FutureLink Technologies is a community-driven marketplace for affordable financial services. It is licensed by the Bank of Uganda as a digital national payment systems operator.
They work to enhance the financial resilience of Africa’s low and middle-income earners through a community-driven marketplace where consumers access a variety of financial services, mainly credit, most appropriate and affordable for their daily needs.
FutureLink Technologies is the 31st participant in this year’s 40 days 40 FinTechs initiative by HiPipo that seeks to highlight emerging FinTechs in East Africa and beyond. The HiPipo team talked to VINCENT TUMWIJUKYE, the CEO and co-founder of FutureLink Technologies, and below is how the conversation went.
QN: Why did you choose the community-based model?
ANS: Africa is fragmented. So, we realized that generic products cannot survive or make an impact in African communities where people are divided around culture, physical boundaries, countries, etc. so, it is better to come up with community-driven initiatives.
QN: So, how does this model work?
ANS: On our platform, we have different players; we have sellers and buyers. We have about 300 SACCOs on the market side of the platform across Uganda. These are providing financial services that are responsive to the unique needs of the people where they hail from. If you come to the buyers’ side, we have different categories. One channel is the Digital channel (M –Saccos) with over 350,000 subscribers. There are those still using branches to transact and they are about 600,000 people.
So, if you go to PlayStore, we have the M-Sacco. You will be able to see hundreds of Saccos showing what they paid and what their return on investment was. You will be able to see the average cost of credit for these Saccos. Seated here in Kampala, you will be able to open an account in a Sacco somewhere in the rural area and start earning dividends and more.
QN: How are you performing in terms of numbers?
ANS: For the year 2021, we moved about UGX 2.7 trillion shillings on our platforms. We also have key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure our impact. We saw that cash flow per member on our platform grew by 14 percent; savings per member remained constant largely because of the Covid-19 effects but we are excited to see that people’s financial resilience is growing.
QN: One of the main tenets of the 40 days 40 FinTechs initiative is to ensure that we ‘Include Everyone”. How do you rate yourselves in this aspect?
ANS: We believe that you cannot include everyone without addressing key barriers. One barrier is affordability. The other is functionality and responsiveness. How does your product respond to the needs of women, farmers, and the youth? That is why we employ the community-based model and work with indigenous cooperatives that target specific groups with specific needs.
Secondly, we prioritize affordability. In Uganda, our platform offers the cheapest credit. At 8.75 percent per annum, you can get a loan on our platform. There are businesses that are still borrowing at 20 percent per month. That is ridiculous. There is no business you can do with credit of 20 percent per month. That is 240 percent per annum. The only business you can do is lending.
If we must build an equitable sustainable economy, we must address the issue of affordability. So, we are happy to see that we are championing the matter of bringing down the cost of credit. Our 8.75 percent is beginning to trigger a conversation about the cost of credit and banks are responding by reducing interest rates. We have proven that you can lend at that rate and be able to remain in the market.
QN: What is the key behind this success?
ANS: For you to be able to unlock the kinds of markets that we serve, you must be transparent. You must be seen to actually work for the people because suspicion is high. If you look at the rural communities that we work with, by default they think that technology is a way of trying to steal their money. If you don’t take an effort to be equitable, and come up with business models that actually work for every stakeholder, then you will not go a long way.
QN: What is your general assessment of the growth of FinTech in Uganda?
ANS: The state of FinTech in Uganda is exciting. We have a regulator who is supportive and a listener. We have quarterly forums with the deputy governor and we think that is healthy. We are also seeing confidence within the population, especially after Covid-19. People understand that this is something they can leverage.
I think there is a keen interest, more than there was before because of the regulation. Venture capital funds are coming in. Uganda’s open free market is exciting. I think other players coming should not be deceived by the idea to push generic products because Uganda is fragmented. You need to have community-responsive products.
QN: What is FutureLink’s biggest achievement so far?
ANS: We have achieved quite a lot. Recently, we were listed among the top 50 most inclusive FinTechs in the world. Think about this, this in comparison with other institutions from all over the world. This was a statement that the work we do for the rural communities, the voice we give to the end consumer, and the catalytic effort we put into the design and delivery of financial services are commendable.
QN: What is your take on the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative?
ANS: This initiative provides an opportunity to test ourselves if indeed we are creating an impact in comparison to our peers. It is a great initiative that is shining a light on the entire industry.
Perhaps what could be done with other stakeholders like FITSPA is to build the three pillars of investment. First, we need to bring out the exciting innovations in the media, locally and regionally. We need to have a university that is focused on talent; churning out developers, and business analysts because we have a significant lack of talent. Then we need to build the VC (Venture Capitalists) community.
Now in its third edition, #40Days40FinTechs has quickly grown into one of the world’s premier showcase events for the innovations that are enabling ever more people to join the digital economy space. It is organized by HiPipo in partnership with Level One Project, Mojaloop, ModusBox, and Crosslake Technologies and supported by the Gates Foundation.
According to Innocent Kawooya, the HiPipo CEO, FutureLink Technologies is a clear representation of what 40 Days 40 FinTechs is all about – enhancing last mile Financial Inclusion.
“Access to affordable and readily available credit is key to business development and financial inclusion. Targeting people at the bottom of the pyramid is a must if we must achieve financial inclusion. FutureLink Technologies is doing this by empowering Saccos and making their services available to thousands of people. We applaud them and challenge them to achieve even much more.” Kawooya noted.
The 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative offers participants useful tools and an introduction to the industry’s emerging technologies, such as Mojaloop Open Source Software, and guidance from Level One Project foundational material. The skills gained from this initiative cover Level One Project Principles, Instant and Inclusive Payment Systems (IIPS), Inclusive Finance and FinTech in general.