Driving financial inclusion through mobile

Meet MoVAS, the start-up helping small businesses grow

“If you try to get a loan from the bank, they require a lot of signatories and details of next of kin. There are lots of forms and delays, after which they tell you to come back another day.”

These are the words of Rebecca Mbesu Maithya. Rebecca is a food vendor, who runs a café in a local market on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. Being a small business owner, Rebecca often struggles to access the finances she needs to run and grow her business.

And she’s not alone. Across sub-Saharan Africa, red-tape processes, strict criteria, long wait times and locations of traditional banks often lock out many people from the financial system. Low financial literacy and income levels also mean a large number of the population don’t have a bank account or financial track record, impacting their ability to access loans or insurance.

After seeing the success of mobile money in Kenya, young entrepreneur, James Mwaniki, saw an opportunity to change this.

He developed MoVAS Group, an information and financial services company that provides loan services to typically unbanked masses. Using a basic or smart phone, users can apply for a loan and receive credit within three to five seconds – without any of the requisite paperwork or needing to visit a physical location.

“The idea of MoVAS was born out of the need to provide loan solutions to the masses who’d otherwise not be able to access credit services,” says James. “This is a huge problem in developing countries, where micro and small businesses are often not attractive enough for the established lending and financial services institutions. MoVAS was created to try and solve this problem and be part of a global network of like-minded businesses bridging the financial divide.”

Growing with Microsoft 4Afrika

MoVAS Group has worked closely with Microsoft, through its 4Afrika Initiative, to develop and scale their solution.

Because MoVAS issues loans to tens of thousands of customers across Africa daily, they needed a platform to manage and grow their offering in a cost-effective way. With assistance from the MySkills4Afrika volunteer program, MoVAS migrated their services to Microsoft Azure. With this service, they are able to crunch large volumes of data faster, more accurately and with less human resources.

The result has been a 300% jump in lending, meaning even more people can now access finance. MoVAS currently has 12 million users across Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Somalia, the Republic of Congo and Swaziland. Their users range from small business owners to rural farmers, women and youth.

Going forward, MoVAS plans to move all their hosted services to Azure. They also plan to rewrite their credit scoring algorithms to be tightly coupled with Data Lakes, machine learning and artificial intelligence sitting on top of Azure. By doing so, they hope to on-board new clients in two to three weeks, instead of the usual three months.

“Digital transformation is both the future and the guarantee to that future. It spurs on businesses, making their services cheaper, faster, safer and leaner – hence more profitable for the business. But it also ensures that the end-users of these technology solutions benefit, via better access methods and increased options. Overall, the economy output of countries is positively impacted,” adds James.

Developing youth talent

MoVAS also works with 4Afrika on developing local youth skills, through the Interns4Afrika program. MoVAS recruits and upskills Microsoft certified interns, giving them real-world job experience while also building their own talent pipeline.

“Microsoft identifies young people and we train them. By the time they are done with the program, they are work-ready. Young people in Africa are motivated and very willing to learn, but they just don’t have the avenues. We are creating the opportunities and closing the loop.”