There are gatherings of women on regular basis across different cities and towns in Senegal, who meet together on a regular basis mostly to save their earnings as a group. The women hope, that by the end of the saving cycle, they would get returns for their savings. This system is called ‘Tontine’, and it is one of the oldest and ubiquitous social group savings systems in West Africa and Africa at large.
Tontine is an age-long system in many Francophone countries in Africa, but with the disruption that technology brings to the social space, sophisticated applications and machines are threatening to replace some of Africa’s conventional traditions.
Senegal women in business
This is why two Nigerian entrepreneurs have decided to blend technology into this old style system, by creating a digital platform called MaTontine in order to improve peer-to-peer savings in Senegal. MaTontine aims to preserve the traditional savings model that are deep-rooted among many women in the country.
MaTontine was founded in 2015 by two siblings from Nigeria, Bernie Akporiaye and Tosan Oruwariye. Since then, the fintech startup has helped thousands of small-scale business owners in Senegal. Its ease-of-use and accessibility have helped the platform grow at a faster rate in the country, giving it an edge over other financial solution platforms in Senegal. One of it is allowing market women and its other user to save as low as $10 in a month to qualify for small loans at the end of the month.
Presently, over 90 percent of MaTontine users are women. These women claim that unnecessary bureaucracy and collaterals scare them away from traditional banks. The Matontine digital platform works just like the women do in the traditional Tontine system; they gather weekly to contribute money and one member of the group wins the collection at the end of each month.
After joining MaTontine, 10 people with shared interests are grouped with their own manager on the online platform, where they all contribute $10 each month. At the end of the month, a member wins the $100 contribution, and the cycle revolves unbroken until everyone gets $100 contribution at the end of the month, before beginning a new cycle. Members have funded their business and supported their families with the monthly contributions using the platform.
According to Bernie Akporiaye, co-founder of MaTontine, the platform was birthed to address one of Africa’s greatest challenges which is financial exclusion. Its major focus is on people who earn less than $5 per day. “The really big problem we are trying to solve though is how to lend small amounts like $100 profitably and at scale to the one billion people in Africa who are financially excluded,” he retorted in an interview with techinafrica.
In 2017, the start-up won a $1 million funding at the Seedstars Dakar 2017 pitch competition and has gone on to raise an additional grant of $800,000 since it was launched in 2015. With eyes on other emerging economies across Africa, the success recorded in Senegal has triggered expansion plans to other Francophone countries. “We consider ourselves a regional Francophone company. Our mantra is ‘Nail it in Senegal and Scale it in Francophone Africa,” Bernie said.