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Championing for Financial Inclusion

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Fintech Nomad has created an affordable and simple digital payment solution targeted at micro and small businesses in a bid to offer cheaper M-Pesa C2C infrastructure fees.

Mobile Money transfer has become a common payment option in terms of financial usage in the East Africa region.

Today, anyone with access to a mobile device within the purview of local Telco connectivity can be able to send and receive money instantly, hassle-free.

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However, with these progressive developments remittance transfer fees have become a key concern.

In Kenya for instance, the charges of sending money from one mobile user to another are exorbitant as telecommunications companies have not put to account that Kenya’s average monthly income is US$63.

This means that mobile money transfer costs relative to the incomes of the poorest are much higher.

For example, for sending 800 Kenyan shillings (US$10) through M-Pesa, the average transfer fee including withdrawal charges rises to 7 per cent for transfers to recipients who have an M-Pesa account and to 9.4 per cent for unregistered recipients according to MPesa charts.

This calls for increased financial inclusion of the poor.

Asilimia is looking to change that narrative. With just Kes 150 (US$ 1.5) a month, you can be able to send money from as little as 100 to 50,000 in your Safaricom mobile wallet for free.

The CEO and founder, Tekwane Mwendwa, a former informal merchant realised that despite payment platforms being Kenya’s economic powerhouse, informal traders are at the base of the pyramid.  

“Nobody builds businesses thinking about small traders, our tech solution targets small and micro businesses as it provides small businesses with a solution that truly understands their daily needs,” Mwendwa says.

This, he says has, in turn, resulted in financial service providers being unable to access this thriving economy effectively.

The digital nomad launched Asilimia back in 2017 after he found himself unable to afford a bus ride home due to high mobile money withdrawal fees.

He alludes that mobile money transaction costs were deterrent.

“There are many times you pay for something and you get the annoying message that you don’t have enough cash to pay for the transaction, the problem persisted for so long for me to try and solve it and that led to us having the birth of Asilmia,” he says.

Asilimia services, Mwendwa indicates are suitable for Mpesa power uses including informal traders, freelancers, E-commerce sellers who tend to do transactions on their personal Mpesa account.

Asilimia has been able to solve this problem for many other businesses and individuals as well by providing an affordable and simple digital payment solution, which has since been targeted at individuals as well as micro and small businesses.

According to Mwenda, currently, informal businesses are condemned to stagnation due to lack of formal payments. However, with Asilimia, he says, it seeks to overcome poverty and inequality within the society.

The Fintech app gives business owners direct access to a payment infrastructure specifically tailored to their needs via their mobile phone, eliminating tedious registration processes and allowing them to easily send money at scale, invest savings on transaction fees into insurance or business loans, gain insights into their finances, and minimise payment fraud. 

 “Today, many small businesses in Kenya cannot access business-focused mobile money solutions because of bureaucratic complexity. Small businesses thus use cash and C2C infrastructure for business transactions, which drive up their costs and do not allow them to become resilient and grow,” Mwendwa said.

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With a team of seven people, the payments and micro-savings platform offers real-time money settlement, eliminate long registration procedures by providing a three-step transaction process, and don’t require the recipient to have an Asilimia account.

“Our mantra – ‘ease, freedom, value’ – captures what we offer,” he says. 

With just one year into the market, Asilimia has had a good response from users.

“We are currently at 5000 users and we have up to now we have transacted 34 million shillings,” Mwendwa says.

He adds that they have not been conducting large-scale campaigns to acquire more users but have been doing their best to ensure our current 5,000 users are satisfied with the service. 

Microfinance service

With the country’s insurance penetration standing at 3 per cent, which according to the World Bank is very low, Asilimia sees this as a potential for business growth.

“Our primary goal right now is as the same number that Safaricom has, 40 million subscribers and about 20 million of them are active Mpesa users. Our future goal is to convert all of them into insurance holders, more so NHIF because it’s the most common and the easiest accessible service,” he says.

The new service, Mwenda reveals will allow their users to make micropayments and savings every time they transact.

“We are going to enable Kenyans to reallocate Mpesa transaction fees to access insurance. We will target the motorcyclists the boda boda sector, to enable them to have access to insurance and that pay for that insurance with the usual Mpesa transaction fee of 20-30 shillings,”

The self-funded Asilimia competes with companies like Chipper Cash, Kopo Kopo, PesaPal and Popote Pay, but believes it stands out from the crowd.

“With the tough economy of Kenya, every shilling counts. The biggest challenge we have as a country is that businesses need to make money as much as they can and give the lowest amount of value,” he says.

Mwendwa says that they are changing the narrative that the Kenyan market is difficult, but it’s worth investing in it, both time, money and talent and it also has to be respectful to its consumers. 

We are paying attention to the state of the economy, the struggles of an everyday Kenyan. With Asilimia we can make a Kenyans life easier, that’s our differentiator.

The idea he says is to formalize the informal traders.

“We are passionate about making informal traders get identity and for people to stop judging them as unreliable. We want to change the narrative of informal trade and give them an identity that is respectful because they have been in the economy for 10-20 years,” he says.

Mwendwa encourages entrepreneurs especially start-ups that they have to be locally and globally relevant.

“All you have to ask yourself as a start-up, how do you fit in the global arena, can your business be invested in a person who is foreign, who doesn’t know you. Are you able to excite, engage talent that is not Kenyan? Are you able to get into products, teach you or open up yours from a global view?”

He adds that startups need to ask themselves if they are building a business to survive a few years or for a lifetime.

For the next six months, Asilimia is looking at growing their numbers to 100,000 users on their platform. “We are also expecting most of those users will be insured hopefully by the end of the year,” he says.

Eventually, he notes, they aim to expand to East Africa and later to Sub-Saharan Africa with an immediate plan of entering into Ugandan market.

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