New online platform will provide lending circles a better way to manage their finances and infuse effeciency and professionalism in the way they handle their affairs
Barry Silah @obel_barry
If you walk into any chama meeting, the first thing you see is the amount of paperwork on the table. This has been the only way many of them can keep track of the money coming in and going out.
Chamapesa, a digital platform, which was rolled out on a pilot basis in June will help lending circles move from the archaic bookkeeping system to an application-based way of keeping track of their records.
Michael Kimani, 30, who is in charge of the companies operations locally, says the new tool targets the unbanked segment of the population, is user-friendly and has a wide range of security features.
“This will be a game changer and will provide a solution to old-school ledgers that chamas use. The beauty of the app is that it is not complicated to operate and can be run offline,” he says.
The team believes that chama groups in Kenya and savings groups’ communities in Africa and Latin America hold the key to designing identity systems for a block chain- powered Internet economy.
Kimani, who has worked on several products around the online currency module, is intent on making social groups be more aware of their savings and how best to make them beneficial. “We are looking at an untapped industry worth around Sh8 billion. This tool is inspired to address such shortfalls and certainly chamas
who sign up will be adding value to their members,” says the money technology guru who is also in charge of User Experience at Chamapesa.
Chamapesa targets people in the lower bracket, leverageing on the table-banking concept. Most of these groups loan their members money on a weekly basis, but inherently fail to account for their transactions wisely. Kimani believes the block chain application encourages transparency.
“Money issues are sensitive and, therefore, when we get to digitise and archive important information, it reduces mistrust,” he says.
The product runs on android operating system and began low-level beta trials in June. Chamapesa app will have technology to compress data and also have an allowance for an interactive section.
Developers behind it are hoping to network all groups, but each will adopt its own specific features. The team is using Community Based Organisations (CBOs) to get many members on board.
Kimani, who is a Computer Engineering alumnus of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat), is a software genius with a passion for cryptocurrency.
He has previously worked with Umatibit, a virtual currency trader. “Money is an interesting subject, but a scary one. However, even to the average person, there is a way to make this commodity resourceful. We want to make Chamapesa reflect our desire,” he says.
Through every transaction of the people signed up, the company will charge a 0.25 per cent fee. There will be chama coins, which will be used to collect fees through agents on a token.
“Based on our assessment, these groups have longevity because they resist external threats and so we have taken that into account. It was also essential to develop a homegrown solution for keeping records. Even saccos, banks and mobile financial institutions can gain a lot from this concept,” he says.