A matter of ten dollars stood in the way of Waweru Kuria’s baby cousin accessing the basic services needed when an emergency illness struck. At 3 a.m., his uncle desperately knocked on neighbors’ doors seeking a driver to rush his child to the hospital. He was out of phone minutes and couldn’t call. With no easy way to pay immediately for more airtime, he had no choice but to wait until 4 a.m. when cab services started up and he could call and order one. But by then, it was too late, and his child died.
“Since then, I have been on a road to ensure that no one ever has to go through the pain of losing a loved one due to lack of phone credit or emergency medical care,” said Kuria, co-founder of iNuka Pap based in Kenya.
No one should have to go through the pain of losing a loved one due to lack of funds for emergency medical care. Tweet This Quote
The iNuka Pap mobile platform is the only one of its kind that provides middle and low income Kenyans with access to instant micro-credit. For someone in Kuria’s uncle’s position, this means dialing a few digits to quickly activate an account and then immediately accessing funds via a mobile wallet—be it to buy cell phone minutes, pay a cab driver, or obtain crucial medical services.
Once a user registers as a member of iNuka Pap, the Kenyan Credit Reference Bureau automatically processes their past loan information and auto-generates a credit score. The user then automatically receives an SMS informing them if they have qualified for a loan, and if so, how much they qualify for. The user can then request a loan at or below that amount, which is immediately disbursable through iNuka Pap’s mobile platform.
The company’s main target audience is rural financial cooperatives—where groups of people come together, pool money to save, and choose when to lend to each other. While these are beneficial and act as banks in areas that lack them, a participant still can’t immediately withdraw money from the cooperative in times of need. A long process is often involved to decide who in the cooperative gets money, how much, when and for what reason.
A lot of burglaries in rural areas of Kenya happen because thieves know people are saving money in their homes. Tweet This Quote
Thus, what tends to happen is people split their savings—half goes into the cooperative, and half stays under their mattresses in case of emergency.
“When people split their savings, it definitely affects their credit ratings with the cooperative, and they can’t get as many loans,” said Kuria. “With us, they can confidently deposit all of their savings in the cooperative because their backup is iNuka Pap.”
Stashing money under mattresses is also a security concern. Burglars in these rural areas of Kenya know people are saving money in their homes, leading to high rates of theft.
“By working with cooperatives, we are often working with all of the families in a village,” said Kuria. “If we can get a whole village in one contract, and everyone can deposit their savings, we can change a whole culture in a fortnight. That’s key for us.”
Less than 3% of Kenyans pay for ongoing insurance plans, leaving millions of people vulnerable. Tweet This Quote
But providing minimal funds in a desperate moment is only the tip of another problematic iceberg in Kenya—insurance.
“People don’t understand insurance,” explained Kuria, who has worked in the insurance business for over seven years and knows how difficult the information can be to comprehend. “There is so much jargon in insurance policies that the general person won’t get into the details.”
This leaves the majority of the population vulnerable—less than 3% of Kenyans pay for ongoing insurance plans. By the time someone gets sick, they are no longer eligible for an insurance plan because it is sold as a safety net beforehand, not when a sickness arises. This can lead to long-term indebtedness because in order to pay for medical services, people have to tap into life savings.
In the future, iNuka Pap plans to solve this additional problem with what Kuria refers to as “micro-insurance,” allowing people to pay for insurance in small increments through micro-loans, which are already popular in the country.
Micro-insurance allows people to pay for insurance in small increments through micro-loans. Tweet This Quote
“Kenyans have a low level of familiarity with insurance, but they understand micro-credit, so iNuka Pap plans to combine the two on our mobile platform and make the insurance one of the most affordable in the market,” said Kuria.
But before building out the insurance service on its platform, iNuka Pap plans to remain focused on its core and most urgent offering—emergency loans. The company stays profitable by earning a small interest on the micro-loans.
The mobile platform launched in June 2015 with 50 users. By December 2016, iNuka Pap aims to reach up to 10,000 subscribers.
“iNuka Pap coming from a really personal story,” said Kuria. “If I could do anything to make sure no one else in my country goes through what my uncle and my family went through, I would do it.”