Mastercard Challenge


Participate to Win!


Mastercard is launching ‘'Financial Inclusion for the SDGs University Challenge: Solving for the Future'’ which is a competition that recognizes Bahraini students’ talent in the quest for new innovative ideas and data-driven solutions which can help ignite the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) progress through financial inclusion.

The purpose of the challenge is to foster talent and encourage students to come up with innovative solutions to enhance financial inclusion and use it as a powerful tool towards addressing several SDGs. Students are expected to explore real-time challenges facing the SDGs from a multi-disciplinary perspecticve, looking into sectors that include education, healthcare, climate, the environment, tourism, business sector, and more; and discover how solutions can be built using financial inclusion and data from the financial services industry as a powerful tool.

The winning solution is awarded enrollment in Mastercard’s Academy, a visit to Mastercard EEMEA HQ, and a paid internship at Benefit, in addition to mentoring sessions, masterclasses, and access to resources and expertise of all partners.

Download the Challenge Brief

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What you need to know:

We are looking for solutions with disruptive potential that align with the SDGs and are technically feasible. The proposals can be at any development stage - an idea, pilot project, or existing project needing further development. They do not have to be unpublished. The participants with the selected solutions will participate in an immersive two-week bootcamp, where they will be mentored by industry experts, entrepreneurship mentors and product development leaders to support them in refining their idea, initiating their Minimum Viable Product (MVP), developing their business model and pitching their solution. The bootcamp will help participants understand barriers, and opportunities to utilize business and industry capabilities. This should enhance understanding of technical, legal, economic, or sociological aspects of how the solutions can advance the sustainable development agenda using financial inclusion as a tool. Proposed solutions can also design, analyze, and suggest solutions for narrowing, slowing, and/or closing developmental gaps and loops using data and ideas driven from the financial sector. Proposed solutions will be evaluated according to their level of novelty, feasibility, disruptive potential, alignment with the SDGs, and quality of the presentation.

We are looking for solutions with disruptive potential that align with the SDGs and are technically feasible. The proposals can be at any development stage - an idea, pilot project, or existing project needing further development. They do not have to be unpublished. The participants with the selected solutions will participate in an immersive two-week bootcamp, where they will be mentored by industry experts, entrepreneurship mentors and product development leaders to support them in refining their idea, initiating their Minimum Viable Product (MVP), developing their business model and pitching their solution. The bootcamp will help participants understand barriers, and opportunities to utilize business and industry capabilities. This should enhance understanding of technical, legal, economic, or sociological aspects of how the solutions can advance the sustainable development agenda using financial inclusion as a tool. Proposed solutions can also design, analyze, and suggest solutions for narrowing, slowing, and/or closing developmental gaps and loops using data and ideas driven from the financial sector. Proposed solutions will be evaluated according to their level of novelty, feasibility, disruptive potential, alignment with the SDGs, and quality of the presentation.

This challenge welcomes innovative solutions from diverse disciplines that can viably support the Sustainable Development Goals. Proposals may involve technology, economics, policy, and new partnerships, with students playing a key role through their groundbreaking ideas.

Examples may include and are not limited to the following:

Climate Fintech: Innovations that leverage digital transformation to support climate action and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Solutions include climate risk assessment, carbon credits/offsets, and regulatory tech for enhanced climate stress testing.

Fintech in Healthcare: Fintech is reducing healthcare costs by improving financial access and expediting payment processes. Solutions include health lending, health wallets, and digital service models leveraging emerging technologies.

Fintech in Agriculture: Farmers are using fintech to transform finance, access credit, and optimize operations as demand and sustainability concerns grow. Key solutions include data-driven farming and blockchain for supply chain transparency.

Fintech in Education: Fintech's impact on education stems from enhanced accessibility, personalized learning, and blockchain-verified credentials. Fintech-EdTech collaborations are delivering synergistic solutions, while microlearning is improving financial literacy.

Fintech in Tourism: Improving payment experiences and enabling new business models to driving operational efficiency, enhancing the traveler experience, and promoting financial inclusion - all of which can contribute to the development of more sustainable and responsible tourism. The sky is the limit! We therefore want to see how far your ideas will take you!

The competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students from Bahraini universities. Participants can apply individually or in teams of up to three members from different fields of study. The challenge emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach to create comprehensive financial solutions. Participants will be enrolled in a three-week bootcamp where mentors from Mastercard and other partners will guide the students and support them in developing their solutions into viable business concepts. Winning solutions will be showcased at at The Bahrain Fintech Forward Event in October 2024.

Financial inclusion is positioned prominently as an enabler of several SDGs, where it is featured as a target in eight of the seventeen goals. These include SDG1, on eradicating poverty; SDG 2 on ending hunger, achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture; SDG 3 on profiting health and well-being; SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and economic empowerment of women; SDG 8 on promoting economic growth and jobs; SDG 9 on supporting industry, innovation, and infrastructure; and SDG 10 on reducing inequality. Additionally, in SDG 17 on strengthening the means of implementation, there is an implicit role for greater financial inclusion through greater savings mobilization for investment and consumption that can spur growth.

There is academic evidence that financial inclusion models can support overall economic growth and the achievement of broader development goals. Digital finance alone could benefit billions of people by spurring inclusive growth and adding to the GDP of emerging economies around the globe.

With almost all citizens and residents owning at least one or multiple bank accounts, the scope of the challenge is tap into the innovation side and see how new solutions and ideas stemming from the financial sector can help solve development challenges across multiple sectors, the sky is the limit! We therefore want to see how far your ideas will take you!

    • Application Submission: The applicant must submit a summary of the proposed idea, not exceeding 500 words.
    • The summary must include the following elements:
      • The problem the proposed idea aims to address
      • The proposed solution
      • The importance or significance of the proposed solution
      • The specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goal(s) (UN SDGs) that the proposed solution will be addressing
    • A more detailed proposal will be requested later in the selection process.
    • All summaries and proposals must be written in English only.
    • All proposed ideas must demonstrate a clear understanding of the local context in Bahrain and how the solution can be effectively implemented and have a meaningful impact within Bahrain.

Solutions must have disruptive potential, be aligned with the SDGs and be technically feasible.

The proposals can be at any development stage, they can be an idea, a pilot project or an existing project that needs further development. They do not necessarily have to be unpublished.

The potential outcomes of students’ work should include analyses of needs, potentials, barriers and opportunities to utilize the capabilities of business and industry offerings. They can also design, analyze and suggest concrete solutions for narrowing, slowing, and/or closing resource loops, minimizing energy demand and use, regenerating resources and materials, and creating, supplying and using data.

    • July 9 - Challenge Announcement
    • July 31 - Application Deadline
    • August 1-8 - Secretariat choose qualifying applicants
    • August 11-29 - Students who advance to the second phase will have 4 weeks to improve their solutions by participating in a summer bootcamp
    • September 10 - Selection of semi-finalists through a jury
    • October 3 - The final winner will be selected by a High-Level Jury during the Final Pitch Round on the sidelines of Bahrain Fintech Forward 2023