The Digital Frontiers Institute (DFI) was founded two years ago to address the human capital gap in the fintech industry. Its growth and success in developing fintech capability now enables the institute to make an even bigger impact, and their latest funding round sees seed investor The Omidyar Network re-investing for the third time, and second round investors the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and FSD Africa coming on board again to help accelerate the DFI’s growth path.
DFI has already trained 2 326 students in 18 cohorts across its seven courses over the last 2 years. These figures far outstrip the company’s two-year targets of over 1,150 students trained in at least the foundational course. More than 1100 students completed the Certificate in Digital Money (CIDM) course alone. Of these, 32% were female, higher than the average gender balance of 26% in the technology and fintech sectors. Students represented more than 600 organisations in 85 countries, including 33 countries from sub-Saharan Africa alone. CIDM graduates represented 131 financial service providers, 54 multi-national organisations and 21 governments.
With new funding behind them and new courses launching monthly, CEO and co-founder Gavin Krugel reflects on DFI’s current track record and the next steps along its growth path in the immediate future. “We were initially incubated as a sponsored project under Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. DFI was built as a lean start-up intending to develop human capital and capacity for where it’s needed in the fintech sector. In the two years since launch, we have worked with professionals and organisations across 80 different countries. The market demand far outstripped our initial projections,” says Krugel.
DFI’s approach to learning differs significantly from online-only courses: students are required to actively engage in digital classroom discussions, attend class calls and to physically attend communities of practice (COPs). In total, 817 professionals took part in 365 physical COP meetings in 18 cities. Switch, DFI’s online platform for the league of digital finance professionals, now boasts 1 417 members and 775 knowledge resources.
“Unlike traditional online education programmes, DFI’s digital campus has achieved very high engagement from students,” points out Krugel. Compared to industry average completion rates of 11%, DFI’s pass and completion rates over the past two years are exceptional, with 87% of students completing their course, and 88% of completing students achieving a pass. 91% of students reported enjoying the overall learning experience and learning a lot during the course.
With further funding of $10 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Omidyar Networks and FSD Africa, DFI will be scaling up to meet latent demand, expand course access and offerings. DFI has launched the new Chartered Digital Finance Practitioner (CDFP) certification, which will incorporate between 15 to 22 courses, and will provide students with a 360-degree understanding of the digital financial services industry, establishing digital finance as a recognised profession. DFI is also pleased to announce that it has secured $650 000 worth of scholarships from FSD Africa for qualifying students who need financial support to complete the CDFP programme.
According to Juliet Munro, Inclusive Finance Director at FSD Africa, “DFI’s mission is to build a cadre of digital finance professionals, which fits perfectly with our vision for the sector. Digital finance is an important aspect of success in financial inclusion, providing the necessary building blocks for the future. There is such a dearth of necessary digital finance skills in Africa. DFI’s work is key to building that capacity.”
DFI is also exploring the possibility of expanding its course offering to include other digital frontiers including digital primary and triage healthcare, as well as online undergraduate degrees to help address the significant shortage of space for students in existing universities in Southern Africa.
Digital Frontiers Institute (DFI) prepares tomorrow’s fintech leaders for the challenges and opportunities they will encounter in a fast-changing and disruptive landscape. Through online executive education courses, targeted research into the fintech industry, and its growing league of industry professionals, DFI builds capabilities with the view to bridge capacity gaps that exist especially in developing markets. DFI’s new Chartered Digital Finance Practitioner certification is aimed at graduates who want to pursue a professional career in digital finance, with specialisations in regulation, customers and technology.
Contact Digital Frontiers Institute
Digital Frontiers Institute (NPC)
3rd Floor, 113 Loop Street,
Cape Town, South Africa
T: +27 (0)21 276 1928