In March 2020, Uganda was placed under a total lockdown following the outbreak of the deadly Covid-19. Only essential workers such as security personnel, market vendors, and construction workers were allowed to continue working.
One such essential worker was Sarah Naluwagga Lubambula, a vendor at Kalerwe Market in Kampala. But Naluwagga says despite this allowance, business was very bad because all people were holed up in their homes.
“I needed a loan to boost my business but all money lenders had closed. Everything was a mess,” she recalls.
Then a friend introduced Naluwagga to Wewole, a quick-loan service powered by JUMO World Uganda for Airtel Money subscribers.
“He told me that I just needed to dial *185# and go straight to Wewole on number 8. After that, I would just ask for an amount that I wanted,” she says.
“On the first attempt, it was just a trial. When I got the Shs 20,000, I was surprised that it was real. I kept on increasing to Shs 30,000, Shs 50,000, and Shs 60,000 until I reached Shs 800,000.”
Naluwagga says Wewole transformed her business. It made life better because no matter what time, she would just go to her phone and get a bailout.
“My only challenge is the issue of high-interest rates; but besides that, we are very happy with Wewole.
Just like Naluwagga, Namuyiga Shamim who owns a restaurant in Kamwokya, is enjoying similar benefits through Mo Sente, an equivalent of Wewole for MTN Mobile Money subscribers.
“For me, I started using Mo Sente in 2022. We were in the hospital and our bill was too much yet we had little cash on us. We went to Mo Sente and got some money to clear our outstanding bill,” she recalls.
“The beauty about this service is that when you apply for a loan, your account is credited immediately.”
Wewole and Mo Sente are powered by JUMO, in partnership with telecom companies Airtel and MTN respectively. According to Wilfred Wabwire, country manager for JUMO World Uganda and Kenya, JUMO specializes in integrating other platforms to enable them to offer loans, savings, and a wide range of financial choices to customers.
“The JUMO platform provides end-to-end banking as a service infrastructure by leveraging machine learning and data to reduce the cost and risk of lending. JUMO is solving the problem of lack of access to financial services for the majority of the people," he says, noting that eligible customers have a repayment period of 14 days or 30 days.
“We have Wewole in partnership with Airtel Money. We also have the Mo Sente Access credit solution in partnership with MTN Mobile Money Uganda Limited. Customers can choose between the 14 and 30-day loan terms. Customers can borrow from as low as Shs 3,000. Customers with a good repayment history can potentially qualify for larger amounts,” Wabwire says.
He adds that for a customer to qualify for higher amounts, they have to pay their loan on time. They have got to continuously transact on their mobile money wallets as well as data and voice.
Wabwire says that since 2017 when these products were introduced, JUMO has served about 3.4 million Ugandans.
“We have disbursed about 20.7 million loans with a value of about $280m. Six out of every 10 loans that JUMO disburses go out to MSMEs (Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises),” he says.
According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, MSMEs contribute 80 per cent to Uganda’s GDP. Essentially, JUMO is directly contributing to the growth of the economy in Uganda.
Another statistic Wabwire alludes to is the fact that one in every three borrowers on the JUMO platform is a woman while at least 50 percent of the JUMO borrowers are based in rural areas. This, for him, is creating an inclusive financial services sector.
“This is very important because traditionally, rural areas have been left out of traditional financial services. This is because the traditional infrastructure does not consider this sector [MSMEs] profitable,” he says.
“The JUMO platform can help customers no matter where they are located. Our loans are easy to access as long as a customer has got a phone. The loans are accessible via a USSD code which is available anywhere in the country.”
40 Days 40 FinTechs
Wabwire says that the speed at which Ugandans and East Africans are coming up with innovations in the fintech space has proven too fast for even the regulatory bodies.
“When you look at aspects such as regulation, they are always catching up with the innovations. In most cases, they never, probably, understand what is it that we are trying to solve,” he says.
He however applauds organisers of the 40 days 40 FinTechs initiative that is providing a platform for all stakeholders in the fintech space to converge and share ideas.
“In the end, our customers will be able to know what we are solving and they utilize our innovation. Investors will also be able to know what we are solving and provide us with the much-needed capital in the sector,” he says.
JUMO World is the 16th participant in the 2023 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative. HiPipo’s 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative has become a household name in the financial technology space of Africa. In the last three editions, more than 100 fintechs have been showcased, highlighting stories changing people’s lives, especially in the under-served sectors.
According to HiPipo CEO Innocent Kawooya, big players like JUMO World serve as an example to the emerging fintechs that targeted innovations can indeed create a wider impact.
“JUMO World is now tried and tested. Their story tells us that when you identify an everyday problem and offer the right proposition and solution, success will look for you,” he said.
The 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative is organized in partnership with the Level One Project, Mojaloop Foundation, INFITX, Cyberplc Academy, Ideation Corner, and Crosslake Technologies with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation