The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is an up and coming region with respect to its wider economic development. Specifically, the region has seen a growth and importance in fintech, producing its own unique innovations, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the space. As The FinTech Times in September celebrates Women in Fintech, we feature various female leaders from across the world. One of them is Hilda Moraa, who is from Kenya and lives in Nairobi and is an expert in fintech and specifically in the small and medium enterprise (SME) space.
Hilda is an award-winning serial entrepreneur and author. She has more than 10 years of experience in Fintech and working with multinationals like Coca-Cola to develop mobility innovations across Africa. She previously founded WezaTele, a fintech startup in Kenya that was acquired in 2015. She is currently the Founder & CEO of Pezesha, a holistic digital financial enabler ecosystem empowering the underserved SMEs in Africa by connecting them with affordable access to financial services including financial education and credit scores.
Describe your career journey
While undertaking my Degree in Information Technology, where I specialised in Software Engineering, I started my first career in Coca-Cola in 2008, where I was a Data & Innovations analyst, responsible for identifying innovative solutions for the last mile of distribution. One key highlight of my time at Coca-Cola was being part of the team that implemented the first mobility solution for small distributors and retailers to manage their entire value chain efficiently and for Coca-Cola to then have full visibility of what was happening in that last mile. The mobility solution implementation led me to work with last mile distributors and retailers on the ground and I saw a lot of challenges they were facing in which technology could play a key role in not just driving efficiency but also unlocking growth opportunities that ultimately impacted job creation and livelihoods. It was from these experiences at Coca-Cola, I made an intentional decision to go out and explore further how this impact can be accelerated at an ecosystem level.
I later joined iHub, Nairobi’s first innovation Hub, as lead in driving innovations & research strategy and here I got to meet like-minded innovators who were looking to drive change through providing relevant solutions to existing challenges around us and our communities. iHub also doubled up as the platform that gave birth to my entrepreneurship journey, where I started WezaTele, my first fintech startup that was on a mission of empowering underserved small businesses/merchants with simple technology and data driven solutions to manage their entire value chain. We streamlined their entire supply chain with a mobile ordering & payments solution that led to doors opening for our business to work with global distribution entities who leveraged our solution for their own internal value chain, growing our revenues and potential.
It was in 2014, that my co-founders and I had to think outside the box on what other ways we can continue to grow the small merchants we worked with in order to ensure their growth and equally our company’s growth. Access to credit stood out to be the key need from our customers as at the time, few to none of the banks or financial institutions were willing to work with this segment as they were considered high risk. We went ahead to identify strategic partnerships from the players who were making entry to the market to do unsecured lending to low income customers. AFB ended up partnering with us as one of the key financial partner, and eventually acquired the business in 2015.
Since then my entrepreneurial spirit has not left me and after taking a break following the WezaTele acquisition, I started Pezesha in late 2016, and to date we have been focusing on providing “capital as a connector” through an enabling platform that connects underserved small and medium sized businesses to working capital among other financial services and also provides financial education through a collaborative approach where banks, MFIs and other financial institutions or networks can connect on our platform to be matched with quality SMEs credit scored using our proprietary credit scoring technology, Patascore. In Pezesha, we believe our position as a capital enabler provides efficiencies for the African ecosystem, ensuring productivity through access to working capital for SMEs and providing optimal capital utilisation for Banks, MFIs and other financial institutions.
As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career
Entrepreneurship journey has many challenges, one that has been a continuous one for me, is finding the right talent as it’s an essential part of any business: The people who not only have the right skills, but are agile to embraces the startup culture, are passionate, hungry and willing to fold their sleeves to do the hard things and committed to create long term change and impact. In most cases, one will always find very skilled individuals but good attitude or passion is not there, and these are not things as CEO you can inject in people, it has to come from them. The most you can do is to sell the vision well enough to fuel the passion in the team and invest in talent that shows willingness to learn and join to get the business to the next basecamp .
Finding the right people is an investment meaning one also has to also have sufficient resources such as funding to overcome the talent challenge, which in most cases the funding resources do not come easy. Nevertheless, we have been able to build a stellar team who are committed to reaching our long term goal of reducing inequalities by deepening capital access to underserved small & medium businesses across Africa.
What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?
We are living in unprecedented times and the future is already happening. It is almost impossible to predict the future as the impact of the current pandemic on the economy and sectors could get worse. In addition, changes to the way business will be conducted in the future, is yet to reveal itself and it will take time doing so. One aspect that is sure to play a larger role in the new trends driven by the current pandemic is technology and Fintech through open banking and crowdfunding platforms that have continued to accelerate access to working capital for SMEs and keeping them alive during this tough times, platforms like Pezesha have been at the centre of driving the connection of access to capital to underserved and unbanked SMEs.
We have also seen that there are more working capital needs through the supply chain of different verticals, with retailers needing affordable credit to fund inventory from wholesalers and distributors around Africa. This is why we have also partnered with merchants and wholesalers to provide working capital from lenders to this supply chain, and we believe this is a trend that will continue in future, as more value chains are being aggregated and formalised in Africa.
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region?
Never use the excuse of “ I am a woman, that is why I cannot do it”. The current world presents equal opportunities for both men and women, it’s for you to grab it with self confidence without fear or doubt. If you believe in yourself, and what you do, then others will. More so, surround yourself with mentors (both men and women) who can add value from their industry experiences and serve as a voice that has a positive influence, as it’s a learning process. As a leader, I am still learning something new everyday from my own mentors, customers or partners. After all, take pride in your accomplishments and do not be apologetic about your hard work, as this is the way you inspire and pass it on to generations.