When the world was invaded by Covid-19 in 2020, global economies were brought to their knees. At a personal level, many individuals were left in survival mode, barely managing to feed their families.
Education was not saved too. Learners were forced to study remotely in bits and when schools were re-opened parents were required to pay school dues in advance, regardless of the situation. Many of these parents had lost their sources of income to the pandemic.
Joseph Kibunda, a parent at JESJONNY Day and Boarding Primary School, remembers that experience as if it was yesterday.
“Covid-19 sabotaged our sources of income. It was challenging for us to take our children back to school. Every time your children are sent back home for school fees, you would look useless before them,” he recalls.
As Kibunda was hustling to find school fees for his children, he learned about Pesajet, a digital platform that offers school fees in advance for parents.
“Pesajet indeed relieved us from the immense pressure schools used to subject us to through frequent phone calls from the head teacher demanding school fees,” he says.
According to Emily Sonia Nakabuye, Pesajet is a subsidiary company of E-Moments Limited, a multi-business company that deals in FinTech, media, commerce, and events.
“Pesajet is a payments business application that looks mainly at Education and Agriculture. For Education, we help parents make payments to school easily and fast. Under the agriculture sector, we have FarmMore where farmers can get market information and get loans to buy farm inputs online,” Nakabuye, the Co-founder of PesaJet says.
Nakabuye, who is also still in school, says the School Advance product has received more attention because it touches the core challenge of any ordinary Ugandan. However, she emphasizes that money is disbursed to those with the ability to pay it back.
“For School Advance, one has to enter simple KYC into the application, and to get the advance, you must enter a bit of added information like National Identification Number (NIN). If you have a basic feature phone, we are developing a USSD code so that you can use it,” she says. “We also have the payments app which you can find on the Google Play Store and Apple Store.”
School administrators are happy too with this initiative that has eased their school management routine.
“Our school fees policy is that a parent must have paid at least half the fees before the child reports back. But you are all aware that the post-Covid-19 era had a negative bearing on the incomes of our people. Sometimes, you find that not all parents can meet that requirement. So, PesaJet filled that gap by providing fees advance to these parents,” says Godfrey Kigongo Bwabye, the Head Teacher of JESJONNY Day and Boarding Primary School.
“At the inception of Pesajet in our school, several parents bought into the idea and subscribed. Currently, Pesajet is supporting about 20 per cent of the parents that qualify for these advances but we would like this number to increase,” he adds.
Nakabuye says that their biggest challenge is a lack of trust from Ugandans. Being a new platform formed just two years ago, many people are reluctant to subscribe to PesaJet.
For parents and school administrators, the challenge is the high-interest rates. But Nakabuye pegs this challenge to lack of funding.
“It is not easy for us start-ups to get seed capital to give to parents or farmers,” she says.
She is however grateful to the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative by HiPipo which is helping start-up FinTechs to develop social and technical capital through interactions with established players.
“It has helped us with mentorship, seed capital, among others. As FinTechs, we need to know each other and ways to connect with other people that are going to use our application and help Ugandans at large,” she says.
Now in its fourth season, the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative is run by HiPipo in partnership with the Level One Project, Mojaloop Foundation, INFITX, Cyberplc Academy, and Crosslake Technologies with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Life-changing stories from more than 100 FinTechs have been highlighted by this initiative in the past three years.
HiPipo CEO Innocent Kawooya says stories like Pesajet are very gratifying given the fact that this initiative is a product of another project by HiPipo called Women in FinTech Hackathon.
“Our vision of Including Everyone is visible in PesaJet’s story. We want to empower these young innovators to come up with solutions that solve everyday problems. Their focus on school fees and agriculture touches the very core of the people at the bottom of the pyramid,” he said.