New models of financial data sharing in Africa

Startups are leading the race to monetise customer financial data in Africa for lucrative business cases.


Most African businesses find themselves in a hard place when it comes to making sense of data troves. The collection and handling systems for customer data is slowly growing but not at par with the global standards. Using this data across different sectors to realise value is yet to be achieved, with outdated privacy laws across the continent compounded the issue.

Many companies and organisations hold critical information that could enhance business across different sectors but are losing a valuable market opportunity by not putting it into use. A change of strategy is needed to be a leading light into data mining.

“Companies are unable to design an appropriate data strategy that translates into business growth,” Jeph Acheampong, the founder and CEO of Blossom Academy a data analytics educator, based in Accra, Ghana said.

“The majority of the data science talent across Africa happens to be early on their data science journey. As a result, their skills are more aligned with the technical aspect, as opposed to the strategy end,” he added. Blossom Academy is aiming to train more data scientists for the African market.

“However, more often than not, African senior data scientists or data strategists rather leverage their skills by working remotely for an international company,” he explained.

His company is seeking to establish a large number of data analysts in Africa to take advantage of the nascent data mining sector in the continent. As of October 2020, the academy has trained over 200 young adults in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Kenya to understand and communicate data, with most securing data work on the continent.

So how does the market stimulate the monetisation of customer data in a non-existent market? Acheampong suggests that every effort should have a direct benefit to the consumer and not only focus on business.

A new shift into working with data and monetising it is gaining momentum across the continent. Innovators are taking advantage of the gap and helping businesses take advantage of their data and create new streams of income. Agile startups are already exploring the ways businesses in the continent could easily monetise customer data without major overheads and learning curves.

Bridging the gap in financial data

Access to credit has always been hampered by the lack of customer information. Even in the progressive regions of Africa, this data is still siloed and relies on a single data point, credit reference bureaus.

A new decentralised technology introduced by Carma could unlock financial data from other sources without breaking the bank. With its API, companies can fulfil inquiries for customer information without the data leaving its premises. They also get to monetise data in their possession with every request.

Other than working with credit bureaus that host customer information, Carma’s marketplace ensures cross-data exchange with little overhead costs for the buyer and the vendor.

According to Ted Martynov, Co-founder and CEO his solution is an easy way to monetise and make use of stagnant data that could be used in the financial industry.

Carma has already entered into a partnership with Nascu Zambia to provide credit reference services for 1,122 credit unions and it is targeting more partnerships in Nigeria and Kenya in the coming months.

This hunger to access customer data in Africa can be underlined by the quick rise of Mono, a Nigerian based data integrator. The company, which is barely one year old, has already secured a US$ 500K pre-seed funding in July 2020. 

The company’s proposition to its clients is to provide a single API to access customer banking information. Their solution is in response to the complicated banking API system that is currently being used by the banks. Their API gives an easy interface for developers and organisations to access financial data.

“In past 2 months, we’ve been able to build our MVP, connect with over 16 financial institutions in Nigeria, launched the easiest way to retrieve bank statements with customers and work with amazing clients like Carbon, Anyihealth, Swipe and dozens of developers,” the company said in their statement after their fund raise.

The company is already setting its sights on high growth markets including Kenya, to onboard financial institutions.

A competitor to Mono in Nigeria, Okra has achieved great strides in providing financial data through an all-inclusive mobile application. The company has raised US$ 1 million in 2020 right after launching in 2019 and has worked with financial companies, including banks.

Customer data acquisition still a challenge

Nigerian based Analytics Intelligence is finding it hard to convince corporates on the continent of the power of data use in business.

“A common challenge we’ve encountered is that many companies still have not grasped the power and value to be gained from collecting data. Also, using the analysis derived to make informed decisions. We are solving this problem by providing free consulting and training services to educate potential clients of the power and value of a data-driven organization,” David Edoja, a data analyst and founder at the company, told Ventureburn.

Acheampong concurs: “There is a vast awareness gap on the executive level when it comes to leveraging data for innovation. As a result, the majority of decision-makers fail to allocate a budget for the gathering, analysing, and extraction of insights from data.”

He also adds that education among C-executives in Africa on the importance of data transactions could be a game-changer in how data is used in the market.

Products such as Carma and Mono are just examples of how the data revolution is swiftly blowing across the continent. There still lies a big gap and opportunity to aggregate and make sense of several consumer data points in Africa.

“True innovation on the continent lies in designing solutions for non-consumers of the populace whose average income is $100 per month. To better serve this market will require businesses to exchange customer data. By crunching several data points on customer demographics and psychographics, it better positions businesses to arrive at the right price points for their target market,” Acheampong concludes.