Financial Inclusion and Market Linkages Transform Lives
By Margaret Mandeya | Mon Feb 27 2023
Q&A with Quest Digital Finance founder Jean Antony Onyait Since 2016, Ugandan fintech startup Quest Digital Finance has been bringing financial inclusion and market linkages to the “unbanked” through its fintech products Akellobanker and Quest Banker.
Quest Banker was created to help address the needs of 65% of adults in Uganda with no access to formal credit institutions (World Bank, 2017). By enabling end-to-end digital transformation for financial institutions, Quest Banker de-risks facilitating credit to these underserved populations.
The Akellobanker platform serves the other side of the market, enabling smallholder farmers and traders to access loans from financial institutions, primarily SACCOS (Savings and Credit Cooperatives) and microfinance institutions. By providing underserved farmers, their biggest user segment, with access to finance, the fintech company is also helping to bolster food security. A 2022 Renew Capital Angels investment in Quest Digital Finance is helping to fund the growth of the Akellobanker platform user base. Founder, Jean Antony Onyait shares his startup journey in an interview with Renew Capital.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity
Q. What changes and challenges have you seen in entrepreneurship in your country over the past 10 years?
Cash flow challenges are the reason most businesses in Uganda die. However, that is changing. The appetite for investment is definitely growing. The government is showing more interest in investing in companies that are locally born. Development partners have also realized the need to support local solutions which have been contextualized to address local problems.
Q. What do you think the private sector in Uganda might look like in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I think the private sector in Uganda will play a critical role in influencing public policy. For example, if you look at finance 10 years ago, commercial banks were the owners of financial inclusion. Five years ago, financial technology companies came over and showed banks that they could break through to places they weren’t reaching—breaking monopolies and creating healthy competition. This competition goes a long way in reducing prices and making services more affordable for local communities. I foresee many partnerships being created because governments will want to use locally existing solutions to deliver services to the local communities. Already, these public-private partnerships have become common in the agriculture, finance and healthcare sectors.
Q. Why is private sector innovation important to bolster agricultural production in Uganda?
Uganda’s population is growing fast, but the land mass, especially that which can be used for agriculture remains the same, so there need to be new ways of catalyzing production for agriculture. At the same time, industrialization is increasing, and most of the raw materials will come from agriculture. The only way we can meet this demand is to educate the millions of people working in agriculture and provide access to financial linkages, quality traceable inputs, buyers, equipment and insurance. Today, decisions need to be made with data, which is best leveraged with a traceable, end-to-end digital ecosystem or economy. That’s what our business is helping to build.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your future plans for the business?
Demand for our line of work grew as a result of COVID-19 which reaffirmed the importance of helping businesses through digitalization. Unfortunately, the cost of infrastructure can be prohibitive. As such, we need to think about how to bundle more products and services so that we can eventually build a premium product that helps us recoup our money from the transactions and services we deliver. That's why it’s so important and strategic for us to get as many clients as we can now. With the investment from the Renew Capital Angels, we are able to sign on a lot of rural cooperatives and financial service providers as we integrate or link them to relevant products and service bundles that will transform the lives of millions of smallholders.