Mastercard launches a university challenge on financial inclusion for the SDGs in partnership with the Ministry of Sustainable Development, BENEFIT, Tamkeen and StartUp Bahrain

SDGs Bahrain News
Mastercard launches a university challenge on financial inclusion for the SDGs in partnership with the Ministry of Sustainable Development, BENEFIT, Tamkeen and StartUp Bahrain

Today, Mastercard, in partnership with the Ministry of Sustainable Development of Bahrain, launched the Mastercard Challenge on Financial Inclusion for the SDGs under the theme ‘Solving for the Future’. Run in collaboration with The BENEFIT Company, The Labour Fund (Tamkeen) and StartUp Bahrain, the competition invites Bahrain’s university students to propose innovative ideas and data-driven solutions which can help accelerate progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through financial inclusion as a key enabler.

This collaboration falls in line with the Ministry of Sustainable Development’s plans to strengthen partnerships with the private sector in advancing the SDGs while recognizing the crucial role of youth in global development and shaping a more sustainable future.

It also supports Mastercard’s commitment to driving financial inclusion and bringing one billion people and 50 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) worldwide into the digital economy by 2025.

Financial inclusion is a powerful tool that has a significant impact on achieving several SDGs, including improving health and well-being, promoting gender equality, fostering economic growth, and supporting job creation. Recognizing the innovative spirit and dedication of youth, the competition aims to ignite the creativity and leverage the talent of university students in Bahrain to tackle pressing development challenges across all 17 SDGs.

HE Noor bint Ali Alkhulaif, Minister of Sustainable Development and Chief Executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, said: “Over the years, Bahrain’s inclusive financial system has helped position the Kingdom as a pioneer in digital financial infrastructure innovation by expanding mobile payments, strengthening regulations, prioritizing financial integrity and stability, and promoting digitization, financial literacy, and financial innovation. Given the role of financial inclusion as an enabler of several SDGs, the Mastercard Challenge seeks to encourage Bahrain’s youth to develop new solutions which can unlock its full potential by creating more economic opportunities, enabling economic diversification, and boosting sustainable growth.”

Commenting on this initiative, Her Excellency Ms. Maha Abdulhameed Mofeez at Tamkeen emphasized the importance of empowering youth to pursue innovation and facilitating their inclusion in the process of national economic development. She stated: “We believe in the capabilities of Bahraini youth and their potential to drive impactful change in the Kingdom. We are excited to collaborate with the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Mastercard, and BENEFIT to offer this unique opportunity to Bahraini students to tackle a pressing topic through innovation and gain access to expert knowledge and a valuable platform to showcase their solutions. Supporting the Mastercard Challenge is aligned with our commitment to enabling Bahraini talent to pursue an entrepreneurial path through training, mentorship, and access to funding.”

Adam Jones, Division President, West Arabia, Mastercard, said: “At Mastercard, we are committed to harnessing the power of our vast global network to achieve the SDGs, and driving financial inclusion is an important part of our collective efforts. We are delighted to join forces with our valued partners in Bahrain to introduce the Mastercard Challenge that empowers youth to apply its immense innovation potential to ideate out-of-the box solutions to the world’s most urgent issues.”

Abdulwahed AlJanahi, Chief Executive of BENEFIT, said: "At BENEFIT, empowering Bahrain's youth has always been a core value. We're excited to join forces with Mastercard, the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Tamkeen and StartUp Bahrain on the Mastercard Challenge on Financial Inclusion for the SDGs. This competition perfectly complements our recent youth-focused initiatives by providing a platform for university students to develop innovative solutions. We believe that empowering young people through financial inclusion equips them to tackle global challenges and build a more sustainable future. We encourage all university students to participate to unlock their potential and gain valuable experience.”

Paving the way for the UN’s Summit of the Future, which will take place on September 22 – 23, 2024, the Mastercard Challenge is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate university students in Bahrain. The competition participants will explore real-life challenges facing the SDGs from a multi-disciplinary perspective in sectors that include education, healthcare, climate, the environment, tourism, and business. They will discover how financial inclusion and data from the financial services industry can contribute to building a brighter and more resilient future for all.

Challenge winners will benefit from complimentary enrollment in Mastercard Academy for one year, a visit the Mastercard EEMEA HQ, and a paid internship at BENEFIT to develop and scale their solutions, they will also gain access to technical expertise, mentorship, and training from Mastercard and BENEFIT, including an AI masterclass, 10 mentoring sessions and three online sessions with Mastercard’s experts, and engage with selected Startup Bahrain resources and partners.

The deadline for applications is July 31 at 7 pm Bahrain time. After this, a panel of distinguished experts with experience in financial services at the frontier of social impact and industry will review the submissions and announce the shortlisted entries. Qualifying applicants will attend an intensive three-week mentorship summer bootcamp in August, featuring industry experts from knowledge partner organizations, who will deliver training sessions on critical topics. Participants will gain valuable insights on the SDGs, sustainability in the age of AI, success stories from Bahrain’s financial sector’s digital transformation journey and more. The bootcamp will culminate in a semifinals pitch in September.

The final pitch will be held at the flagship Fintech Forward 2024 conference this October in Bahrain. This unique platform will provide the finalists with the opportunity to showcase their refined business ideas, gain valuable feedback, attract potential investment, and implement their ideas in Bahrain’s thriving financial ecosystem and beyond. Interested participants can learn more and apply at (https://benefit.bh/mastercardChallenge).