East Africa has one of the fastest-growing populations, predominated by women and youth. The same region has a ballooning informal sector economy including Boda Boda riders, market vendors, and salon operators among others.
Unfortunately, the majority of these have little, somewhat no clue about financial discipline, especially the art of saving.
It is this problem that Ukonga was formed to provide an answer to. Founded eight months ago, Ukonga is a Kenyan FinTech product that provides a targeted micro-savings platform for youths and women. It is owned by SaveApp; a Kenyan financial technology company that creates solutions to solve real-life problems.
“Ukonga is a Zulu word that stands for savings. We seek to provide the answer to the underserved community of youth and women. We believe we have had a huge impact and we will continue to impact the lives of these people,” says Abdulaziz Mohammed Omar, the CEO of SaveApp.
In less than one year, Abdulaziz is happy that Ukonga has been able to register more than 1800 users with a month-on-month growth averaging 30 percent.
“We are currently in Kenya but we want to dominate the East African region in a short time,” he says.
The solution is currently available on USSD and as an App to enable users save their spare change from their daily spending because every cent and shilling matters in enabling one’s financial goals. A user can redeem their savings to pay for anything in their saving goal right from holidays, to pension, insurance, shopping, etc.
“During registration, we ask our users to provide the KYC because it is essential not only for their own security but also for the security of financial assets. We work with partners that are regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya to provide some sense of security,” he says.
Abdulaziz is very happy that the FinTech industry is beginning to receive the recognition it duly deserves.
“The state of Kenyan FinTech business is quite interesting. The opportunities continue to come. The population continues to grow and many challenges which need solutions,” he noted, before appreciating the Kenyan government for providing a conducive regulatory environment for FinTechs.
Based in Kenya, Ukonga is participant number 42 in the third edition of the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative organized by HiPipo.
“I want to thank the HiPipo team for the 40 days 40 FinTechs initiative that helps to advocate and showcase our products and services. Through this platform, we can share knowledge, opportunities and seek support from other players. We thank you because very few people dare to do what you do,” Abdulaziz said, before calling for an expanded version of this initiative in future to accommodate more players from across Africa.
40 Days 40 FinTechs
The #40Days40FinTechs initiative is run under HiPipo in partnership with the Level One Project, Mojaloop, ModusBox, and Crosslake Technologies with support from the Gates Foundation.
According to HiPipo CEO Innocent Kawooya, initiatives such as Ukonga offer hope for the underserved populations which have for long been ignored by financial service providers.
“Ukonga has cut a niche for providing the underserved population with targeted saving avenues. This is in line with our common objective of achieving financial inclusion for all,” Kawooya said.
He further thanked digital innovators and FinTechs around East Africa for embracing Season three of 40 Days 40 FinTechs which has covered physical destinations in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
“As HiPipo, our extensive effort and advocacy is partly for the intention of championing digital innovation and interoperable instant and inclusive payment systems (IIPS) in Africa to a point where our innovators enjoy and achieve sound profit margins to help them keep designing and deploying affordable and inclusive financial services for the poor,” he said.
The #40Days40FinTechs platform is run under HiPipo’s Include Everyone program that also encompasses other initiatives such as FinTech Landscape Exhibition, Women in FinTech Hackathon, Summit & Incubator and the Digital and Financial Inclusion Summit and Digital Impact Awards Africa.
The platform also 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.