Financial inclusion is probably the most common buzzword in financial technology today. It’s nearly impossible for any fintech to raise money without a slide in their pitch deck dedicated to financial inclusion.
The reasons for its common use are not far-fetched. Financial inclusion is, perhaps the most significant challenge facing developing economies today. Per the World Bank, nearly 1.7 billion adults all over the world were financially excluded as of 2020.
It’s easy to see why every startup wants to be associated with the fight for financial inclusion.
However, when it comes to doing the actual work of financial inclusion, only a few startups stand up to be counted. In this article, we’ll look at three startups that are truly solving financial inclusion in Nigeria and Africa:
Christened Nigeria’s “Bank of the unbanked,” by TechCrunch, Bankly has been a leading light in the fight for financial inclusion.
For many of the unbanked, cash is king. However, keeping the king at arm’s length comes with challenges like security, inaccessibility, and difficulties with tracking historical data. Bankly solves this by providing hybrid infrastructure for its users to store and move cash easily. Through its agent-banking network, the startup has allowed for safer deposits and transfer of cash by the financially excluded, allowing them to save digitally.
As of the last report, Bankly had over 15,000 agents, catering to a user base of more than 35,000. In 2021, the startup raised $2 million from investors to expand its network and service. They’re definitely ones to watch.
Despite the ubiquity and history of USSD in Africa, many fintech providers actively ignore it. Reports show that 9 in 10 transactions on the continent flow through USSD, making it the most important technology powering transactions on the continent.
It is also, noticeably, the most common route of financial access for low-income earners struggling with access to the internet— the type of people who are typically financially exclusive.
Stax is working to make USSD even more accessible than it already is. It allows users to carry out USSD transactions from a mobile app without needing to dial a code.
All the users have to do is connect their accounts to the app. Even more fascinating is that the app doesn’t require internet access to complete transactions—making it the ideal tool for many financially disenfranchised Africans to access the internet.
Founded by Ben Lyon, David Kutalek, and Jessica Shorland, Stax serves more than 200,000 users across 9 African countries.
Like many other development indices, women suffer the short end of the stick with financial inclusion.
Studies show that women are disadvantaged in several important financial inclusion indices like account ownership, cash deposits, and loan volume.
Shecluded is a digital finance company with the goal of “getting more money into the hands of women.” The startup specializes in providing loans, health insurance, wealth advisory, and other financial products to women. In 2021, the startup won an equity-free grant from Google to build out its platform for women.
The startup was founded by Ifeoma Uddoh, a serial entrepreneur and founder.
Financial inclusion is a goal that requires the active participation of multiple stakeholders, especially fintech startups.
While these three are not the only startups championing the cause, they are strategically placed parties providing much-needed services to otherwise financially excluded Africans.
Curiously, all three startups on the list have female founders/co-founders, further lending credence to studies that empowered women often have a larger impact on financial inclusion and other socially conscious causes than their male peers.