Kenya’s financial cooperatives, credit unions and community banks comprise more than 10 million people with savings of $4.7 billion and an asset base of $6.54 billion. In 2017 alone, they contributed 5.72% of Kenya’s nominal GDP.
Despite the lucrative nature of the sector, they are largely excluded from the digital financial sector and rely on manual operations and processes. This often leads to inefficient operations, challenges with liquidity, and lack of proper data analysis as well as fraud.
This is where Cynthia Wandia comes in with Kwara, an online and mobile banking platform that caters to financial cooperatives, credit unions, and community banks. Prior to funding Kwara, Wandia started ASTRA Innovations in 2014 and remains in charge of the group’s business development and manages its strategic course.
The platform also seeks to enhance transparency and security for customers in community banks and small financial institutions. In addition, Kwara is designed with financial inclusion in mind. It is devised to help unbanked and underbanked individuals to build wealth together effortlessly. Also, the platform provides access to instant loans and third-party services such as insurance for union members.
Kwara recently raised $3 million in seed extension funding, bringing Kwara’s total funding to $7 million. The funding round was led by existing investors such as DOB Equity, Globivest, and Willard Ahdritz, the founder of Kobalt Music, and new backers such as One Day Yes, Base Capital, and fintech executives including Mikko Salovaara, the CFO of Revolut.
“We have spent the last three years uplifting the credit union sector in Kenya, becoming the leading core banking provider in Kenya. Our clients grow up to four times faster than other credit unions and serve members up to 100 times more efficiently,” Wandia said.
The Kenyan fintech also signed an exclusive digital solutions distribution agreement with KUSCCO, the umbrella body for Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs) in Kenya. The deal came with the acquisition of KUSCCO’s subsidiary, IRNET, a software company for saccos. According to Wandia, the acquisition enables Kwara to place a digital banking experience in the hands of every credit union in Kenya, together with the most established credit union partner in Kenya (Kwara).
Wandia co-founded Kwara with David Hwan (COO) in 2019. Two years later, the startup raised a US$4 million seed funding round. Kwara has a presence in South Africa and the Philippines although Kenya remains its biggest market. It grew its clientele base to 120 from 50 at the end of 2021, maintaining a 100% customer retention, according to Tech Crunch.
Now 36 years old, Kwara was inspired into entrepreneurship by her grandmother. She said her grandmother was a coffee farmer who worked with savings and credit cooperatives. She has been to several countries thanks to entrepreneurship. While traveling around, she led many projects that gave her the necessary skills to change the world.