What Nigeria should expect as M-KOPA appoints former SafeBoda Country Head as General Manager

by | Jul 13, 2021

Kenyan asset-financing company, M-KOPA, has appointed Babajide Duroshola as General Manager. This is coming a month after he resigned as former Country Head for SafeBoda — Uganda-based bike-hailing startup — in Nigeria, where he worked for two years.

Launched in 2011 with Jesse Moore — CEO — Chad Larson, and Nick Hughes as co-founders, M-KOPA is a connected asset-financing platform that claims to offer millions of underbanked customers access to products and services that have the potential to improve their lives significantly.

The company pioneered the wider pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar market in Kenya. It has grown over the years to offer customers in Kenya and Uganda electronic appliances like televisions and refrigerators, as well as financial services. 

Customers can gradually acquire ownership through its PAYG financing model by making an initial deposit followed by flexible and affordable micropayments.

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In East Africa, M-KOPA claims to have sold over 1 million PAYG solar systems and provided $400 million in financing to millions of customers while raising over $180 million in equity and debt.

In 2020, the company expanded its offering in Kenya by partnering with Safaricom and Samsung to offer smartphone financing.

A trial run in the Nigerian market was conducted earlier this year by offering customers solar system and smartphone financing options. The company partners with Samsung and Airtel Nigeria to make smartphone financing accessible to its customers.

In one month, due to increased acceptance of smartphone financing, M-KOPA reportedly sold over 20,000 smartphones in Lagos — its first market in Nigeria. However, as of June 12 2021, when we spoke to an M-KOPA customer care agent, only five Samsung phones were up for sale.

While the outcome of the trial run was seen as a significant step forward for the company, M-KOPA believes that Duroshola’s appointment is an essential requirement to scale the service rapidly in Nigeria.

At M-KOPA, Duroshola is expected to drive its activities in Nigeria further, even as it plans to reach more users. Having expanded to Oyo state in June 2021, M-KOPA is now present in Lagos and Oyo states. 

Per TechCrunch, Duroshola joined M-KOPA partly because he found the credit space exciting while at SafeBoda. The bike-hailing startup also runs an asset-financing model by offering smartphones to its riders. 

The former Andela Community manager has a track record of accomplishment in his previous post. Following SafeBoda’s expansion plans into Nigeria in 2019, Duroshola and his team onboarded 5,000 drivers. They completed more than 1.5 million rides in a full year of operation before he left the ride-hailing company.

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Duroshola plans to replicate what Kenyan customers enjoy —  purchasing other products besides smartphones. He believes that it would help build Nigerians’ credit history and worthiness.

Driven to help African startups scale, develop, set up, and achieve their goals, Duroshola looks to “build a full credit machine with M-KOPA.” 

He wants Nigerians to always think of M-KOPA first when they think about PAYG finance for everyday use.

M-KOPA is entering competitive markets

Presently, there are a few popular Buy Now, Pay Later (BNLP) businesses that beat M-KOPA to the asset-financing market in Nigeria. The likes of Carbon Zero and CDcare allow users to buy an item by either depositing an initial amount or following a flexible payment plan.

Apart from these companies, some commercial banks also run similar services — QuickBucks by Access Bank and Altmall by Sterling Bank — where customers can get a device upfront, and monthly deductions are subsequently made from their accounts. These channels commonly focus on providing ease of acquiring smartphones and electronics.

CDcare, for instance, combines savings and loan features in its marketplace, allowing customers to automate the payment of a monthly or weekly amount toward the purchase of an item like an appliance or gadget. 

The item is delivered to the customer when half of its cost is paid, and the automated monthly or weekly instalments continue until complete payment is made with no interest. 

On the other hand, Carbon Zero, formerly Paylater, allows customers to shop online  — using Carbon-verified merchants — and pay in interest-free instalments over time. Merchants completely determine the price of items.

In Kenya, M-KOPA allows customers to purchase an item at a low cost. Once a customer pays the loan, they become owners of the item.

While the business models of these BNPL companies are similar, it’s yet to be known the type Duroshola will adopt in his mission to build a full credit machine and make M-KOPA a household name in Nigeria.

However, Mayur Patel, M-KOPA’s Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), believes Duroshola’s track record and knowledge of the Nigerian tech ecosystem will lead the country’s team to grow the company.

Nonetheless, launching a full-fledged personal device financing scheme that includes household items like TVs and kitchen appliances would be a way tougher task than SafeBoda’s smartphone financing scheme.

Writer. Tech enthusiast.

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