Nigerian finance specialist, Faith Adesemowo, has won £10,000, prizes of the 2021 Africa Prize for Engineering innovation.
Adesemowo wins £10,000 for Social Lender, a digital finance solution that provides immediate access to formal financial services to those with little to no access.
Adesemowo’s Social Lender was shortlisted alongside other two runners up; BlueAvo, a South African digital platform – and Make3D Medical, a Gambian 3D printing that create customised orthopaedic equipment for medical institutions and their patients, – will each receive £10,000 prize.
Adesemowo and her team created Social Lender to assist the more than 50% of unbanked Africans with the efficient and immediate digital solution for accessing formal financial services.
This is following reports of more than 50% of Africans lack access to formal financial services. Most of these are farmers, traders, artisans, young professionals, small business owners, and students.
Having explored the market, the finance specialist and her team developed Social Lender, a platform that provides formal and informal financial services, which has impacted on the lives of more than 100,000 customers in Nigeria and South Africa.
Social Lender partners with service providers like banks, microfinance institutions, micro-insurance companies and agricultural input companies to offer access to financial services based on Social Reputation Scores. In 10 minutes, its proprietary algorithm can perform a social audit of users based on their mobile, social media and other online activity, and assign them a Social Reputation Score on a scale of 1 – 100.
This digital fingerprint allows them to access credit, microinsurance organisations, farm inputs and other services. Members of a Social Lender user’s social network can also act as social guarantors or referees for users’ activities, which gives people who may not have qualified for credit through traditional institutions immediate access to potentially life-changing funds.
The average amount borrowed is approximately 15,000 Nigerian Naira; for those with a Social Reputation Score above 30, Social Lender has a default rate of less than 7%.
Users can access Social Lender’s platform through the internet, SMS, USSD, apps, APIs, or partner bank ATMs.
Social Lender ambassadors visit communities that do not have smartphones and help them access the platform via USSD and SMS services, giving unbanked people access to credit, savings and other financing that they may never have had otherwise.
Since being shortlisted for the Africa Prize, the team has attracted promising new investors by instituting a dynamic new communication strategy. It has also upgraded the business’s corporate structure and employed 500 new Social Lender ambassadors, despite the global pandemic’s financial impact.
Speaking about the platform, Adesemowo said; “Formal banking institutions demand collateral that people don’t have, in exchange for accessing financial services. We provide people with an alternative credit score to leverage on, so that they can grow their personal or business’ finances.”
“The Royal Academy of Engineering has provided invaluable support to Social Lender, the past eight months of specialised training truly illustrates their commitment to developing African innovators. Winning the Prize would be great for the business, not just financially, but as a validation of Social Lender’s purpose.”
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014, is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation, and has a proven track record of identifying successful engineering entrepreneurs.
Now in its seventh year, it supports talented sub-Saharan African entrepreneurs with engineering innovations that address crucial problems in their communities in a new and appropriate way.
The Africa Prize also exposes and connects the shortlist to individuals and networks in the UK and across Africa who can accelerate their business and technology development – from fellow entrepreneurs and mentors to potential investors and suppliers.