There are only five days left before entries for the SWIFT Innotribe Innovation Challenge for financial tech startups close at midnight this Sunday.

Since its inception in 2011, the pitch competition has unearthed startups in the sector to give them mentorship and connect them with potential investors and banks through regional and international competitions.

Previously, only countries in Europe, Asia, North America and Australia could participate in the challenge but SWIFT Innotribe Startup Challenge manager, Kevin Johnson said there’s a big opportunity for African markets to enter the competition.

“SWIFT is putting more into reaching Africa, the time feels right,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, last year’s finalists were mostly made up of white and Asian men between the ages of 30 and 35, leaving very little space for a diverse line up of contestants.

“Our launch in Africa will help diversify our group of finalists and the pool of successful new entrepreneurs in the financial tech sector. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough women or people of colour in the competition and that’s one of the main reasons why we’ve brought the competition to Africa.”

So far, 220 applications from countries such as Uganda, Morocco, Egypt and Kenya have been received for the African regional competition.

Thereafter, 15 finalists will be chosen to go through to the competition in Cape Town where they will exhibit their startups to attendees at the SWIFT African Regional Conference and pitch for a chance to be among five finalists go through to the international competition.

The finalists will be divided up into three early stage startups and two growth stage startups. In total, 20 global finalists will compete in the international competition.

SWIFT is specifically looking for startups with a good overall concept, market opportunity, business model, team, business execution and product execution.

Most entries received in last year’s competition were in the corporate business services, big data, investment management and lending sectors. While other sectors such as messaging, securities, and payments were among the least represented.

This presents anyone with an idea for financial tech innovation with an opportunity to start something that can grow faster and compete in the smaller sectors, Johnson said.

The main aim of the SWIFT Innovation Challenge is to give startups exposure to big industry players.

Johnson explained that competition judges and audience members are mostly made up of bankers, entrepreneurs and incubator owners who are given a chance to interact with and ask contestants a number of questions right after they have given their pitch.

This gives them a chance to receive credible feedback and initiate conversations and engage with potential investors.

“The bar has been set for financial tech investment over the years. Bigger, better ideas are needed, that’s what SWIFT is looking for,” said Johnson.