After years of working in marketing for a number of financial services companies, Solape Akinpelu came to one conclusion:there has been an “alarmingly low uptake” by women for financial services in her home country, Nigeria, and across Africa as a whole.
“I could see women living the reality around me,” Akinpelu recalls. “These women couldn’t make good financial decisions. Some of these women who don’t even know they could do better with their money.
She found that the problem is particularly acute for women living in rural areas, especially those who work on farms.
So, in August 2020, she teamed up with Yomi Ogunleye to found Lagos, based in Nigeria Hervest, a startup that describes itself as “an inclusive fintech company” serving underserved and excluded women in Africa through a gender lens. The company presented today at Startup Battlefield.
Overall, Hervest aims to close the $ 42 billion gender funding gap for urban and last mile women nationwide, with a focus on women in agriculture.
The startup, she said, provides familiar access to savings, remittances, impact investing, financial information and tools to underserved women while providing blended finance to smallholder women farmers in underserved African communities. Simply put, it offers a way to invest in women farmers while seeing a return on that investment and giving farmers financial literacy, education and opportunities that they might not otherwise have had access to.
“We want to close the gender gap in Africa by giving women access to savings, impact investments and credit, regardless of who they are and where they live,” she said.
Today, a little over a year after the creation of the company by Akinpelu, more than 4,000 women are on the Hervest platform.
Earlier this year, Hervest raised $ 100,000 for friends and family. The company plans to use the capital to supplement its nine-person team, strengthen its digital infrastructure and accelerate its marketing efforts. It started out as a distributed company and still operates primarily as one.
Prior to becoming CEO at Hervest, Akinpelu’s last position was in charge of marketing for capital market conglomerate Mersitem, and prior to that she worked in marketing for various financial brands.
These experiences gave her insight into the need to provide better access to financial services for women. And the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, according to Akinpelu, have only increased the vulnerability of low-income women.
“This makes financial inclusion even more critical as a way for women to recover from the global crisis and build their long-term resilience,” she told TechCrunch.
Starting with Nigeria, where Akinpelu has more than 57 million working women, Hervest plans to roll out its platform to other countries in West and East Africa in 2022.
” The PThe problem we are solving is a gender gap in African finance, not just Nigerian, ”Akinpelu said.
To spread the word, Hervest relied on references and partnerships with cooperatives and social media. The company has a live app on iOS and Android and recently launched a desktop app.
According to its website, Hervest says its cooperative members “can earn up to 25% annualized returns while strengthening the financial capacity of women farmers” through access to capital, training and markets. What it means, says Akinpelu, women with income pooled funds available together as credit (impact investing) for smallholder women farmers as a cooperative.
“What’s more, women can also create an automatic savings plan based on their personal goals. Imagine an “inclusive neobank for women,” she told TechCrunch. “To assure our stakeholders, our funds are held in trust by a trust company, FBNQuest Trustees Limited. This is an additional level of accountability and transparency in the management of our funds. “
By investing in these women, Hervest aims to offer growth opportunities towards specific crops, cereal banks,ck and the provision of digitized online extension services to smallholder women farmers in rural areas.