Asante closes first tranche of $7.5m Series A funding to bridge the gap in MSME lending in Africa
By Edlyn Cardoza
Asante is a high impact FinTech focused on supporting the growth of African Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The Series A investment enables Asante to scale its credit offerings to the underserved segment of MSMEs in Kenya and Uganda and expand to Nigeria and Rwanda.
“We are delighted to welcome our new investors including Goodwell, Sorenson and Forsage in our inaugural institutional fundraise. Together, we will advance access to finance, and financial independence and wellbeing for the millions of small businesses on the continent,” said Chidi Okpala, Founding CEO of Asante.
MSMEs have a significant impact on the economies of most countries, especially emerging markets, representing 90% of all businesses, 66% of all jobs created and 50% of the world’s GDP. Yet according to the World Bank, the annual SME credit gap in Sub Saharan Africa is about US$330 million. MSMEs are often neglected by lenders due to a combination of factors. These include the high cost of customer acquisition and due diligence, insufficient data availability for accurate credit assessments, lack of collaterals, uncertain customer lifetime values, and the high costs of distribution and servicing. There is a large opportunity for lenders who can overcome these challenges.
Asante differentiates itself with its ecosystem-based digital lending platform that uses alternative data and a proprietary AI loan decisioning management system to approve loans to MSMEs. The company works directly with ecosystem channel partners to collect conventional and non-conventional MSME data, with the prior consent of the clients. Its channel partners include Africa’s largest telcos, mobile-based marketplaces, airlines, retailers, payment processors, insurance companies, smartphone phone OEMs and large FMCGs. This significantly reduces the cost of customer acquisition and due diligence, while providing sufficient alternative data for credit underwriting.
As a result, Asante is in a strong position to address the credit gap and accelerate its rollout. Asante has executed over 16 strategic corporate channel partnerships, giving Asante direct access to 2 million MSMEs with a monthly lending opportunity in excess of US$200 million.
“With over 650% growth in lending activities since Q1 2021 and a sustained average all-in default rate of 2.5%, Asante is well-positioned to fast track scale and deepen our impact in our operating markets. Our bold post-COVID response is helping small businesses recover, reconstruct and reposition for growth while ensuring that thousands of jobs are safeguarded. We look forward to a round extension very early in the new year to support the solid growth momentum,” notes Okpala.
“MSMEs—particularly those in the informal sector—are being held back by a lack of responsible lending from traditional financial services providers who are unable to run accurate credit checks and offer profitable loans to this segment of the market. Asante has solved these problems through its innovative digital platform and ecosystem approach. The company’s success to date is proof that the model works, and we are very confident that the business will scale quickly and successfully with this round of funding,” explains Bitta Wycliffe, Senior Investment Associate at Goodwell Investments.
“This is the 20th investment by Goodwell Investments’ uMunthu fund, of which 50% is invested in financial inclusion. Asante is a perfect fit and a great addition to our portfolio of other socially responsible financial services providers.”
Asante is a strategic partner of Mastercard for digital lending in Africa and the only African FinTech in a class of 6 scaling start-ups selected in May 2021 to join the Mastercard Start Path program. Asante is currently piloting its Business Lending Platform, to further extend its lending and other services to small business clients with essential tools like Business Financial Manager, Management Toolkit and Tax Advisory to assist them to operate more efficiently while infusing resilience into their operations. Via the platform, Asante will also be able to offer insurance, payments, and other products to its clients.
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