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Chipua - A data driven mobile interface that enables credit profiling and direct access to microfinancing for small scale farmers

A data driven mobile interface that enables the creation of credit profiles and direct access to microfinancing for small scale farmers.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Chipua is a data-driven mobile interface that allows the creation of credit profiles for, and the direct disbursement of micro-financing to small-holder farmers in Kenya. The first step is data collection. Through the product's interfaces and various methods, several data points such as biographical data, farm size and outputs, input characteristics, mobile banking history, and credit reference bureau checks are aggregated and analysed. This data allows the construction of biographical and credit profiles for potential recipients of loans. The second stage is input verification. There is a significant problem in the Kenyan market with counterfeit and substandard farming inputs (such as seed, fertiliser and pesticides) replacing genuine, quality goods before they reach the farmer. By partnering with suppliers of these goods, we implant a method for the end user to ensure the provenance of the product they receive. Users information is used to provide education on the correct use of relevant farming inputs. These stages feed into the final phase, which is the disbursement of loan funds directly to users via mobile banking and the products mobile and web interfaces. After building various levels of credit scoring by participation in the system, the users can directly request loans from our company and participating financial institution. We aim to further connect players in the value chain through an API which allows access to relevant information collected.

WHO BENEFITS?

The main beneficiaries are intended to be the country's six million small scale farmers. Starting with pilot groups of first 12, then 70, and then 500, we will provide direct disbursement of loans to qualifying users. The data collected, and specifically credit profiles built, will be provided to financial institutions, to help them start to administer similar loans. Suppliers of farm inputs, and government farming bodies will gain access to market intelligence farmers use of inputs.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

Piloting has begun in Kenya. After successful completion of the first phase, we will gradually take on more farmer groups and then open access nationwide. Countries with similar agricultural profiles in the region will be targeted for expansion.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

Ketasis Ltd. is a registered company in Nairobi, Kenya. The company was formed for the facilitation of this idea, and has two founders. We have various partnerships along the value chain, such as financial institutions, input suppliers, agrovets, off-takers and middlemen, and consulting experts.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

The research and design process for this project began in late 2015. After prototyping several ideas, we worked with users to determine the shape of our solution and a prototype was built, with the initial pilot program successfully completing in April 2016. The company behind it, Ketasis Ltd. was registered for the process of the development of this product and service.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

Our system's core functionality is for direct access to micro-financing through a mobile interface. a) Data points - Our in depth data collection allows us a unique mix of five relevant and verifiable (by our interfaces or institution linkages) data points used to perform credit analysis. For example, the leading mobile lending platform, with a non performing loan performance of less than 2%, uses only one of our five sectors of information b) Credit scoring - our credit scoring is done in-house, via our proprietary credit scoring algorithm that aggregates data in real time to create risk profiles. We not only provide risk reducing profiles to financial institutions but also directly process loans ourselves. c) Technology - Our system has wide accessibility, with both smart- and feature phone interfaces that allow for direct real time access. All transactions are secure and transparent to relevant users by use of a privately maintained blockhain network. d) We are specifically targeting an unserved segment, backed by powerful infrastructure such as MPESA. e) Our in house specialists understand and design and develop both the technology and underlying market linkages

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

Our CEO, Dick Kamae is a software engineer with an MSC in Data Communication and Networks. He is responsible for business development, partnerships and market linkages, and financial modelling. Our CTO is a software engineer with an MA(RCA) in Information Experience Design. He oversees technology, design and development of interfaces. Our consultants include a finance sector agronomist and an actuary, helping with creation of credit and farming profiles. We have part time extension workers.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

For a full breakdown of our refinements, please view our attached updated pitch document! Transaction modelling - We have reworked the transaction tariffs that apply to mobile money transfer to reduce costs to our end users. Pilot program results have enabled us to further fine tune our loan payment rates and time periods and mechanisms (i.e partial payment) e-Value - We have formed the partnerships necessary to implement real world spending of our e-Value loans. This system is now live. Point of Sale - We have formed a partnership with the leading mPOS provider in the country to enable real time data entry to the system from all participating agents/retailers/agrovets. Information access - Feedback showed that farmers would benefit from information. Our applications now offer users tailored information on market prices and recommended use and purchase of inputs. Verification - We have streamlined our verification procedures to eliminate self-reporting, and automate collection of authentic data. User interface - We have reworked the UX/UI features of the app based on our users feedback, for example streamlining and shortening the information pathways in the SMS gateway.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

