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Africa Series with Stacey Japhta: Improving financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa through data driven lending with Finclusion

by Rudolf Falat
September 2nd 2021
00:19:16
Description

In this episode of Africa Series, Stacey Japhta, Head of Strategic FinTech Partnerships at Ta... More

voice of Fintech. Okay, yeah. Okay. Hello and welcome to voice of Fintech Africa series. I'm Rudy follow the founder of voice of intake podcast in this series, you will hear inspirational stories of entrepreneurs investors, incumbents and ecosystem hub leaders from Africa. And this episode exhausted by Stacy, Welcome to Voice a Fintech. I'm Stacey Jaffa and today I'll be chatting with maxima disa non executive chairman of inclusion and timothy Newey founder and ceo of inclusion. Hello! Welcome to both of you. Hey, hey Stacey, so excited. Hi Stacy. Thank you for having us guys. This is the first podcast I've done with two guests. I'm so excited. I'm also curious to know how this is going to go. So let's just dive right in. I would love to hear your career journey and ultimately how both of you joined and both conclusion to um I think it would be great for you to start.

Sure. So I started off just over a decade ago with ACC African Development Corporation, which was a German listed company buying banks in Africa and we ultimately sold that to to Atlas Mara about diamonds business in 2014. And from there, only a number of other things in the microfinance space in the financial services space. But throughout that journey I realized that there is a continued lack of access to credit in the African continent and it's difficult to actually accurately score and provide financial services to African individuals on the continent due to a lack of data. So 2018, we started a B2B business where we focused on credit scoring risk management within the conclusion group and really try to address that problem with data science. I think I we went that journey and we realized the biggest challenge, one we needed to work with with auditory parties to get access to clients. It was hampering our growth. So in 2019 we we brought on board a number of microfinance entities and we started doing lending and insurance ourselves in kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, and from there the group has grown and grown.

We've brought over products on board. We just closed a $20 million dollar funding around with bendable. Congratulations. That's huge! Thank you very much. We're very excited to put that to work. And I think with that, I think quite early on in the journey, I realized that it's incredibly important to have local knowledge on board and have the right people in each market. And I've known Nazi from the World Economic Forum where she was a global shaper. And and we attended, you know, I think an event together in 2014 Abuja. So I reconnected and and discussed with her how she could, how whether or not she'd be interested in coming on board and joining us on the journey. See I'm the chairperson of conclusion group and it is just amazing being part of uh well for me to join the team because we know that technology is an enabler, technology creates scale. So being part of a team, a dynamic team, a global team that's trying to empower financial inclusion on the continent. Take advantage of the Continental development plans was quite exciting.

And then a little bit about myself is that I am four million investment banker, so I can relate a little bit to tim's journey. And then a few years, well, 10 years ago I decided that I'm going to be an entrepreneur, had no idea what it is that I'm going to do. But then I just started seeking my purpose and my passion and I realized that I'm quite passionate about small business development. And then I started to social enterprises, one being the South African black entrepreneurs forum, which is how do we provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and townships, rural peri urban area. And then I got involved in another social enterprise scheme Odessa a few years later and in essence it's about policy reform, it's about how do we create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship to thrive in South Africa? How do we ensure that we fix the policy environment, engaged the various stakeholders. So that's something that I'm still involved in and we're currently working on getting a startup act for South Africa, just one of the policy interventions were doing.

And then in 2017 I started Foruhar Africa holdings. Well, I registered the company in 2013, but in essence in 2018 we had an opportunity to partner with a listed company. Um and our focus is skills training ecotech and in essence that's a company that I've been building over the past couple of years. It's quite a successful company in the sense that we've got great clients, future clients, um that we create skills, skills development solutions for them. So yeah, and then a few a year and a half ago, tim and I have known each other for a long time and he said matty, I wanna build authentic company and I'd love for you to be part of that journey with your experience sitting on boards and with the experience, starting your own company, being an entrepreneur, yourself and the networks that you have, we think that you'd be a great fit for it. So I was up for the task because I did believe in what conclusion is trying to achieve. Um, and also just being a minority shareholder, that also did give me a great incentive that I am part of the growth.

I'm not just coming on board as a chairperson, I also have skin in the game where my conclusion journey started and it's been phenomenal at him, Just told you now we've been able to secure significant race, which is going to be good for our company is going to be good for the continental expansion as well. Talking about expansion over time, you've recently brought on payroll added services. What does the process look like when adding a new product to conclusion. So I think it comes with a lot of prototyping comes with with a lot of piloting discussions, but ultimately, I think what we realized is that there isn't just an access to credit or lack of access to credit and financial services for those that are in the informal sector. But even millennials, people with their first job, it's extremely difficult to get access to attractive financial solutions and it's hard in africa to to distribute. But by basically making it part of the employee experience and providing employers a service where, you know, together with Baselitz, they can also then overweight streaming long term lending insurance products to those employees.

