Many international studies have pointed to the lack of SME financing as being a huge blocker to a country’s development.

In the context of Kenya, many small business owners are excluded from the formal financial sector due to the high operational costs involved with opening and running a bank account. As a result, they have no formal credit history and are not able to get a loan.

Pezesha are seeking to overcome this by giving the unbanked, their first step on the formal financial ladder.

Hilda, the founder and CEO, and I dig into the difficulties of getting a bank account (and by extension, a loan), how Kenya’s ubiquitous mobile money network facilitates their business, and how they are layering on their data analytics to the dynamics of the existing social investing culture in Kenya.

This is one of those episodes that can leave you scratching your head at times, but nevertheless shows the huge potential for technology and financing to transform a region.

Anyway, without any further ado, here is Hilda

 

Pezesha means financial empowerment

We empower the unbanked population through affordable mobile credit. This brings hope and freedom to them.

We’re not a lender per se

We’re sitting in between and creating a platform that builds upon the sharing economy.

Our customers can’t go to a bank

To get a loan to grow their business. This is because they don’t have any financial history or any formal credit records to verify them.

The majority of Kenya lives on <$5/day

The banks see them as risky and, because it costs money to run a bank account in Kenya, simply having a bank account open costs operational fees which excludes them.

The unbanked have moved to mobile credit

Mobile money penetration is at 85%. Hilda’s grandmother has M-Pesa, living upcountry.

M-Pesa has become the bank of the unbanked

Allowing them to transact, and send and receive money. This gives them the services previously only possible with a (paid) bank.

We utilise chamas

A chama is a social network who come together to save and invest around a common goal. The money is typically rotated around the group. People meet in person, regardless of social background.

“Pezesha is automating Kenya’s social investing culture”

This comes from partnering with the chama network. This means bringing in technology to, say, credit score their members as well as increase the level of financing that they get.

Fund of funds

There’s then a dynamic of external investors funding the chama group and become part of the returns.

“We have Kenyans lending to Kenyans they’ve never met before”

On the back of Pezesha’s platform, it’s possible to build trust. The credit score combines a borrower’s willingness and ability to pay.

Alternative data

We use mobile money transactions, as well as different datasets to profile and understand the customer. This means we’re not reliant on just one form of information (i.e. M-Pesa transactions) but having things such as psychometric tests as well.

Agents on the ground

We have people who are our out doing a lot of the onboarding and collections out in the field.

We want people to walk up the financial ladder

The ideal is that they can walk in and get a bank account and a loan as a result of the credit history that they have got from Pezesha. We want to normalise the effect so others can trust the unbanked population.

We’re a data company

We sit in between existing financial players and utilise credit scoring.

You get a 7-12%/ year return at the bank

Despite this being high, investors won’t be proud with that type of return. With Pezesha, you get 13-36% annually.

Average loan size is $50

This is used to buy weekly stock and then 30 days later, they’ll pay $55.

People are paying back!

This was one of the (nice) surprises: that there are lots of the unbanked population who are still paying back on their loans. This is in part because by paying back they are helping to fund other fellow Kenyans.

 

Website links etc.

Website: www.pezesha.com

This gives details on how to be a borrower or a lender on Pezesha.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pezesha/

Partners: CGAP, DFS Lab