While results from our pilot program are very promising, and we look set to meet all benchmarks, this idea is intended to scale to potentially millions of users. The underlying logistics (i.e. additional blockchain nodes, server capacity, simultaneous transaction processing) will change and must be worked on. We are trialling various models of partnership with financial institutions, in terms of data provision. Currently we are testing a subscription model as well as a real-time, per customer database query system. While we have access through SACCO groups to over 17,000 (and growing every day) farmers, some do not belong to such organisations and we are trialling methods to reach them

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

The main focus of our system is for the direct access to microfinancing for small holder farmers. In the current market, financial institutions are unable to service the massive demand for such financing, due to a lack of data and high administrative costs. As such farmers lack a service whereby they are able to access such financing. Existing microfinance platforms are not targeted toward farmer's specifically, and cannot collect relevant data, and therefore cannot assess their specific needs. The infrastructure needed to facilitate this exists, but is currently under-utilized and unconnected, and systems to connect and leverage this powerful ecosystem do not yet exist.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

The current model of small holder farming is unsustainable in the future with regard to servicing future demand for food. Our model aims to to provide both the information and financing that will enable farmers to break out of a cycle of poverty, and lead them forward on the path to financial inclusion. We also aim to increase access to information across the value chain by developing an API which connects value chain players to useful information, streamlining the value chain's effictiveness.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • Between 6 months and a year

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work
  • Within 100 km of where our team does most of its work
  • Within in 500 km of where our team does most of its work
  • More than 500 km from where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000

Kenya’s agricultural sector is by far the largest contributor to the country’s economy, accounting for a 27.3% share of the Gross Domestic Product.

Much of this business is derived from the country’s nearly 6 million small scale farmers. These farmers represent a vital segment of the agricultural value chain which is so key to the country’s economy. Small scale farmers are an essential player in the World Bank’s Sustainability Development goals in the effort to achieve food security and promote sustainable agriculture.There are multiple obstacles and problems associated with production and financing that hinder this important sector’s ability to function at it’s optimum efficiency.

At present, despite the enormous sector share of the agricultural industry in the country's GDP, it is estimated that only approximately 3% of commercial bank lending is allocated and disbursed to the sector.

The country's farming value chains are fragmented and diffuse, with farmers facing difficulties in a multitude of areas. Among these issues are storage and wastage, use and availability of proper farming inputs, and lack of access to reliable information on farming practices and market information.

However, chief among the problems facing small scale farmers is financing. Farmers subsist on an average of less than $10 per day, and face a variety of costs and challenges that they are unable to meet. A lack of access to microfinancing is the reason these farmers often cannot afford to meet the costs that help them survive and maximise their output.

Although commercial banks and financial institutions have the desire and the funding capacity to service the demands of the segment, due to high transactional and administrative costs stemming from the lack of risk analysis data that they have, in practice very few farmers have access to such funding. Farmers live in remote locations, have sporadic and unreliable reporting on their inputs and outputs, and in many cases do not have bank accounts. This makes it nearly impossible for financial institutions to administrate loans.

Kenya is among the world leaders in mobile telephony, with mobile penetration estimated at 88.1% in 2016. It is estimated that 1 in 2 Kenyan's access mobile data in a monthly period. The country's mobile money service, MPESA, is an extremely powerful platform allowing users access to digital money. There are over 13 million active subscribers to the service and it is estimated that up to 48% of the country's GDP flows through the system over its millions of daily transactions.

The financial and agricultural climate in the country, coupled with an underused but powerful existing technological infrastructure lead to a ripe opportunity to leverage these factors into solutions that will greatly enhance the industry's participants by allowing them direct access to microfinancing via a digital mobile interface.

