab Malaysia has held various information and launch events in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Malaysia and Singapore to encourage FinTech firms to apply for the challenge. The events introduced innovators to the four specific challenges for which solutions are being sought: e-commerce, efficient provision of SME financing, impact of NCDs on affordability of health insurance providers and open banking models.

In launching the challenge competition in Suva, Fiji, the Deputy Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Ms Anna Dorney said that “innovation requires us to be open to new information and practice, recognizing that we may need to source skills and expertise from outside to achieve our objectives. With the support from the Australian government, PFIP is creating a culture that promotes people with good ideas daring to take that extra risk, learn from their mistakes and ultimately creating value and making an impact in peoples’ lives,”.

PFIP Programme Manager Bram Peters mentioned the competition has already received considerable interest from ASEAN, Australian and New Zealand based firms and that Pacific firms were also putting forward some strong teams for the challenge.

Applications for the challenge close on 7th April 2019.  Thereafter, the best teams will be invited to attend a three-day bootcamp at UNCDF FinLab in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. During these three days they will be supported by industry experts and work with the partnering financial service providers from the Pacific to validate their ideas, build prototypes and further refine their solutions for the specific design challenges.

At the end of the bootcamp, a jury of experts and representatives of the partnering financial service providers will select the best FinTech solution providers. These winners will be linked to the financial service providers for which they have developed the solution and will work in the respective countries (Fiji, Vanuatu and PNG), where they will refine their design and test prototypes in a live market environment for a period of 4 to 6 months. PFIP intends to provide additional support for each participating FinTech Firm that agrees with the partnering financial service provider to implement and scale its solution after this period.

For more information on the Challenge:


About PFIP

PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme that has helped over two million Pacific islanders gain access to financial services and financial education. It achieves these results by funding innovation with financial services and delivery channels, supports policy and regulatory initiatives, and the empowerment of consumers.


It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government.  PFIP operates from the UNDP Pacific Office in Suva, Fiji and has offices in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands. 


For more information or media inquiries please contact:
Erica Lee – Communications Associate   

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