Mobile Applications

Africa: Food & medicine for the needy via a mobile click

Africa is a continent that relies on donations, aid and grants from international donors and governments. However, only a small percentage of aid offered to individuals in Africa reaches the beneficiaries. This is due to corruption, inefficiency and lack of proper distribution mechanisms.

Individuals wanting to send help to their friends and relatives need to be sure that the monetary aid sent is used only for the intended purposes, which in most cases are food and medicine. Aid organisations, on the other hand, are shifting to the Output-based aid model through the use of e-vouchers. Unlike traditional paper vouchers, these offer unparalleled advantages such as increased efficiency, increased impact and reduced costs. Now, a startup in Kenya is providing a solution which straddles the two.

Paykind is an e-voucher platform that enables value transfers for goods and services instead of sending money. It enables donors to give purchasing power to those who are in need of nutrition, healthcare and education. By using these vouchers donors can be guaranteed that their beneficiaries get what they really need. The startup provides real-time feedback to the donor via data and analytics on voucher redemptions and hence offers the ability to measure impact.

“You can do something as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee or lunch at their nearest restaurant, to more serious things such as paying for their medicine at the closest pharmacy, as long as you have their mobile phone number, from wherever you are in the world,” Rodgers Muhadi, the startup’s CEO tells IDG Connect.

“Paykind goes for a market that is completely underserved,” he adds. “By helping funders achieve goals intended for their funds, we hope to increase the reach, and hence impact, in areas with a lot of donor activities in nutrition, healthcare, education and agriculture.”

Using ICT, the startup has developed a solution that is easy to use and accessible from anywhere in the world using both online and offline resources.

“We make use of both mobile telephony and smartcards. Whereas mobile phones work mostly in the presence of mobile connectivity, smart cards can work in areas without connectivity because they can store data securely on the cards, we [also] have an online portal with the ability to login and view the transactions in real-time,” says Muhadi.

“We have worked with three donor clients so far,” he adds. “We have also partnered with Chase Bank and integrated Safaricom’s mobile payment Lipa Na M-PESA [Pay with M-PESA] in order to reach large number of customers and clients. One of our clients Sanergy has about 5,000 users benefiting from our product already.”

The startup initially started as Instaid (instant aid) and operated for two years. However, the CEO decided to rebrand as Paykind (pay for kind) to remove any confusion on the intended purposes of the venture.

“We realised that the name made us sound like a non-profit company. We also changed our target market from donors-only to also include individuals who want to help their friends and families,” explains Muhadi.

Like most other tech startups in Africa, the venture is built on a disruption principle. The company identified the shortcomings of using paper vouchers and rose to provide a safer and efficient solution. But are they merging with or doing away with the traditional methods?

“No we do not deal with paper vouchers,” clarifies Muhadi. “This is because that is what we are here to disrupt. Paper vouchers lack security and transparency besides not being scalable.”

Muhadi believes his product has the edge over competitors: “By using mobile telephony we are able to scale easily and take advantage of technology and the ubiquity of mobile phones.”

Financial challenges are common to every startup. However, Paykind was able to raise startup capital from funding investor agencies such as Savannah Fund. The company’s biggest problem, however, has been adoption. “The donor community is generally slow at adopting our technology,” the CEO concludes.


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Daniel Muraga

Daniel Muraga is an experienced online writer and communications professional based in Kenya.

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