For an in depth view of our background, research and design methods, please view the attached pitch document for this idea. 

** Updated - Please view our attached updated pitch document for an in depth view of our background market, as well as our research and design process for this idea. 

Attachments (1)

pitch-beneficiary-feedback.pdf

Full description of the research, design, testing and prototype processes we underwent for this idea. The updated pitch document now includes the Beneficiary Feedback stage.

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Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Christopher! 

The Amplify team and our experts have some feedback to share with you:

The idea of combining agricultural data with mobile data and purchase histories in order to offer iscertainly be an exciting opportunity. I also like the idea that this credit can be used for any purpose, and not only for inputs, which allows farmers to access credit for non-ag needs.

It would be great to get a better sense of how people will interact with this idea. What incentive does an agrovet have to participate? Is he/she sensitizing the customer? Can the customer see her progress towards the credit so it is transparent how she increases her credit limit? How do these seasonal input purchases build credit history? How do you not know if the input was purchased on informal store credit or outright? Why cash loans when in-kind loans (inputs) rather than cash would reduce risk? Are these consumption loans?

Loans not tied to asset like inputs are very risky – how does your idea account for that? How will you overcome the barrier of trust for repots from third party institutions? 

Is this technology one that is readily accessible by the farmers you intend to reach?

Looking forward to learning more! 

Spam
Photo of Christopher
Team

Hi Chioma,

Thank you very much for your feedback and questions.

Agrovets who participate in our system have several incentives to do so. Firstly, they are able to build loyalty and preference from farmers who use the system, who know that by using these specific Chipua licensed agrovets for their agricultural purchases, they will be able to build their credit score and access financing. This enables the agrovet to to build his/her customer base with users who are interested in their specific products and have the means to purchase them, and thereby make more sales.



Through our mPOS provider partnership, we are able to very cheaply provide state of the art mobile, online point of sale devices to participating agrovets. These devices are useful to Chipua, in facilitating the immediate entry and reception of data, but can also be used by the agrovet for their general purpose sales management functions, allowing them enhanced transaction processing and management (cashless payment – mPESA, credit/debit cards etc – reducing cash leakages), improved inventory management, customer tracking/analytics and many more useful commerce functions.



Through partnerships with the actual suppliers of various agricultural goods (mainly fertilizer, seeds and pesticides), the system's users as well as the participating agrovets will benefit from access to discounted products. Through the system's inputs tracking facility, the agrovet can be sure of, and guarantee the provenance of the goods they are selling, in a market where the presence of substandard and counterfeit goods are a prevalent problem. After sales, they are able to access enhanced market intelligence on the users they sell goods to. In cases where users perform a successful cycle of electronic value agricultural purchases from loan to repayment, we are able to offer a percentage based commission to the agrovet on the value of such transactions.



Participating agrovets will take on the role of sensitizing farmers to the capabilities and usage of the system to an extent, adding to the various modes of advertisement, seminars, site visits and partnerships that will perform the same function. At the basic level, we provide advertising materials such as posters, leaflets, and usage cards(cards containing an overview of the system as well as step by step instructions and a listing of SMS codes for use in the system) which will be available in participating outlets. All participating agrovets receive basic training on the overview of the system and how to use it, which they will be able to pass on to potential and recurring users.



All data and transactions within our system are facilitated by use of our privately maintained, rights managed Blockchain network. This not only ensures the presence of a transparent and secure record of all transactions and data, but real time access to this data for relevant users. Customers can therefore access at any time, in real-time, any and all data relevant to their account. We curate such data and are able to provide it in easily understandable formats to farmers at their request at any time. After any transaction, such as an input verification or purchase, or loan repayment, the customer receives an electronic receipt via either SMS/flash message or directly through the smartphone interface. These receipts specify their expenditure as well as an exact accounting of how it affects their progress to further levels. The smartphone application has a dedicated information panel which provides such information. At the click of a button, the user receives a graphical breakdown of their historical transactions, current credit limits and outstanding repayments, and progress towards future levels (i.e. required level of purchases or loan repayments necessary to unlock the next levels), time remaining in current loan periods. Users using the SMS gateway to the system can text a shortcode in to the system, and will immediately receive in reply a message containing this information in text format.

