Financial inclusion is undoubtedly one of the trending topics when it comes to FinTech in Afrika. A day barely goes by without a startup or a big corporate talking about "how we are increasing financial inclusion."

Few, however, seem to have a clear definition of what financial inclusion means. That's why, when I heard of Mines, a Nigerian FinTech startup, concluding a Series A funding of $13 million, arguably the largest in Nigeria, the first thing that came to mind was "financial inclusion."

Adia Sowho Mines Niger
Adia Sowho, Managing Director at Mines Nigeria.

Financial inclusion in Nigeria and beyond

Thus, I decided to reach out to Adia Sowho, Managing Director at Mines Nigeria, to hear how she defines financial inclusion and whether or not she would consider what their digital credit platform offers, as a way of increasing financial inclusion in Nigeria and other emerging markets they are planning to expand to.

iAfrikan: Walk us through how the Mines platform works?

Adia Sowho: Mines is a Credit-as-a-Service Digital Platform that enables domestic institutions (banks, telcos, retailers, payment providers) to offer credit products to their customers. We run artificial intelligence algorithms on high-volume data sets like phone records, bank records, and payment records to predict credit risk. We then integrate credit risk models with identity, origination, payments, loan lifecycle management, and customer service to form a holistic credit platform.

Leveraging their own data, our partner institutions can use the platform to extend credit to customers and open up entirely new revenue opportunities.

With that in mind, can the data you mine not be manipulated by an end user to ensure a favorable credit rating?

We have many anti-fraud measures in place and it would be quite difficult for an end-user manipulate their data in order to achieve more favorable credit.

Thus far, in Nigeria, how are your loan repayment and default statistics looking like?

Our portfolio performance is quite good. This is one of the reasons we were able to convince investors like TPG and Velocity to invest in us. More importantly, the performance continues to improve as our algorithms learn how customers behave.

Would you say your proprietary platform can be used to offer loans all the way up to mortgages and car loans or not?

Yes it can. However, each type of loan has a different set of risks and needs different methodologies and processes to operate safely. We are yet to develop models for larger loans but we will review that opportunity with our partners as the market evolves.

There has been a lot of talk about "financial inclusion", how would you define it?

Financial inclusion goes beyond having a bank account. Itโ€™s having access to a set of digital financial services (credit, savings, payments, insurance) that provide the full convenience and protection experienced by most adults in developed markets. Thus, our current focus is on the โ€˜financially underservedโ€™, who, even with a bank account are not included in the formal credit system. Access to credit is a critical starting point for financial inclusion because it tends to build trust with consumers making it easier to introduce them to other forms of digital finance over time.

Would you consider Mines as providing financial inclusion?

We are one of the leading financial inclusion providers in Nigeria today, offering both credit and savings accounts and growing every day. Our mission is to provide instant access to credit, everywhere for everyone.

Cover image credit: Adia Swho, Managing Director for Mines Nigeria.

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