Nigerian fintech start-up Owoafara Inc has received investment funding from ShEquity, an Africa-wide impact investment firm. While the exact amount has not been disclosed, it is described as a “key milestone” for the gender-lens investment firm.
The Mauritius-based ShEquity provides smart investments for women entrepreneurs and innovators in Africa. It aims for a triple bottom line return – financial, social, and environmental – with direct impact correlating with the Sustainable Development Goals.
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Owoafara Inc is led by Tale Alimi, a MBA graduate with over 15 years of experience in asset management, financial services, management consulting and technology companies creating products for small businesses.
Her platform provides digital banking to assist the unbanked population of the world in accessing financial products and services that suit their daily needs through payments, credits, savings, health insurance, and pensions on a single platform.
The addition of Owoafara is considered a milestone as ShEquity’s maiden Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) is now fully vested, says ShEquity founder and managing partner Pauline Koelbl.
“The investment in Owoafara illustrates ShEquity’s singular focus on providing catalytic investments to African women entrepreneurs and innovators,” says Koelbl.
“Having been selected from the participants of the first ShEquity Business Accelerator (SHEBA) cohort, Owoafara also testifies to SHEBA as a trusted pipeline for high-growth and high-impact deals. Through our existing eight portfolio companies, we impact over 14 million lives and contribute to all 17 United Nations SDGs.
“With this ninth investment, ShEquity has now fully vested its maiden special purpose investment vehicle, reaching a key milestone for the firm. We have now begun the transition process to a venture capital fund structure, which will allow ShEquity to increase its socioeconomic contribution to the African continent.”
The global fintech market size is expected to increase with a compound annual growth rate of 19.8% during the forecast period to reach $332.5 billion by the year 2028. With a population of 218 million and women representing the majority of informal employment estimated at 125million (57.7% of the population), Nigeria represents an enormous market potential for Owoafara.
Based on a survey conducted by Ernst & Young in collaboration with the Fintech Association of Nigeria, 57% of 290 fintech Nigerian businesses surveyed generate more than $5 million in respective sales.
Through Owoafara’s digital platform and card services, member businesses are verified and provided with a variety of financial services including credit not normally provided by banks.
Tale Alimi, co-founder and CEO of Owoafara, commented, “We at Owoafara are thrilled to partner with ShEquity to accelerate our growth, broaden our impact, and support us to competitively scale in West Africa. Eighty percent of our current loan book are to unbanked women micro-entrepreneurs.
“We are proud that our products promote an inclusive fintech sector wherein hardworking informal women entrepreneurs can increase their earnings capacity and strengthen their economic agility to resist financial precarity, thus ensuring long-term livelihood and family security. ShEquity’s investment will support us in reaching one million underserved micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses by 2023.”
Owoafara is among 16 start-ups that graduated from the first cohort of SHEBA in September 2021. A USAID Trade Hub-backed initiative, SHEBA, addresses the existing gender funding gap by de-risking African women-led businesses and getting them to become investment-ready.