Spam
Photo of Christopher
Team

Input purchases, while necessarily seasonal in nature, are an important indicator of the performance of a farmer and therefore a very useful metric by which to facilitate credit scoring. Verified purchases of the legitimate, relevant agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, seed and pesticides help us to amend credit profiles as they demonstrate a) a tangible measure of the financial capacity necessary to service such a purchase, and b) that the farmer is using the correct and legitimate modes of input that will serve to enhance their yields, and therefore future income and financial potential. This information, while important, is not the only data that feeds into a farmer's credit score. We ally this information with several other data points, including biographical data, Credit Reference Bureau information, market prices, farming output yields and sales, mobile money history and mobile credit and data usage. By combining this array of relevant information in conjunction with input purchase history, we are able to more accurately build credit profiles and histories.

As far as agricultural inputs, we have implemented control structures to verify and monitor their purchase. In order to monitor the mode of purchase, i.e. outright or via informal store credit, we seek to firstly eliminate direct cash purchases from these transactions, and have them be facilitated completely through electronic value. Input loans in our system are disbursed through the use of Chipua electronic value, which can be exchanged directly for agricultural inputs at participating agrovets. In the case of a customer who has received such a loan, the monitoring is simple. Upon purchase of an input, the customer first performs the verification check on the product they are buying, and then receives the opportunity to confirm the purchase via the app or SMS. In confirming the purchase, our system logs the transaction, and we are able to settle the payment directly with the participating agrovet, who logs the transaction on their mPOS device as an e-value payment, which we are able to verify through our system and the user's input. In cases where the user has not yet received a loan, but wishes to purchase outright an agricultural input, we offer the user the ability to directly purchase e-value through our SMS gateway or application via mobile money, which they can then exchange for the input they desire. We seek to make this attractive via supplier level discounts, which make such a transaction desirable over a traditional cash purchase. In these cases, such purchases require confirmation within the system, and we have a record allowing us to know how it was purchased. It is still possible for customers to buy inputs from agrovets on an informal store credit basis, but in the case of such transactions, our credit scoring algorithm takes this into account in understanding that while the customer has received a relevant input, they have not yet made full payment for it, and amends the user's credit score accordingly. It is not possible to claim an outright purchase while receiving credit, as the agrovet can not enter the purchase into the system as an outright purchase without the relevant systemic confirmations.

We recognize that the provision of in-kind, input loans rather than cash loans would serve to reduce risk. However, we also recognize that the intended customer base for this product have several, pressing day to day needs that they need to meet - such as food, school fees, transport, wages, storage costs and many others - that they are not able to service currently. In many cases the farmer needs to subsist first, before they are able to concentrate their expenditure on agricultural inputs that will improve their farming capacity. For this reason, we aim to provide users with access to both types - cash loans that would meet such costs for non-agricultural needs, as well as the in-kind loans for farming inputs that our electronic value system facilitates. The inherent risk profiles of these differing types of loans are reflected by our scoring algorithm in our repayment and interest structures, with the time periods and repayment schedules being structured to accordingly service the level of risk represented.

Spam
Photo of Christopher
Team

As stated, the loans being provided by our system are in two different formats – in-kind input loans, as well as cash loans. Loans taken on a purely cash basis are indeed available for use on a consumption basis, while the loans used for agricultural inputs are treated separately, with interest and repayment schedules reflecting these criteria.

