Nairobi – Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are considered critical for driving economic development that will reduce unemployment and poverty across Africa.
These enterprises, of which there are around 40 million in the region, account for 60 per cent of Africa’s workforce and form an enormous part of many nations’ economies, generating over 50% of all wealth. However, these businesses, vital to uplifting living standards, are severely underfinanced. In Africa, the financing gap is thought to be around $330 billion annually. The key to bridging this is the microfinance sector, providing financial services to those who do not have access to traditional banking and credit services.
4G Capital offers a way to move faster and go deeper
In Kenya and Uganda, 4G Capital is dedicated to bridging the finance gap to advance MSMEs and help informal traders transition to the formal economy on fair and equitable terms.
The company, operating since 2013, provides unsecured working capital microloans alongside critical enterprise and financial literacy training via digital channels and in person through nationwide branches.
4G Capital, rather than blind-lending digitally, lends to individuals after a due diligence and onboarding process that identifies their needs and focuses on training them to sustainably and profitably grow their businesses. This ultimately means they can repay their loans and dramatically increases the chance of building viable businesses that can truly make a wider socioeconomic difference. Research shows 4G Capital’s customers grow their revenues by an average of 82% annually.
So far, 4G Capital has issued more than 2.27 million loans to over 307,000 clients, 53% of which are rural MSMEs and almost three-quarters run by women.
In-house technology and data science have been critical to this end. Credit reference bureaus (CRBs) across Africa face difficulty in including the informal sector, not least because they struggle to obtain complete financial profiles of individuals and their businesses.
4G Capital does not rely upon CRBs to assess whether a client can be served, with all risk assessment and due diligence activities being taken in-house. Similarly, 4G Capital does not report defaulters to the CRB, instead working with them to return to financial health.
The company addresses a problem that is bigger than you might think. Figures from 2018 show that just 11% of Africa’s population had their credit information recorded by private credit bureaus, a worryingly low figure when compared to comparable regions such as emerging Asia (17%) and Latin America (79%). And it is worrying because traditional banks rely on these consumer credit models to evaluate risk, meaning large cohorts of the African population are excluded from the world of credit.
4G Capital bypasses this outdated model. And where others attempt due diligence by mining information from phone bills and mobile money records, 4G Capital, by contrast, physically visits and interviews each customer and processes findings through its “EVA” (evaluation algorithm) AI platform. Customers are then given in-person and online financial literacy training alongside their loans.
Rewarding client loyalty
Given the small size of capital injections offered, clients typically take out several micro-loans consecutively as they seek to mature their businesses.
4G Capital has launched a loyalty programme to support their growth ambitions, whereby clients gain more favourable borrowing rates as they repay subsequent loans.
This, the company says, is in response to several factors. Not only does it demonstrate 4G Capital’s leadership in challenging market conditions, where clients tackle extreme increases in cost-of-living and cost-of-operating, but it also forms a vital part of its mission to use and protect client data responsibly.
“In a global economic crisis, we need to energise small business earning power,” affirmed 4G Capital CEO Wayne Hennessy-Barrett.
“By dropping our prices, we stand with mwananchi to help small traders grow their credit score and access discounting while retaining our award-winning blend of enterprise training and working capital loans. Digital financial service providers have a vital role in helping the informal economy transition to an integrated part of a modern nation”.
The move to reward loyalty and discount its “Upia” direct lending product is enshrined in 4G Capitals #HeroesoftheHustle campaign, which aims to recognise the growth and resilience of the grassroots economy in Kenya and Uganda.
All 4G Capital’s 300,000-plus clients will benefit from the scheme. There are four loyalty categories; Bronze, Silver, Gold and Diamond, with interest rates ranging from 0.9% to 0.75%, respectively.
Typically, 4G Capital sees its clients grow their revenues by an average of 82% yearly.
Jane Oyolo, for instance, runs a budding second-hand clothes business. She travels to Nairobi weekly in her Probox to purchase bales of clothes which she resells in Nyanza Province. When she was first introduced to 4G Capital, she received a loan of around $160. Since then, Jane has made her repayments within the minimum loan repayment period and has taken on numerous repeat loans.
“4G Capital has been of immense help,” she told us. “Through my business profits, I have bought a plot of land and have even built a foundation for a house.”
Indeed, as businesses such as Jane’s increase their earning power and creditworthiness, they can engage more traditional financial services and command larger working capital debt, propelling them into the formal economy and on to the next level of development and maturity. This will be critical to driving socio-economic development across the continent, the objective of 4G Capital’s mission ‘to grow business with capital and knowledge’.