According to Mastercard Foundation, the African gig economy is expected to reach over 80 million gig workers by 2030. Yet, more than half of gig workers are underbanked and lack access to resources that can grow their financial health and wellness.
Just to start off we would love to hear about your background and career path that brought you to launching ImaliPay. Can you talk a little bit more about ImaliPay’s business model and what are the main goals and objectives of the company?
Where the ImaliPay story begins stems from working at payments fintech, Cellulant where I served as Chief Commercial Officer at which time fintech in Africa had just taken root. We created and implemented disruptive financial technology solutions, particularly the commercialisation of the Tingg Agrikore wallet that powered access to market and payment solutions to millions of farmers in Nigeria.
I met my Co-founder, Tatenda Furusa, at Cellulant. After working together for 4 years on disruptive solutions for payments in Africa, I was ready for a new adventure, a different challenge.
The new adventure presented itself in mid-2019 when my co-founder Tatenda Furusa observed the pains e-ride hailing drivers experienced around access to working capital or savings for emergencies initially in Nairobi. He reached out to me and shared his observation; upon further investigation, we unearthed a wider problem of gig workers being underbanked and neglected by their existing traditional financial institutions.
I took the leap of faith and started a proof of concept in Ibadan, Nigeria with our first partner, Safeboda. Our pilot in Nigeria further verified this, and we interestingly found that bike riders on Safeboda were able to grow their productivity significantly considering that our services ensured that we were able to reduce their downtime to the bare minimum. We quickly followed that up with a series of partnerships in Kenya (Bolt, SWVL etc). And the rest is history.
We would like to talk a little bit about the consumers that ImaliPay is targeting. Can you talk a little bit about what your consumer base looks like?
We want to bridge the existing financial inclusion gap for the gig economy, the future of work is changing. The percentage of the workforce joining formal employment is dwindling, across Africa, 70% of the total workforce is in informal employment, forming the bulk of the workforce.
With an increasing number of individuals looking for work outside traditional employment, there is an increasing need to provide financial services that take into consideration the inconsistent and volatile nature of their income and work. And there are several people that fit the profile. We’re serving the whole gig economy, from riders on Bolt or Safeboda to developers working on whitecollare platforms, social media influencers getting gigs online, and even independent workers.
Ultimately, we want to play a part in bridging that access gap and moving them from a lower part of the financial inclusion spectrum to a medium and higher part over the next 5-10 years.
Could you please tell us more about the growing gig economy in Africa, and why financial inclusion has become a challenge for this group? What specific challenges faces this sector?
The gig economy in Africa is growing at an average rate of 20% per year (according to Mastercard Foundation). Mastercard expects Africa to have 80 million gig workers online by 2030.
Gig workers are typically deemed as high risk, and as a result, have little to no access to financial services. As we build ImaliPay in our markets, we understand that our customers are often neglected and underserved by traditional financial institutions. We’re breaking the barrier to access by rolling out multiple products that meet the needs of various types of gig workers and providing inclusivity, affordability, and availability to our customer segment.
We have personalised access to financial services, turning their pain points into products. We offer these services to gig workers directly or via their platforms through one API which opens them up to all our services.
Can we dig deeper into the company`s social mission? How is ImaliPay tackling these inequalities and challenges to ensure that gig workers are not left out of existing financial services?
It`s all about providing a lifeline for gig workers. Our mission today remains the same as when we first started – to provide financial services to 15 million people, especially gig workers across Africa, by 2030. Our vision is to bank and economically empower Africa’s gig economy through our platform, our technology, and our unique differentiators.
For us, the ultimate goal is to improve their financial wellbeing and we are doing this through the products and services we offer, including democratized payment regimes, access to finance, insurance and the likes. We’re offering more accessible and affordable financial services as a one-stop-shop catered to the nature of their work. Our savings and insurance services are aimed to buffer our customers from income shocks, providing them with a financial safety net.
ImaliPay has recently closed a USD 3 million seed funding round. Can you discuss a little bit about future plans for ImaliPay? How do you plan to deploy that capital?
Short term, we will continue to delve deeper into understanding and rolling out solutions for gig workers in our predominant markets. Our medium-term plan is to scale our solutions into more markets and drive stickiness, brand adoption, usability and let people love our product at its core essence.
Long term, our plan is to fundamentally become a neobank for freelancers and self-employed workers in the continent. Today, we are taking the steps needed to achieve that goal.
About Sanmi Akinmusire
Sanmi is the Co-founder and COO of ImaliPay. Sanmi is a practised and talented Commercial Management and Operation Management professional with 15 years of experience working across industries such as Telecoms, Original Devices, Energy and in recent times Fintech where he has found his passion. Sanmi has worked for industry giants such as MTN, where he worked in Trade Marketing, covering several regions within South-West Nigeria. He also worked with Samsung West Africa as Hub Manager for South-West Nigeria. At Cellulant, Sanmi worked as Cheif Commercial Officer, contributing to the growth of the business in Nigeria and by extension Africa.