Interview with Gisele Mwepu, Founder of Okapi Finance
“I am passionate about bringing the benefits of financial inclusion to Africa where 80% of people are financially excluded and which has a direct consequence on economic growth and poverty levels across the continent. Seeing how difficult it is to do financial transactions in my home country of the Congo, I’ve started working on my dream to use technology to bring access to all the financial services that the Western world takes for granted such as security, speed and real time payments.”
“One area that Okapi is focusing on is insurance. Fewer than 2% of people in Africa have life or health insurance as it is too expensive for insurers to collect small payments and handle claims. The Okapi finance platform enables insurers to take small premiums and pay out claims at very low transaction costs. For a large portion of the African community access to affordable health insurance literally presents a lifeline.”
Okapi Finance was launched in Kenya in November 2017 and now has over 100,000 customers. Working with co-operatives, our customers have instant access to cashless digitised finance. Co-operatives use Okapi to digitalise their activity, both inter-members saving and lending on the Okapi cooperative module. Members can use Okapi to send their saving to the group and the group use Okapi to disburse the inter-members lending. In line with this Okapi has also created a new service accessible only for members in the cooperatives/groups that are using the Okapi cooperative module. Through this new service, Okapi can lend money to their members through Okapi’s “Day a Week Loan” which has been trialling for a month. The loans – based on 20% of a small merchant’s turnover – can be accessed on Okapi Mobile with no need to provide any other form of security. The only requirement is that members have to use Okapi for receiving payments from their customers. This has shown to be successful as it gives access to more funds and accelerate growth for the small merchant as well as it grows Okapi’s number of customers and transactions.
Challenges in Africa – transaction costs
The issue is that processing companies charge too much for financial transactions. We need to drive down costs if we are serious about financial inclusion. The Okapi wallet-to-wallet transactions are free, thereby avoiding the processing costs and facilitating a cashless system.
“The financial ecosystem is not fully collaborating to target the problem and there is a critical need to understand the issue at the customer level. In the past Sweden used to provide aid to Governments, but are now retargeting this aid to directly help Swedish companies working in Africa that are providing tangible solutions.”
“Okapi has experienced 0% risk with its “Day a Week Loan” product with all of our customers settling their charges/debts on or before payment is due. This is in no small way due to the culture of the women business owners we deals with – we have seen absolutely no defaults to date.”
About the Nordic effort
“I am so happy that Nordic countries are working to eliminate financial exclusion. If we can solve this problem we can create a greater economic and social balance across the world.”
Showcases from the field:
Agent of Okapi in Kibera, Africa’s biggest slum
The Financial Inclusion Summit takes place in Oslo, Norway, on 28 March 2019. To find out more or request an invitation, visit: https://financial-inclusion.com/#register
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