It naturally starts bringing financial services in the lives of broad groups of people. And I think we realized that to make it easier for employers to effectively provide all those value added services, it was extremely critical to also cover the basis because ultimately, as an employer, you want to focus on your core business and all of the side issues you wanted to be taken care of in the simplest manner possible. And I think we realized that we weren't covering all bases previously, but in general, we have an R and D team, we look at solutions, we test them, we go to a board process to approve those Mementos. We are regulated when it comes to our insurance offering were regulated when it comes to the loan offerings that we have to make sure that the regulatory compliance is in place. So it's a lengthy process, but I think we do our best to make it as quick as possible. We have some other products in the pipeline that we haven't been able to launch yet because we just have to go through that process and particularly when it comes to bringing on new insurance products, were sometimes taking longer than we'd like.

But for us, the next step is really building on that insurance offering. Looking at how we bring a medical aid to play and add insurance to payroll and lending for the employers, how do you know, it's the right product to add for the conclusion group. I think it's always difficult. I think for us, the key thing is, is trying to go out with MVP minimum viable product and trying, if it works, it works reinvest. If it doesn't work, amend it. And that for us has worked so far, we've had products that that we've launched that we weren't entirely happy with and we've either discontinued them or or tweak them and gone right. I think it's also really looking at things from a customer perspective, doing customer questionnaires and then trying to find out what is missing in the market and what our product said that we would consume. But the most important part is is trying because ultimately, if you don't try, you'll never succeed. Customer satisfaction is insanely important, especially when you're launching a new product. How do you ensure this? When there is no face to face interaction.

Without face to face interaction, we have to look at digital questionnaires, we survey, we check in with customers, we do random sampling. So we use a variety of online tools to basically measure that we try to have an active social media presence, use our social channels to get in touch with with customers and we have a team of reps and and agents that affect the regularly interact with all our employer partners to basically discuss with them what's working, what our frustrations and what we can do to address them. I think without the day to day physical interaction, it's even more important to effectively be continuously engaged and continuously building this out tim you're from Holland and decided having a local partner was vital for conclusion. How did you come to this conclusion and eventually choose Matija, join your team on this journey. But throughout my experience on the continent, I've always realized that people that have lived here, grown up here, going to school, studied, build a working career, have had far deeper and wider networks than that we could build up by ourselves and I think partnering with with the right individuals is extremely critical to actually be successful in the markets I've seen in the past.

We've always worked like that. So when, when starting conclusion, I once again wanted to to follow that approach and I think with, with what conclusion stands for, which is also making an impact in the world, enhancing access to financial services, but also building a fully take enabled business. I was looking for someone that was hungry, young, motivated and really in the middle of the startup and technology. See so Marcy was, was a natural person to, to approach because I previously engaged with her and I think I knew she had the right business ethics, the right integrity as well as the right driver network and I think that that together made me approach Marks and say, look, you happy to come on board. And I guess in this specific case I was, I was lucky that that Maxie was also keen to join. So we had a, we didn't have to run multiple iterations, we found the structure for her to join and I'm super excited with the contribution she's made and I think she's been very instrumental in helping us maneuver the South African market and then get in touch with the right people and then figure out where to product innovate and who to partner is marty, what made you feel that this was the right project to be a part of.

So they always say you should always bet on the jockey. So I think for me it was, it was a no brainer timisoara is, he's one of the smartest people that I know, very passionate about the continent, Somebody who is also quite a shrewd business person, very knowledgeable about the industry and also haven't known him over the years. It was a natural thing for me to want to be part of. And I also know that we can leverage each other strengths because I'm quite out there shy, reserved. It's a great combination for us to uh tap team. And so I knew that this is somebody that I would work well with because he's an easy person to work with. And also I don't doubt his intentions and motivations for wanting to build this big pan African Fintech company Tim mentioned your great network and how you've been able to open many doors for conclusion, what advice do you have for those trying to grow their network? I think it's important to be clear on what value you bring to the table, right, so that people can easily identify you and then also being authentic people when people respect you in business because they know you're an authentic entrepreneur, authentic businessperson.

What you bring to the table is great clarity. It's, I'm not a dodgy person, so it's easy for people to want to align myself and also just being passionate about something when people meet me for the first time, they always say your energy is amazing. So regardless of what I'm selling, they'll probably want to subscribe to whatever it is that I'm selling or I'm drinking or part of. So you have to do things with enthusiasm and people should want to be part of that winning team. Well let's talk about day one, what is somebody very young early in their career wanting to build the network, wanting to build that authority in the market, Where do they start? You have to also up skill yourself. You know you have to be known for something. So it's important that you invest the time you invest the efforts into just crafting your skill because you have to bring something to the table. Um you know there's a lot of people that you actually don't know what they can, what what can you do if I have to ask you what are you, what can you do? So you can say I'm an accountant because you gone through the whole educational system and you qualified as an accountant and then if you want to go because I qualified, I had a commerce degree but the things that I'm doing now I did not actually practice, I did not study.

