In a bid to support women inclusion and business growth, SafeBoda, which started off initially as a ride-hailing app, plans to give out working capital loans to its merchant partners to expand their businesses.
According to the company’s vice president of payments and financial services, Tim Jamieson, a pilot for working capital loans will soon be launched as the firm awaits its national payments systems (NPS) license from Bank of Uganda.
This is part of SafeBoda’s continued evolution that has seen it expand its service offerings from a mere ride-hailing app for boda boda rides to food and shop, buying airtime and payments, among others.
Jamieson says that priority for working capital loans will be given to female-run enterprises as a way of boosting the inclusion for women, who are the majority of the financially excluded people in the market. Other innovative products in the pipeline over the next 12 months are building the SafeBoda payments ecosystem, open-loop products, and savings products, among others.
In doing this, the firm aims to provide a cheap ecosystem that allows its customers to send money across networks for free and drastically reduce the cost of withdrawing these funds, according to Jamieson.
“If you want to send Shs 5,000 across networks can cost you over Shs 1,000 to do so or Shs 2,000 if you are sending to two to three different networks; we think there is more that needs to be done here. Mobile money ecosystems form such a large part of the backbone of Uganda and Africa as whole, so there should be continuous improvements in how this is delivered,” Jamieson explains.
He alludes that while cash is still a predominant method of payment in Uganda and across the African continent; the Covid-19 pandemic is steadily drawing people towards cashless transactions, which presents a great opportunity for financial technology companies (fintechs) to grow.
Jamieson, however, says that there is need to work together as an industry to share knowledge, technology and regulatory stack and working with regulators to solve existing problems.
“We have a huge unbanked and underserved population; we have a high cost of time and money to access financial services and at the same time we have this amazing fast-growing ecosystem of fintechs that is coming through locally. We need to bring them together so that we solve these problems as together,” he explains.
He commends Bank of Uganda for the NPS, which he says has provided a stringent regulatory framework that will give customers confidence that they can transact with electronic money service providers, including fintechs, in a safe and secure way.
The created confidence, he notes, will help drive industry growth, adding that Uganda’s fintech industry offers huge opportunities for partnerships.
“I think we are entering a very exciting time as more companies start being funded. And as we work together, we will have a strong fintech industry that fills the gap left by commercial banks,” Jamieson notes.
SafeBoda is participating in the ongoing 40-Days 40-FinTechs initiative organised by HiPipo in partnership with Crosslake Technologies, ModusBox and Mojaloop Foundation, and sponsored by the Gates Foundation.
It seeks to enable fintechs to innovate solutions that facilitate cross-network financial transactions at minimal risks to enhance access to financial services.
Jamieson applauded HiPipo for the 40-Days 40-FinTechs initiative, saying that it has given them an opportunity to share with the world the solutions they are working on and also hear what others are doing to solve existing financial inclusion market challenges.
The HiPipo chief executive officer Innocent Kawooya alludes that fintechs in Africa offer attractive opportunities, adding that investors are rightfully picking interest in the various startups that are offering a plethora of services, ranging from payments and lending, remittances, cross-border transfers and neobanks among others.
He adds that the 40-Days 40-FinTechs initiative seeks to give exposure to the best emerging and transformative innovators of Africa.