Sarah Nassaka Kagimu is a Pastor and small-scale businesswoman in Nansana.
Nassaka loves convenience.
So, when a group of young innovators came preaching about a platform where market vendors could save money and receive loans using phones, Nassaka was the first one to register.
“My aim was to access loans. I liked the fact that they were digital because I wanted something that would help me run a business using a smartphone,” she recalls her first encounter with Tawaza Digital Varieties, a Financial Technology start-up offering financial services to informal women and youths in rural and semi-urban areas.
“When I heard that their loans have no collateral, I was excited. Their systems are friendly where someone just pays a membership fee of only Shs 20,000. As long as you saved with them, you automatically qualified for a loan,” she adds.
For Nassaka, this was much easier than the stress of banks.
“Mainly, banks target high-end users and don’t want to approach ordinary women but these people gave us basics on how to save. I was surprised when they tripled my savings to get the loan. If they decide to continue growing with us, I can go far,” she says.
Including the excluded.
According to Winfred Nandawula, the Regional Programs director for Tawaza, this service was designed to tackle the increasing number of women and youth who can’t access formal financial services offered by banks.
“The challenge that we address is majorly that women and youth are running several informal businesses and are being excluded from access to formal banking services. We want to improve how they handle their businesses so that they can access the right credit and provide them with a simplified solution that they can easily use,” she says.
Nandawula notes that they mainly target rural farmer groups and informal women traders because they comprise the most under-served communities.
“We mainly work with USSD because most of the informal people do not have smartphones and are not vigilant with the usage of smart apps. We are now training them on how to use the various gadgets so that they get comfortable with the digital space,” she explains, noting that they are currently working with more than 60 farmer groups and over 1,000 women.
On the part of users, Nassaka notes that their biggest challenge is the lack of gadgets that can be used to operate the Tawaza mobile services.
“Tawaza should help us to get smart mobile phones so that we do away with the poor network on ordinary phones. They can maybe get us the phones and we pay in instalments,” she says.
Nandawula acknowledges this challenge but notes that they also face a financing problem that limits their investment capabilities.
She is, however, grateful to the organisers of the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative for offering startups a chance to showcase their services and address common challenges.
“If we sit in our offices and keep talking about our innovations, it won’t help. The 40 Days 40 FinTechs platform has given us follow-up programmes through HiPipo where we have benefited a lot by getting the right skills, advice, visibility, and a lot of advocacy support,” she says.
Tawaza is the 33rd participant in Season Four of the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative organised by HiPipo to shine a light on emerging Financial Technology companies with unique stories changing the lives of under-served communities.
The initiative is organised in partnership with Level One Project, Mojaloop Foundation, INFITX, Cyberplc Academy, Ideation Corner, and Crosslake Technologies with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.