Three ambitious business leaders have launched a pioneering fintech platform that promises to deliver financial inclusion to the unbanked in Africa.
Industry heavyweights Moses Onitilo, John Kamara, and Olusegun George have teamed up to spearhead fintech startup Jamborow. The B2B data-driven enterprise offers unmatched financial services for informal workers.
Jamborow calls itself Africa’s first inclusive and intelligent fintech platform. Built for the unbanked and underbanked population, these are often street vendors, small-scale entrepreneurs, and the rural population.
The pan-African enterprise opens up the door for all new access. “Jamborow was conceived to promote financial and economic inclusion for the developing world,” says Onitilo, co-founder and CTO of Jamborow. “We conducted extensive research by traveling to various parts of the continent. What we discovered is that the grassroots population often suffered the same challenge: the inability to access formal financial services.”
In fact, the informal economy is a massive untapped market. Although difficult to quantify, the World Bank estimates 66% of sub-Saharan Africans are unbanked which effectively means they are locked out of the financial sector.
So why is this bad for Africa? Cash-only transactions make it infinitely harder to grow, invest, or effectively regulate a business. This “invisible economy” also prohibits official statistics and taxation to prop up the economy.
Through Jamborow, the banking process is completely digitized. Individual users gain access to digital payment options and mobile money. There’s a robo-advisor powered by artificial intelligence and integration with blockchain tech that creates a credit footprint. The team says it’s easy to use and cloud-enabled.
Launched in 2018, Jamborow brings together all the players in the financial ecosystem, from lenders, borrowers, and intermediaries. The startup partners with banks, SME lenders, cooperatives, traditional savings groups, microfinance institutions, and other types of organizations to serve the bulging informal sector.
Since its inception, Jamborow has signed up several B2B clients that use their tech (or platform) to offer users easy, convenient, and immediate access to financial services. This includes successfully onboarding seven micro-lending institutions with a total of 27 million members sprawled across Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
The company has also sealed strategic partnerships with several firms, including payment processors, credit reference bureaus, mobile network operators, and e-commerce providers. They even have a deal with MasterCard in the works.
“Jamborow is a company that was borne out of the experience, skillset, and knowledge of three friends. We decided to come back to Africa from the diaspora and use technology to solve the problems of the grassroots population by offering financial literacy, economic empowerment, and poverty alleviation.”
For B2C users this may well be the first time they have gotten access to a full suite of financial services directly from their computers or Jamborow’s mobile app. This is everything from loans, insurance, debit cards, and risk management, to name a few.
Indeed, Jamborow isn’t simply focused on transactional exchange. It provides users with financial education that enables them to make better decisions. The leadership is clear on being a part of the solution and not the problem. They believe that’s what sets them apart.
“Where we saw the niche in the market was by providing a whole ecosystem that looked beyond the predatory lending practices that we have witnessed in a number of markets we researched,” says George, co-founder and CEO of Jamborow. “Merely providing access to credit products falls short of the measurable and sustainable targets, we envisioned at Jamborow, hence our slogan ‘Beyond Financial Inclusion’.”
“We also provide financial literacy, as we see this the key to empowerment amongst our target audience,” adds Kamara, co-founder and director of Jamborow. “The additional products and services offered within our ecosystem include insurance, healthcare products, and pensions. On top of this, NGOs are able to plug in and provide various forms of grants and assistance towards this drive.”
What makes Jamborow even more special is that the idea birthed out of lifelong bonds, a mutual passion for tech, and passion to improve the quality of life for people in Africa.
“Jamborow is a company that was borne out of the experience, skillset, and knowledge of three friends, ” says Onitilo, who splits his time between the States and Kenya’s capital Nairobi. “We decided to come back to Africa from the diaspora and use technology to solve the problems of the grassroots population by offering financial literacy, economic empowerment, and poverty alleviation.”
“Made in Africa by Africans and exported to the rest of the world. It was important to keep the African face of the platform. It also has a deep core meaning in our tradition.”
Though Onitilo and George were both born in the UK, they actually met way back in high school in Lagos, Nigeria. They crossed paths again at business school in London. Both went on to add impressive positions to their resumes.
George then met Kamara in the ‘90s through a group of mutual friends in London. They immediately hit it off. George eventually introduced Onitilo to Kamara in NYC at a friend’s wedding and again in Lagos. “We all connected like a house on fire and decided to combine our various skillsets to come up with Jamborow,” says George.
George is a former account director in the West Africa for Governance Risk and Compliance division at Thompson Reuters. The former athlete, who participated in Olympic Taekwondo, has over 20 years of banking and financial services experience. In his past life, he was a Group Head at UBA Group in Lagos and former market analyst at Goldman Sachs.
Kamara describes himself as a student of life who has visited over 87 countries while living and working on every continent. His own resume includes a director at the Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa in South Africa’s Cape Town.
Onitilo is a 25-year IT veteran with a background in ITSM, ITIL, Digital Transformation, AI, Blockchain, Encryption, Security, Process transformation, IT Strategy, Governance, Enterprise Management, and Emerging Technology. Onitilo is also the founder and former managing partner at Principle Technologies, a digital transformation and ITSM consulting company in the US that has worked with Fortune 500 and European clients.
The co-founders cumulatively bring 65 years of experience in the financial services and TMT sectors. With impressive careers across Africa, Europe, and the United States, the all-star team is strategically positioned to tackle the issue head-on.
“Where we saw the niche in the market was by providing a whole ecosystem that looked beyond the predatory lending practices that we have witnessed in a number of markets we researched. Merely providing access to credit products falls short of the measurable and sustainable targets, we envisioned at Jamborow, hence our slogan ‘Beyond Financial Inclusion’.”
The name ‘Jamborow’ pays homage to the trio’s African Diasporic roots. “Well, the word ‘Jam’ was spun from pidgin English, widely spoken across West Africa,” says Kamara. “Which means to run into someone, and due to the peer to peer nature of borrowing amongst traditional savings groups which we serve, the word ‘borrow’ seemed appropriate.”
“Made in Africa by Africans and exported to the rest of the world,” he adds. “It was important to keep the African face of the platform. It also has a deep core meaning in our tradition.”
With financial services aimed at sustainable economic empowerment, Jamborow is built for the culture. The company is quickly finding success. So far shareholders have invested $400,000 but the team is poised to close a seed funding round over the coming weeks to accommodate plans to move into new markets. With this comes a savvy business model, which includes everything from PaaS, subscription, and revenue-sharing model.
Jamborow’s full offerings is an ambitious project where those on the margins of formal financial institutions reach financial empowerment. As the company continues to scale its platform and technology, the long-term vision is clear. That goal is to secure financial and economic prosperity across the developing world by improving the welfare of the grassroots population.
Company Update: John Kamara is no longer with Jamborow