So I think you also have to be open to pursuing your passion and following that because then that will lead you to the doors and the avenues that you'll be able to unlock. So with the skills training I didn't study H. R. N. University, however it's now it's an industry that I knew at any point in time you have to be up skilling re skilling and skilling somebody or a company or a nation or a content. So there are great opportunities there. So I think you also have to look at what are the strategic areas of growth? What are the strategic areas that are booming on the continent? And Fintech is definitely on the rise because Africa is known for Fintech and being very dynamic and producing fintech solutions. Yeah, I think for me have a base, right? So I have a commercial based, so I know what a contract is, I know how to, what to look out for. I have a sense of numbers, but then I was also open enough to go outside of what I studied and explore things that I'm passionate about and things that are actually presenting opportunities. Yeah, and you're on multiple boards. I'm sure you've learned an immense amount through this.

Has this experience altered how you help run businesses? 100%. I think also one of my biggest value add to inclusion the group is my governance experience. I have a sense of what is good governance and I have a sense of what is poor governance and I must say, having sat on some boards actually public sector boards, that's where I learned the most about governance because as a country we struggle a lot with running our country. So sitting on some of the agencies, I I knew what not to do. I now know what to look out for and it has enabled me so smooth sailing Boards are not necessarily the ones where you're going to learn the best or the most and so I'm glad that I'm able to bring that to the table because it's now 10 years plus of sitting on various boards and locally one of them being an international logistics company, one of the big ones I sit on the regional boards. So that also brought that international explosion international experience for someone who's interested in sitting on multiple boards, how would you recommend they achieve that goal?

Well, ring read the king, uh, the king's report because that is in essence a bible for governance in South Africa, but then also signed up to organizations like the Institute of Directors because they actually have, they have skills training programs that would enable you to actually learn about governance and then also network Well, because A lot of the boards that I sit on, I hardly, I've always been recommended. I've never had to, they would like for me because I started doing this when I was 25 years old. The first board that I sat on was a localized board and I knew nothing. But I also told myself that I have a lot to bring because my thinking is what they want to tap it. Not necessarily my board experience and how else am I going to learn if I don't put myself out there and say no, I don't have the experience. So I never said no, I put my hand up and I said sure. And I knew that I'm gonna learn as I go and yeah, it's been great because now I can go for bigger boards and I bring a lot of experience. I love that. Um, and the final question I have for you for some, this is a sensitive topic many year about lending products in Africa and there's this negative reaction.

How do you respond to this? Well, one thing that I always make clear is that we are highly regulated organized industry, if anybody wants to know, we can give them our license number if they really want to know and they can go do their, their own due diligence around. Do we actually exists? So I think the responsibilities more on their consumers and what they're consuming and from who they are consuming it from. It's like me going into a war with sure. I know that most of the time the things will be fresh, they wouldn't have expired. But I've also had encounters where they have expired. So every time I buy something from wards always check the expiry date. I don't care if it's, so what I'm saying is that if people are going to say, oh, you guys are a machinist because that's actually the word that they use here in South Africa for loan sharks and they call the machine says, it's like, well we are highly regulated industry, we do have a license to trade in this industry and if you are curious you can go onto our website and we always make it clear that he here are our credentials. So yeah, that's basically what I would say.

Fantastic. Well, thank you both so much for being on the podcast. Matt. See where's the best place for listeners to reach you? Well, I am quite active on instagram I think and I live in pictures. So if you want to, I'm gonna go follow, I'll follow you back, I'll follow you. Like it's Miss Matty, I'm on instagram messed with a double S M I double S mutti, that's where everybody can catch me and I'm very, very engaging on those platforms. Fantastic, timothy. Thanks so much for being on the podcast. Where's the best place for listeners to meet you? Probably linked in. It's the only social blood from I directly actively use myself. Awesome. Well, thanks again guys, thank you. Thank you for listening to voice of Fintech podcast if you haven't already check out. Also Voice of Fintech dot com where you will find all the episodes and additional resources related to the podcast. You can also subscribe to voice of integer on apple podcasts, Spotify, google or any other podcast app that you like. If you have any suggestions on the topics or guests or how to make this podcast better for you.

Please email us at info at Voice of intake dot com. Happy to hear from you. Okay? Yeah, okay

Africa Series with Stacey Japhta: Improving financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa through data driven lending with Finclusion
Africa Series with Stacey Japhta: Improving financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa through data driven lending with Finclusion
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