Entrepreneurship in times of corona: Akaboxi

Dealing creatively with challenges is second nature to entrepreneurs. But how do African entrepreneurs deal with a global crisis such as the corona epidemic? We asked Akaboxi, a Ugandan company that a company that develops software that allows local farmers to save money safely. 

We’ve been inundated over the last weeks and months with a plethora of new buzzwords such as ‘social distancing’ and ‘lockdowns.’ Buzzwords, help us simplify and understand something complex. In terms of our area of work ‘digital financial inclusion’ has been a buzzword for the last decade but recently has been catapulted into the lexicon of heads of states as they work to mitigate the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. 

Solution for poverty

Digital financial inclusion is considered a solution to combat poverty and limit the spread of the illness. According to the World Bank, digital financial inclusion involves the deployment of the cost-saving digital means to reach currently financially excluded and underserved populations with a range of formal financial services. With that mind, we caught up with Sarah Atuhaire, Chief Financial Officer and Co-Founder of Akaboxi, a digital financial inclusion start-up, focused on small holder female farmers in rural Uganda.

The idea of Akaboxi came out of a decade spent at a commercial bank in Uganda where Sarah was in charge of extending credit and loan facilities to clients and discovered that the "majority of small holder farmers, 95% being women were not served. This was because they did not qualify for any form of financing because of lack of savings history, no minimum balances to open accounts, lack of documentation for their businesses and lack of collateral to secure the loans that banks need among other requirements."

Partnership with OVO

Then in 2017 the opportunity presented itself as Sarah quit her job and, in her own words: {I} started savings with women groups in Rwamuganga village, creating awareness in finance, gender, smart agriculture and enabled them to open accounts in the nearby BUGONGI cooperative and savings bank to ensure that they access financing for their small and medium agricultural enterprises. I later introduced the technology element to digitalise the savings groups to ensure security for their hard-earned money with my co-founder."

Then entered OVO. The ambition to drive change in the community and serve the underserved stood out and prompted us to invest our financial resources and offer expert coaching to aid Sarah and her team so Akaboxi could become sustainable in the medium term. Sarah highlighted on the rewards of the partnership with OVO: "we’ve seen improved incomes by members of the saving groups…{and} the employees and management of Akaboxi have gained experience ranging from proper book keeping accounts to customer relations and management to an improved business model and a business strategy for the next five years."

What after corona?

Post-COVID-19, Akaboxi is ready to ramp up operations with plans to digitalise five saving groups by June and another eight saving groups by December. Also, Akaboxi aims to create an extra 175 jobs/projects in agriculture in the next two months and an additional 455 jobs/projects by close of the year. 

If you’re interested to learn more about Akaboxi and how’s they’re helping rural Ugandan women go ‘from the savings box to the bank’ check out, akaboxi.com.

Text: Andrew Herweg - Final editing: com&co