Ugandan fintech company Quest Digital Finance connects the unbanked to formal credit systems
Uganda is home to 25 commercial banks, four microfinance deposit-taking institutions (MDIs), three credit institutions and more than 300 non-deposit-taking microfinance institutions (MFIs).
However, according to the 2018 Finscope Survey, which is published by the think tank Financial Sector Deepening Uganda, an estimated 89% of the adult population is still “unbanked,” meaning that they don’t have an account with a formal banking institution. Not only that, the economic data collection website Trading Economics estimates that 74.45% of Uganda’s 45.7 million inhabitants live in rural areas.
Lacking access to banks and the credit they offer hinder these populations’ ability to access the basic commodities and resources needed to build successful businesses. And yet, these days smallholder farmers and other entrepreneurs in rural and periurban Uganda are finding it’s not the plow, but rather the smartphone, that goes before the horse. Quest Digital Finance, a Ugandan tech company, is changing that by placing the power of banking and service delivery in the palms of the farmers and entrepreneurs using its digital platforms.
The platform enables SACCOS (Savings and Credit Cooperatives) and microfinance institutions to achieve end-to-end digital transformation and hence, improve reporting and accountability which derisks these entities. Consequently, they are able to access credit from financial institutions. Akellobanker hopes to eventually deliver bundled products and services to farmers and entrepreneurs and other value chain actors on credit. Renew Capital, an impact investment firm growing small and medium-sized businesses in East Africa through its Renew Capital Angels investor network, is now furthering that effort by providing the funds Akellobanker needs to expand its reach to more than 100 cooperatives serving over 100,000 farmers and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Uganda. Akellobanker will focus on its digitization agenda of integrating over 350,000 farmers and entrepreneurs into the digital economy and using data to deliver desired products and services on credit.
“If you look at finance 10 years ago, commercial banks were the owners of financial inclusion. But five years ago, fintech—small financial technology companies—came over and showed banks that we were able to break through places they weren’t reaching,” says Jean Onyait, Akellobanker’s team lead. “That’s breaking a monopoly and creating healthy competition, which goes a long way in reducing prices and making services much more affordable for the local communities.”
“The market potential and long-term commercial viability of Akellobanker attracted Renew Capital, particularly as the need to access finance increases,” says Renew Capital Head of Shared Growth Services JC Oelofse. “Developing a digital platform that aggregates financial data generated by the unbanked to provide easy access to credit is a key lever of growth in the informal sector. This credit from financial institutions facilitates sales of inputs to grow the informal economy and brings a well-defined impact case.”