Lending startup Akiba Digital raises US$1.1m pre-seed funding to scale up

SOUTH AFRICA – Akiba Digital, a fintech startup that is lowering the barriers to entry to enable small businesses to unlock financing through their lending partners, has raised over US$1.1 million in pre-seed funding to help it grow its market share.

Founded in 2017, Akiba Digital enables lenders to better extend capital to small businesses and individuals, providing nuanced credit insights and real-time lending decisions.

The startup uses alternative datasets to provide inclusive scores that allow lenders to score people and small businesses that cannot be reached by traditional credit bureaus – a problem that affects nearly 80 percent of small businesses and individuals in Africa.­

The US$1.1 million pre-seed funding round is led by Expert DOJO and Oui Capital, and also includes Basecamp Fund, Soma Capital, Hustle Fund, Future Africa, LoftyInc, a former PayPal executive, and a handful of angel investors.

The cash will be used by Akiba Digital to grow its market share in South Africa and connect over 20,000 SMEs to lenders through its ecosystem. 

“The fundraise will also help us assess other African markets that we are looking to scale into,” said Tebogo Mokwena, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Akiba Digital.

“Our goal is to be in 10+ African markets in two to three years, enabling millions of small businesses and individuals to access better financing through our alternative scoring. Longer-term we want to scale into South America and ultimately be one of Africa’s unicorns to IPO by 2027,” she added.

Akiba Digital is already growing its revenues by 5X month-on-month and has also launched an SME platform called Insyts that allows SMEs in need of funding to apply for business financing seamlessly and monitor their financial health on one platform.

“Our goal is to be in 10+ African markets in two to three years, enabling millions of small businesses and individuals to access better financing through our alternative scoring”

Tebogo Mokwena – CEO, Akiba Digital

Meanwhile, in the wake of recent riots and looting in parts of South Africa, it has launched a Mandela Day initiative to zero-rate financing for 67 SMEs who have been badly affected by the problems.

South Africa is the starting point for Akiba but their objective is to build an inclusive financial ecosystem for any small business in Africa.

 Akiba co-founder Kamogelo Kekana told Disrupt Africa the start-up’s goal was to help tech-savvy millennials become financially confident to start making good financial decisions.

“Currently we are operating in South Africa and plan to create a sustainable base in this market with most of our team based here. Our expansion plans over the next 24 months include doing some soft launches into tech-active markets on the rest of the African continent, as well as accessing certain parts of the Eurozone through partnerships we are currently working on,” Kekana said.

Akiba has both B2C and B2B models and charges consumers early withdrawal penalty fees on their total goal value and on the interest gained over the period saved for, while its B2B model sees it offer corporate partners tiered packages that will offer a variety of benefits dependent on the needs of the customer.

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