In most communities that consists of majority of the middle class, you’d never fail to see cooperative societies. This is a type of cooperation where members contribute money in a regular manner. When one member need finances for a particular project, he could take a loan and repay back in a regular manner too.
This model described above is exactly what MaTontine has digitised. The startup would do well to help it’s users enhance their financial life.

TechMoran chats with a co-founder and Managing Director, Bernie Akporiaye who shares a lot of insights into the startup. The Senegal based startup has achieved significant growth having well over 2000 users.

Watch video below to know more, and enjoy the interview.

In just a sentence, pitch your startup to us.

We provide access to small loans and related financial services by digitizing traditional savings circles.

What triggered the launch of MaTontine as a startup?

The problem for our target group is that they do not have access to small loans at reasonable costs – they currently borrow at rates of 25%-100% per annum. It turns out that it’s very difficult to lend $100 despite the very high demand for such small loans.

This is because the banks and Microfinance institutions are not particularly interested in these low cost loans because it unprofitable to service these type loans with their current infrastructure.

We solve this problem by utilizing mobile phones, mobile payments and our multi-sided platform to digitize the benefits of traditional savings circles or tontines as they are called in Francophone Africa; thereby reducing the cost of borrowing by 75% or more.

Importantly, we saw Africans behaving financially responsibly within tontine groups and felt that they were not being rewarded for that behavior. Hence we created MaTontine to offer this people a range of services based on their financial behavior.

MaTontine

How have you grown since launch? Would you say you have made significant progress?

In December 2016 we completed our last pilot with 2,000 members including 475 active ones to which we have granted small loans for a total amount of $12K, with a default of 0% rate. The public launch is scheduled for November 2017 with partners such as Wari, SUNU Assurances, YUP and the World Bank/CGAP. We have a goal of acquiring at least 10,000 by the end of the year.

Tell us about the team behind MaTontine.

MaTontine was formed in 2015 by brother and sister co-founders, Bernie Akporiaye and Tosan Oruwariye. The MaTontine team is based in Senegal. This is the team that built the current solution. We also have an international advisory board with expertise in Consumer Marketing, Microfinance, Technology, Finance, etc.

How about competitors, if any, how have you been able to deal?

The competition is intense. They range from Telcos, to MFIs, banks, other FinTech startups etc. Our differentiation is that offer a range of integrated services on our platform and not just traditional savings automation.

What is the business model of the venture? Do you take commissions out of people’s contributions?

Access to our platform is free. We generate revenues through commissions from partners who offer their products (loans, insurance etc.) to our members on our platform.

In a case where a user defaults in payment, how do you make up for it?

We have a range of risk mitigation strategies that range from insurance to the group guaranteeing the payments.

However, more importantly, we try not to interfere with the rules that the groups have put in place to deal with these type of issues. Our target group have been doing tontines for over a century, and are well versed in the intricacies of the tontine process. We simply ensure that we have built the flexibility into our platform to enable the tontine managers apply their traditional rules for such contingencies.

How has MaTontine been funded so far? Bootstrapped or otherwise?

Up until recently we were self-funded. We have however accepted grant funding from the World Bank/CGAP.

What do you think is the biggest challenge of the FinTech industry in Africa?

The biggest challenge is regulation. We have found the regulators to be very inflexible. Also it seems to me that the financial services rules being used to regulate today’s FinTech companies were designed decades ago for legacy financial institutions.

We also found it really difficult forming partnerships. The reality of the situation is that in Africa one is dependent on the infrastructure of large companies like operators, insurers etc. to deliver one’s services. These companies have very little motivation to work with small startups, so getting access to the decision makers in these large companies to form partnerships is really difficult.

In 5 years, how big do you envisage MaTontine?

In 5 years’ time we envisage MaTontine as the default platform for digital tontines in Francophone Africa with 2million users.

Tell us what has kept you going since the beginning. What has been your recipe?

We are driven by a passion to succeed for our members. We have a mission of improving the financial outcomes of our members by unlocking access to financial and related services through the use of digital technology and entrepreneurship.
Watching the impact of our solution on the lives of our members and the excitement of partners as they come onboard is what drives us every day to achieve our goals. We believe that we have a solution to a really complex problem and we are determined to bring that to fruition.