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Local fintechs exhibit promise in future of digital financial inclusion

Innocent Kawooya, the chief executive officer of HiPipo

Innocent Kawooya, the chief executive officer of HiPipo

The 40-days-40-Fintechs initiative by HiPipo showcases the need for going digital in business management and transaction, writes FRANK KISAKYE.

Over a decade ago, Monica Kiconco became fond of one of her primary school pupils for his outstanding performance in class and touching background.

Kiconco says Emmanuel Modek always came out as one of the best despite being raised by a poor grandmother with unimaginable social and financial challenges. To survive in school, Modek had to do so many errands to fend for himself and his grandmother.

“Every time he shared his story, it would be emotional and then we would relate it with others who had a similar story as his,” she says.

“We agreed that we have to change his story to something that would impact other people’s lives for a lifetime. Many mothers, grandmothers and daughters were struggling to make ends meet without proper business management. Something had to change.”

Fast forward to 2017 and ChapChap Africa was birthed as a low-cost digital payments solution that enables people at the lowest economic rung to easily access financial services as well as help entrepreneurs make informed decisions on how to improve and manage their businesses.

It is a dream that Kiconco and Modek are very proud of as they are viewed as agents of change by the many lives their innovation has touched. In less than three years, this mobile application has attracted more than 7,000 active users with small business owners able to easily keep track of their inventory stock, sales and revenue using their smartphones.

Kiconco says ‘CHAP’ stands for ‘Creating Harmony Among People’ and is representative of wide belief of creating great people, great businesses and great economies.

ChapChap’s story is one of the many that have been shared at the ongoing 40-days-40-Fintechs initiative by HiPipo, a diversified company with operations covering digital, financial inclusion, content production and events.

The project, which kiked off on June 8, is running for 40 days with a set of experts offering some 40 participating Fintechs interoperable development skills to improve access to financial services, using latest technology such as Mojaloop open source software.

The initiative involves 40 financial technology companies providing digital financial solutions are being profiled as part of the wider Include EveryOne programme. It is conducted in partnership with Crosslake Tech, ModusBox and Mojaloop foundation.

According to Innocent Kawooya, the chief executive officer of HiPipo, the project seeks to enable Fintechs innovate solutions that facilitate cross-network financial transactions at minimal risks to enhance access to financial services.

By June 27, more than 20 Fintechs from Uganda and across Africa had already been profiled and trained.

BULADDE FINANCIAL SERVICE

Buladde Financial Services is a Savings and Credit Co-operative Organisation (Sacco) started in 2016 to help people improve their security of tenure, develop their land and improve their way of living through saving and borrowing.

“We discovered that most people did not have money to secure their land, they cannot get money to survey their land or even finish their houses. So, we decided to start a Sacco where people could save and take credit to develop their land,” says John Mark Golooba, the Buladde general manager.

Having started with 80 members, Buladde has grown to a membership of 2,553 and about Shs 1.12 billion has been disbursed out in loans.

Their progress, however, has been curtailed by a poor saving culture as well as lack of modern technology.

Kawooya commended Buladde for the initiative to promote savings and credit through a niche product – land – but urged them to embrace technology. He also pledged to help Buladde get a test platform free of charge within about six months, so as to onboard its members on a digital system, powered by Mojaloop.

BEYONIC

Beyonic is one of the leading Fintech integrators in Africa that aims to eliminate dependency on cash by helping businesses quickly set up and manage digital payments.

The software company entered the Ugandan market in 2006 and according to Ian Mubiru, their country director, Beyonic came to help institutions reduce the use of cash in their systems. In 2018 alone, Beyonic processed close to 10 million mobile money transactions across its system.

They also came up with Beyonic access, where someone in Uganda can have access to over 26 networks in nine countries, including Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, among others, from a single sign-on. He says they plan to reach 20 countries by 2023.

TRUE AFRICAN

This is a mobile and online Financial Services Hub that provides customized solutions to address specific business needs, payment gateways to banks, collection platforms to utility service providers and individual and corporate mobile and online wallets.

They are literally at the forefront of electronic payments industry in the East African region. Eric Kamau, the founder of True African, says they ventured into Uganda starting with a short messaging (SMS) product before venturing into mobile banking in 2002.

As pioneers in the value added services (VAS) industry, True African has such products as merchant collections, bulk payments, mobile banking, software development and a VSLA Imara platform.

To support the financial inclusion journey, Kamau says that it is important to understand the special needs of the people you want to serve, so that you develop products that meet their needs.

“Having technology alone is not enough; you must understand the special needs and requirements for different people,” he notes.

On his part, Kawooya says part of the HiPipo story was inspired by True African. The True African story and their understanding of the digital-financial inclusion sector is important in this journey,” Kawooya said.

KANZU CODE

Now in its sixth year of existence, Kanzu Code is a technology company that builds inclusive financial tools for businesses, individuals and communities.

Housed at Dembe Towers in Kamwokya, Kanzu Code offers tools such as Kanzu Banking – a  software that empowers micro-finance institutions, savings and investment groups to manage their portfolios seamlessly using reliable, user-friendly and secure web and mobile technology.

They have since developed other tools such Kanzu Money, which allows for sending money from one mobile operator to another in a simple way, in addition to building enterprise web and mobile solutions for different businesses.

ALL-INCLUSIVE

During the first half of the 40-days-40-Fintechs project, participants have agreed that most Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda die before celebrating their fifth birthday, and the underlying reason is poor record keeping and poor inventory management.

It is, therefore, paramount that all businesses are helped with automated and simplified record keeping platforms that can help them stay afloat and thrive.

In a nut shell, Kawooya argues that given the lessons from the effects of Covid-19, the time is now to promote financial technology as a sector and the general financial inclusion ecosystem in particular.

“Today, Africa speaks of more than 400 million mobile money wallets. That means 400 million people are banked. So, this initiative in may be another five years should cause another 400 million people to get banked thanks to solutions like Mojaloop that causes interoperability,” he said.

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