Loans not tied to assets such as inputs are indeed riskier than those which are. We seek to mitigate risk in a number of ways. Kenya's loan market is somewhat unique, with unsecured loans based on mobile usage and mobile money history proving successful to date. For example, the leading platform for such loans, which is untargeted toward a specific segment, uses mobile data and MPESA history as a basis for credit scoring. This platform, on latest figueres, shows a non-performing loan portfolio of less than 2%. Our system uses the same data, but allied with 5 other relevant and verifiable data points that take into account the financial and social profile of a farmer. We have a data calculated tiering and grading system, that takes into account the farmer's financial profile, repayment history and production cycle. We integrate with the nationwide Credit Reference Bureau to perform analysis on farmer's ability to service financing. We are in constant contact with users to let them know how and when to make engagement with the system in an easy to understand way. Once we reach a certain threshold of active, engaged users, we will make agreements that will lead to loans provided by our system being insured on a total portfolio value basis. As our system and user base grows, through the use of strategic partnerships, some of which are in place and others which we are constantly pursuing, we aim to shift the profile of loans away from pure cash/consumption loans as much as possible to a model where such loans are facilitated on a similar model to agri-input loans. Users will have the option to request their financing for not only cash or input, but other necessities. Through our partnerships, users will be able to request loans that are to be used directly for various needs, such as device loans, school fee loans, storage facility payments, and transport services. By providing direct facilitation of such payments on a similar model to our input loans through the use of administrated e-value and payments, we aim to reduce risk and increase users' access to vital services.

Risk engendered by the trust of third party reporting is always a concern, and we have several structures in place aimed to increase verifiability and accuracy of such reports. The majority of our data points sourced for the assessment of credit risk are based on automated, digital systems where the data is requested via API and comes directly, in unadulterated format from the relevant system. Biographical data is sourced from the nationwide Integrated Population Registration System (IPRS). Credit reference checks are performed by check to the national Credit Reference Bureaus, which provides detailed history of financial engagements and obligations on any citizen. Mobile money history and mobile data and credit usage is sourced directly via Safaricom's MPESA API and through user approved download of statements and history. As these data points come directly from their relevant systems, they are accurate, immediately available, and incorruptible. Data reflecting purchase and usage of agricultural inputs is sourced from our closed-loop verification and electronic value system, with cash and opportunities for false reporting eliminated by the need for real-time verification within our system. In order to reduce the risk of of false reporting in terms of farm outputs and sales, we have are forming partnerships with the relevant endpoints at which the sale of farm goods and reporting thereof is performed. Our initial focus, as the system grows, is on particular value chains which we have partnerships with, which have in built methods of reporting and verification. For example, one of our initial value chain partnerships represents a pool of over 15,000 farmers. This organization has a daily, digital reporting system of weights and amounts of goods produced which are input into the system automatically on a daily basis. We are able to source this data directly. In addition to this digital reporting of outputs, we are making relationships with major off-takers and aggregators of sales, by which we can source the actual financial data that the sale of these goods reflect. As a further verification step, we have liasion officers who work in conjunction with the relevant farmer groups and off-takers in order to provide on site verification of such transactions.

Spam
Photo of Christopher
Team

Our interfaces and technology are certainly readily accessible not only to the farmers we intend to reach, but to other relevant players in the value chains represented. According to latest statistics, from the Communications Authority of Kenya, mobile penetration is at 88.1 % with 37.8 million active subscribers to such services. The internet/data market has over 21.6 million subscriptions. The portion of the Kenyan population accessing internet services reached 74.2 per 100 inhabitants as of January 2016. Mobile money transfer service subscriptions are at 28.7 million users. Entry level smartphone devices entry points are at less than $30, with an estimated 30% of the population estimated to adopt the technology by 2020. This data, as well as our on the ground research which showed that every user polled had the immediate ability via one of our portals to access the system, shows that the use of mobile phones, mobile data, and mobile money services are uniquely and readily available to the Kenyan market. Our solutions are based on the use of such services. In order to facilitate all levels of engagement, or system is available in various formats. First is an SMS gateway which requires only the ability to send and receive SMS messages. The second is our smartphone application, which provides access to all services within the network. We have developed a USSD interface that will reflect the same functions, that is ready but will not go live until we reach a certain threshold of active users due to cost considerations. In addition to this we offer a web portal that users and suppliers within the system can use to access information on their accounts or specific goods.

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Thanks Christopher!

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