Overview of Financial Inclusion in Africa – Startup Perspective

April 8, 2019

The World Bank Group considers financial inclusion as a key enabler in reducing extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. It has put forward an ambitious goal to reach Universal Financial Access (UFA) by 2020. According to the Global Findex Database which is released by the World Bank every three years, as of April 2018, close to one-third of all adults globally (i.e., 1.7 billion) remained unbanked. Half of these include women, members of poor households in rural areas, or those who are not a part of the workforce.

Against this background, the statistics from Africa are truly astounding – a whopping 370 million people still remain unbanked and unserved out of the total population of 590 million. Digital financial services play a major role in the increase of financial inclusion in Africa. The number of new FinTech users has increased by 250% to 7.2 million in 2017 from the 2012 baseline. This led to the growth of financial inclusion in Africa from 23% in 2011 to 43% in 2017.

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Top African Countries – Financial Inclusion

Kenya

  • Kenya has the highest number of startups that are working towards financial inclusion. The country is a leader in developing mobile money payment systems and in widespread usage of financial services.

  • The startups have made a significant impact on the financial inclusion of the country as the total percentage of financially included adults (age 15+) increased by 39.3%, i.e., from 42.3% in 2011 to 81.6% in 2017.

  • With regard to financially included adults, 72.9% had mobile money accounts whereas 55.7% had accounts in financial institutions.

Nigeria

  • According to our research, the second-highest number of startups working towards financial inclusion is in Nigeria.

  • There has been a 52% increase from 2011 (27.032 million) to 2017 with regard to the number of adults who were financially included. In 2017, 39.7% (41.288 million) of Nigeria’s adult population was financially included.

  • People who are part of the financial ecosystem are inclined towards opening accounts with financial institutions (39.4%) compared to mobile money accounts (2.6%) but due to the majority of the population still being unbanked, this provides a potential opportunity for the FinTech ecosystem to create significant impact in the country.

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Innovative African Companies

At MEDICI, we call these companies innovative because they are trying to create an impact by adopting new business models and unconventional practices.

Vouch Digital: Vouch Digital develops digital platforms that focus on digital and mobile payments for cash-based programs. The company has partnered with multiple merchants and agro-dealers to receive payments through digital vouchers. The cashback provided by the company promotes financially excluded users to make digital payments.

WeCashUp: WeCashUp provides an API that allows merchants to accept cash and mobile payments in addition to card payments, cryptocurrency payments, and bank wallet payments in Africa. Users can make use of WeCashUp’s application and make payments through digital money. Increase in mobile penetration and ease of payments has impacted the rate of financial inclusion positively in society. The company has a presence in 36 countries.

Tala: Tala is a credit scoring company, which accesses a range of data from basic biographical information to the number of people that loan applicants contact on a daily basis through a mobile application. Tala can see the size of the applicant’s network and support system. The data reveals whether the user demonstrates consistency, like making a daily call to their parents, and whether they pay bills on time. This allows Tala to evaluate the creditworthiness of unbanked/underserved users irrespective of their credit history.

FarmDrive: The company’s alternative credit risk assessment model provides financial institutions with an agriculturally relevant and data-driven model to assess risk & develop loans that fit the needs of smallholder farmers. This model allows the unbanked population to apply for loans provided by banks and other financial institutions.

Pula: The company bundles insurance products with farm inputs, such as fertilizer, seeds, or credit. This substantially lowers risk for farmers who want to be able to invest in more expensive, higher-yielding seeds and fertilizers. The insurance provides income stability for farmers who are at the mercy of droughts, floods, and pests. Pula uses satellite data and imagery to be able to underwrite these policies more efficiently and provide timely agronomic advice. This model provides a platform for unbanked farmers to avail insurance and build credit history.

Inclusivity Solutions: The company works with mobile operators, insurance companies and other distribution partners to deliver digital insurance solutions that meet the needs of emerging consumers. Digital insurance products boost the financial inclusion rate in the country as mobile penetration is also high.

Akiba Digital: The company provides a gamified platform for underserved/unbanked users to make the savings experience fun and rewarding. An AI bot called ‘Gagu’ educates, nudges, and provides insights to clients to ensure they realize their goals.

M-KOPA Solar: M-KOPA Solar offers solar home systems through affordable mobile money payment plans. Combining solar power with IoT security and a mobile payments network, M-KOPA has expanded financial inclusion to unbanked customers with its pay-as-u-go model.

Conclusion

Clearly, Kenya and Nigeria are the biggest markets in the African continent for FinTech startups and can serve as role models for other countries in the continent to increase financial Inclusion. Furthermore, some African companies – such as Akiba Digital, M-KOPA Solar, FarmDrive, and Pula – are coming up with innovative business models to increase financial inclusion across the continent. It is evident that Africa provides a great platform for FinTech startups to bloom as the mobile penetration rate is high and a major chunk of the population is still underserved and unbanked – something that FinTech for financial inclusion is set to change in the region.\ \ Note: What did you think of this article? Did we miss out on any noteworthy startups? If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or would like to share your perspective on financial inclusion in Africa, we’d love to hear from you at ravi@gomedici.com!

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