Nigerian startup Alajo is an escrowed digital piggy bank for the under- and un-banked, which allows people to access financial services without the need for internet access.
Founded in 2021, and a recent participant in the Google for Startups Africa and CATAPULT: Inclusion Africa accelerators, Alajo helps people to save money using USSD, IVR and SMS through PoS and money agents in their communities, delivered via a savings infrastructure on a Mobile App.
“Opportunely, the under- and un-banked now have access to financial products, services and opportunities from corporates through data analysed from their transactions,” Olajumoke Oduwole, CEO at Alajo, told Disrupt Africa.
Allowing people to access these products and services without the need for internet is a key part of Alajo’s offering. Internet is 83 per cent more expensive in Africa than in other parts of the world, with 854 million unconnected to the internet and 908 million under- or un-banked.
“Many no longer trust the ancient savings model where a thrift operator goes round the community to help everyone save money, because of fund misappropriation and diversion, leaving them disconnected from the digital cash economy,” Oduwole said.
Alajo is one of a number of companies trying to fill this gap, with competitors including PiggyVest, Bankly, and CowryWise. Oduwole said her startup stands out as its customers are banked on the spot, while it also offers benefits such as real-time monitoring of all agent activities, escrowed savings processes, and an ATM Card to access funds from any PoS or ATM.
The startup is currently focused on scaling, with the goal of reaching 15 times more agents and customers than its small early uptake, and it plans to expand to eight further African countries. It has been funded with US$400,000 in total from VCs, angel investors and grants through mentors, angels and accelerators.
“We make money from the end-users subscription fees and services payment and collection fees, the agents’ monthly subscription fees, and from corporates who want to sell products and services to the end user,” said Oduwole.