Female owned Fintech Converting Client Debt into Capital for Financially Underserved Businesses
Written by Brandason, Strategic Communications Firm for the Tech By Her Accelerator, powered by MEST with support from the Tech Entrepreneurship Initiative, ‘Make-IT in Africa’, (implemented by Deutsche für Gesellschaft Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“Trade Financing Technology is quite popular in developed markets, but it is yet to be appreciated in developing countries”. — Itumeleng Moagi
In recent years, Africa has become a hotbed for financial technology, with companies within the industry raising $320 million in funding since January 2015 and growing 60% in the last two years (Disrupt Africa, 2019). Kenya has been lauded as one of the top three markets for Fintech and the vast range of their tech-based products and solutions support historically underserved demographics while filling gaps that have existed in the traditional banking system for decades. One of such significant startups is Nvoicia, a financing organization that helps small businesses with unpaid invoices gain access to cash and short-term credit.
According to founder and CEO, Itumeleng Moagi, current credit models offered by financial institutions aren’t favorable for small businesses, making it almost impossible for them to access working capital. ‘This inspired us to focus more on building a comprehensive credit engine to formulate credit models and automate middle office operations for Financial Institutions.’ As a result, Nvoicia uses machine learning to provide credit intelligence to lenders in emerging markets, developing data-driven trade financing credit models that encourage financial inclusion and empowerment amongst businesses.
Itumeleng Moagi is a mother and entrepreneur born and raised in South Africa where she acquired her impressive qualifications in technology. After graduating, however, she decided to work in PR and Communications for five years, before launching a media analysis agency, which she ran for another 5 years. Itumeleng explained that this experience gave her great exposure to data, technology, research, and analysis which has served her well down the line. She migrated to Ghana three years ago to further her skills in business and tech at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, which is where she met her fellow co-founders, formed Growth Factor Technologies, and developed their flagship product, Nvoicia.
Unfortunately, while Trade Financing Technology is quite popular in developed markets, it is yet to be fully appreciated in developing countries. ‘There was certainly a lot of public education needed on trade financing in the beginning’, said the CEO. ‘The safest option was for us to roll out with invoice factoring first, which is a financial transaction and a type of debtor finance in which a business sells its accounts receivable to a third party at a discount.’
The startup then expanded to offer white label services for financial institutions that lack automated middle-office operations and other fintech businesses looking for credible models to patronize in order to reach new markets. Ultimately, the biggest challenge Nvoicia faced was raising finance to match the demand from small businesses once interest in the service peaked. They also had to deal with the lack of data and technology integration with financial institutions. ‘We had situations where transferring cash to our clients would be a manual process because the current banking system doesn’t have the capacity for immediate payment clearing, which is what a typical SME needs,’ revealed Itumeleng. ‘Again, businesses would initially approach us for general business loans and we would have to inform them that we are not a lending house, but with some education on the facility, we noticed how keen and flexible the market was to patronize our services. Right now, small business owners enquire more about our tailored services that would enable them to access finance. This has opened our eyes to new opportunities that we could bring into the lending space.’
Nvoicia boasts of its ability to process requests for financing faster than what the market currently offers, due to their technology and sizable onboarding requirements, a feat that has made them one of the most innovative startups today.
Last year, Nvoicia was nominated as one of the 11 Seedstars Africa winners in South Africa, and just recently emerged as the second runner-up winner in the Ecobank Fintech Challenge. Despite these monumental successes, Itumeleng expressed that satisfied, repeat customers are her most treasured highlights in business. ‘Knowing that our clients are happy with our services creates moments of empowerment for the team.’ Indeed, the strength of the entire team is incredibly important to the tech founder who describes herself as ‘soft in nature’. As such she prefers a collaborative leading style and creating an environment where there is empowerment and support for each other. ‘I believe in the ‘“Each One Teach One” philosophy. As I climb up the ladder, I should be taking someone else with me, and they should be doing the same behind them. This chain effect will produce supportive and progressive leaders’.
Itumeleng’s leadership style and philosophy are also evident in how she envisages the tech industry in Africa becoming globally competitive. She believes in the importance of collaboration and is confident that the tech space in Africa could be more progressive if the government and other such institutions would be open to adopting solutions from smaller businesses and start-ups to simplify their processes, expand data, and increase efficiency. Thankfully, Itumeleng’s ambitions and drive to use technology as an enabler for financial inclusion has only been propelled by the fact that she’s a female founder. ‘I’m in an eco-space which encourages female techpreneurs and I’ve received a lot of support from my male colleagues. In areas where I may not know certain things, I can always reach out for help and I receive the support and resources that I need. I’m always encouraged to do and learn more.’
In five years, Nvoicia’s CEO (pictured above) would like to see Growth Factor Technologies as one of the most trusted credit intelligence providers in the continent. ‘I have a keen interest in Data Analysis and Business Intelligence and at the moment, I’m investing time to better understand it so that I can be one of the best in this field. I am also spending more time developing myself and my skills as a tech entrepreneur.’
Itumeleng’s development process has also included joining the Tech By Her Accelerator program, a three-month industry-agnostic program for ten (10) female founders of early-stage tech companies in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria. The program fuels growth among female-led businesses by recognizing and maximizing the unique strengths of the female entrepreneur and equipping them with the needed knowledge, tools, and resources to scale and sustain their businesses in a competitive environment. She says of the program, ‘it has been very supportive so far and the masterclasses were instrumental in assisting us to better understand how we can execute our vision. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Marketing masterclass which gave me great insight on things that I usually would not pay attention to.’
With more founders like Itumeleng and Anne Wambui Kamau of CoverApp making tremendous strides in building a more financially inclusive continent, it is no exaggeration to say that the future of Africa will be shaped by entrepreneurs and their inspired innovations.
About Tech By Her
Tech By Her Accelerator program is a three-month industry-agnostic program for ten (10) female founders of early-stage tech companies in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria. The program fuels growth among female-led businesses by recognizing and maximizing the unique strengths of the female entrepreneur and equipping them with the needed knowledge, tools, and resources to scale and sustain their businesses in a competitive environment. The program recognizes that the diversified use of tech in the industry has gone a long way in creating a more gender-inclusive and balanced world and seeks to empower women who have ventured into the industry to aim higher and go global.