Voila Llewllyn’s Ovamba: Leveraging Technology to Unlock SME Finance
Access to finance remains a major constraint for African businesses seeking to grow and expand. Many African small and medium enterprises (SMEs) find t h ems e l v e s i n s ome t h i n g o f a predicament-they are often too small to access finance from the larger providers of finance such private equity banks or commercial banks and their financing requirements are often larger than the financing provided by micro finance institutions that provide small doses of finance. They thus remain trapped in the notorious ‘financing middle’. Thankfully, new business models, products, and technologies are beginning to change that. One such innovation is financial technology and peer to peer lending which has grown rapidly around the world. However, financial technology companies and peer to peer lending firms are beginning to make in roads into the African market where there is pent up demand for finance. One such company is the US based Ovamba Solutions.
Ovamba runs an online platform that is involved in peer to peer lending and debt matching. The company allows SMEs to access finance from a variety of lenders who include retail and institutional investors seeking to invest in small businesses in emerging markets such as Africa. The Ovamba platform performs due diligence and analyses the risk profile of SMEs on its platform allowing investors to provide capital to small businesses that have been vetted. The Ovamba platform allows customers to apply directly or financing. Clients provide information about their businesses and funding requirements. Ovamba’s analysts perform due diligence, ensuring that business and risk profiles comply with Ovamba’s investing criteria, which include, environmental, social, and governance
Ovamba makes makes decisions within 48 hours and tailors offers to the risk profiles of the small businesses. The company’s nimble and agile application and due diligence processes allows small businesses that need financing to grow their businesses to achieve that goal. It also provides finance at rates that are usually lower the those provided by traditional lenders. Founded in 2013 in Chevy Chase Maryland by Marvin Cole and Viola Llewellyn, Ovamba has offices in Douala Cameroon and Washington D.C and has recently opened an office in Johannesburg. The company is also p l a n n i n g t o r o l l o u t o f f i c e s i n Johannesburg South Africa. While the company’s operational focus is currently Cameroon, it plans to expand its services into Central Africa and other regions in Africa.
Ovamba has put together a team with global experience in sectors such as investment banking, technology, and consulting. The founding team have had experience at top tier global firms such Barclays, Mckinsey & Company, JP Morgan Chase, and Unisys. In 2014, the company attracted an investment of $1.28 million from UK-based GLI Finance for a 20% stake. The company’s successful track record has helped to attract additional financing from new investors. In July 2016, the company announced a new partnership with Crowdcredit and Courtyard Capital. Crowdcredit is a global lending platform that connects borrowers and lenders. Courtyard Capital in an investor in financial technology services companies and has operating bases in the UK and US. The two companies have reportedly invested 800,000 and 500,000 euros respectively-investments that will be used to further expansion into other markets such Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.