Increasing the reach of Mobile Money and Access to Finance

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Go Finance

GO Finance Company Limited is a Tanzanian non-bank financial institution (NBFI) that leverages supply chain finance data inherent in specific business value chains and enabling technology to assess the credit risk of SME merchants working in those value chains. In September 2014, GO Finance Company Limited, in collaboration with ACCION Venture Lab, TIB Development Bank, IDMission LLC, First Access Inc and Pillaris Software Systems was awarded a grant by TradeMark East Africa Research and Advocacy Challenge Fund (TRAC) to implement their project which aims to bring together the necessary investment and debt capital as well as collaborating partners to successfully pioneer the use of digital records of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to enable credit assessment decisions on MSMEs to be effectively made.

The process involves a simple-to-use transaction recording interface (a point of sale – POS- device called GOBi) that collects transaction data of MSMEs that use it to provide access to digital data that can act as a satisfactory alternative for credit decision making compared to traditional banking methods (that currently often restrict MSMEs access to credit).

The initial focus is on funding mobile money aggregators and agents in the Airtel Tanzania (telecom) value chain and, subsequently, other value chains. The POS interface will allow for the digitization of sales and inventory data, facilitating automated monitoring; when this is backed by the strong social and business relationships that already exist in business value chains such as those of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), the working capital credit GO provides, is essentially “collateralized” and risk significantly reduced.

The project will use enabling technology and ‘big data’ to make informed lending decisions with mobile money acting as a payment platform that reduces transaction costs and the GOBi POS interface effectively acting as a monitoring tool by providing access to MSME sales transactions. Taken together with the use of a customer relationship management system that GO Finance has deployed (Salesforce.com) this reduces operational costs of servicing lower level MSME clients (wholesalers and retailers) and will allow GO Finance to work collaboratively across enterprise lines (through business to business automation on sales and other monitoring data) resulting in significantly altering credit assessments of MSMEs.

The project implementation is structured into 4 milestones as indicated below:

  1. signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between GO Finance and ACCION Venture Lab on equity agreement and credit support for TIB Development Bank. GO Finance backend organizing activities undertaken

  2. customer acquisition strategy finalized (including identified key partners on the supply side, e.g. Samsung and Microsoft 4 Afrika, and the distribution side – Telecom distribution footprint – Airtel or Vodacom). GOBi, GO Finance mobile and cloud based point of sale (POS) user interface prototype launched and tested in the market month 6 after signing the Grant Agreement

  3. at least 100 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) will have accessed working capital and 100 MSMEs acquired business risk insurance through GO Finance

  4. at least 2 regional multinational entities with large footprints EAC (e.g. Airtel, Coke) will have signed agreement for customer acquisition with GO Finance

Project Objectives

  • Assure GO self sustainability through an equity agreement between GO Finance and ACCION Venture Lab who will act as the equity financier and debt support/first loss guarantee (ACCION) by providing an equity investment of USD 390,000 along with technical expertise and governance oversight on GO’s board.
  • Access wholesale debt from TIB Development Bank (a state owned development finance institution). TIB will act as a commercial debt provider and provide debt financing of at least USD 1.2 million provided that ACCION provides equity and debt guarantee support and TRAC provides funding for GOBi trial.
  • GO Finance to invest in strengthening and automating backend operations which will result in increased chances of sustainability by deploying a Financial and HR system (both by a company called FinancialForce.com) that are native to GO Finance’s existing customer relationship management system (Salesforce.com) which will provide a basis for the automation of the interaction between their IT system and collaborating partners’ core IT infrastructure leading to significant turnaround for customer assessment and monitoring (with key focus on Airtel, and collaborating partners First Access and traditional credit bureaus).
  • An updated credit risk model for GO to be designed by First Access, using sample data inputs from Dun & Bradstreet, Airtel and GO clients which will act as an alternative scoring mechanism and provide another set of analytics allowing GO to better identify good clients resulting in lower loss provisions, and better pricing for clients. A salesforce.com process flow to be mapped and implemented by Ideasinc.
  • Creating GO Business Intelligence (GOBi) point of sale (POS) device. GO’s mobile and cloud based POS first user interface prototype development application was completed by IDmission and Pillarsis in early February 2015. It was designed to digitize sales transactions and provide GO Finance with the data necessary to assist with decision making. A survey was conducted on random whole stores of Dar es Salaam on 16-27th February 2015 to test and introduce to the market the POS application through the use of a tablet with the GOBi app. Overall, the market survey yielded positive results as the POS app addressed key things that were important to target clients. The results were submitted to developers to iterate the prototype I for a more robust prototype II targeting end of June 2015.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Despite the acknowledged progress, the project’s implementation was not challenge free as there were delays in the accomplishments of agreed milestones; the main obstacles to progress including the following:
  • There was a delay in securing of wholesale debt financing due to an audit completion delay covering 3 years of operation by PWC; the delay was for 4 months. GO Finance had to redo its business plan and projections which took time especially while streamlining their products from pilot results.
  • The audit delay prompted GO’s equity partner, ACCION Venture Lab, to withhold funding (USD 290,000) as well as its credit support (USD 500,000) that was to act as security for the wholesale loan GO was in the process of obtaining from TIB Development Bank, further exacerbating the company’s ability to deliver on this project, given the grant’s cost-reimbursement mechanism. With only USD 100,000 received from ACCION Venture Lab, GO had to work on locating a new equity provider and develop an alternative solution to the credit support that was to be received from ACCION. After 6 months of hustling, GO has found a new equity partner, Financial Access of the Nederlands, and is at the final stages of approval for a loan from TIB Development Bank.
  • Developing a GOBi mock-up of the Human Centred Design application proved more challenging than anticipated as some of the concepts GO Finance had in mind were not practical, so they utilised the feedback they received from shop owners and current GO clients which then became the building blocks of the new application.

Conclusion

The project will secure, strengthen and increase jobs in business value chains by allowing small businesses and its employees the ability to grow their businesses as well as mitigate any unforeseen financial shocks. By working in existing business value chains such as those of FMCG companies, and collaborating with strategic partners such as First Access, debt providers, and traditional credit bureaus, as well as developing a tool to increase visibility around monitoring (GOBi), GO Finance will be able to digitize transactions and as a result create opportunities which will widen to include the entire 3 million MSME market in Tanzania for increasing access to finance.