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Experian Creates Social Innovation in Africa

Experian Africa understands the need to drive social innovation in Africa to address the socio-economic issues, such as financial inclusion and exclusion, the continent faces. Supported by the global enterprise, Experian Africa has been awarded funding to develop such innovations on the continent.

The innovation culture at Experian in Africa is growing. With the ever-changing world, we are fortunate enough to have a directive to build new products and services. These developments will have a material impact on our clients, consumers, and the greater societies in which we operate.

One of our key focusses in our innovation strategy and mandate in Africa is moving into a data-to-insights business. This opens the doors to many new products and services that we can roll out to our existing clients. The goal is to build the capacity to securely and safely collate data to develop insights to meet commercial needs while making sure we make a positive difference to those in financial need such as ‘thin file’ applicants or the credit invisible.

In Africa, we encounter a significant amount of social challenges: unemployment is high, financial literacy is poor, and poverty is widespread – these all have a significant impact on financial inclusion and exclusion.

Two ways Experian is addressing financial inclusion and exclusion in Africa is through leveraging alternative data and analytics to develop non-credit information-based scores and financial education.

Does a credit bureau promote financial inclusion?

Private and public credit bureaus were found to promote private credit development in developing countries more so than in already developed nations. Credit bureaus provide information and services that lenders use to assess the affordability and creditworthiness of prospective customers, as well as verify applicants.

An increase in credit reference bureau services is expected to improve access to relevant customer information, thereby increasing access to credit, especially in developing countries where credit transaction information is difficult to obtain.

Alternatives to Traditional Credit Bureau Data

But what happens when there is no bureau data on a consumer? Part of Experian’s innovation strategy is the development of risk scores (like credit scores) that are based on alternative data (sometimes called non-traditional data), which can include geographic, telephonic, email, and SDK data, to name a few.

Scores based on this type of data mean that for those consumers with little or no credit history (also known as ‘thin files’ or ‘credit invisibles’ respectively), an accurate risk indicator can be calculated, which can aid a lender in their decision. For someone with no credit history, an alternative score could help in their favour, thereby including that person in the financial environment.

Additionally, alternative scores could help those who have scores that are just short of a lender’s cut off or minimum score by providing supplementary evidence to the lender.

Why a credit bureau should provide financial literacy

Creating awareness about the availability and benefits of financial services is expected to improve inclusion, especially in low-income countries where the levels of education and financial literacy are still low.

A 2015 study of cashless policy in Nigeria found that awareness of electronic channels of accessing financial services had a positive effect on financial inclusion. Further, payment infrastructure was also found to have a positive effect on financial inclusion. This is because efficient and secure payment infrastructure reduces transaction costs, which in turn motivates the adoption of electronic payment products.

The study also found that improving the customer value proposition enhanced financial access, and an earlier study concluded that customer satisfaction improved access to financial services. The results show that product development initiatives should focus on satisfying the felt financial needs of the target population so as to enhance inclusion.

Credit and financial literacy app

Financial inclusion aims to support wealth creation and contribute to the economy and so needs to extend to small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), as job creation is most likely to take place in this sector.

The launch of a new smartphone app, GeleZAR, in South Africa in 2019, aimed to bring more micro-entrepreneurs into the mainstream economy and ensure they get the credit scores they deserve.

Using the expertise of its global innovation hubs, Experian has developed a financial education and credit scoring mobile app. GeleZAR is designed to educate entrepreneurs and individuals on how to manage their finances, budget and credit score in a fun, entertaining and user-friendly way. The app can also advise individuals on how to maintain good credit health and recommends remedial actions where needed.

In partnership with a local South African consumer and fintech developer, Experian designed the app specifically for entry-level smartphones. The credit bureau worked with one of the largest low-cost mobile phone retailers in Africa to trial the app, which was pre-installed on a range of its entry-level smartphones.

After the success of the original GeleZAR app, in 2021, Credable, a major innovation project run by local Experian teams, won the Social Innovation funding from Experian Global. Like GeleZAR, Experian Africa’s Credable is a direct-to-consumer solution offering financial literacy across Africa in a way that is accessible and fun.

Working with alternative data that individual users consent to share on the app, Credable will be able to assess users’ stability, build credit profiles and potentially improve their credit scores. This, in turn, could enable them to access a broader range of financial products at more affordable rates.

Conclusion

Financial inclusion entails more than just access to a transactional account and financial products. It should be viewed as a means to give everyone a stake in the market economy with access to all aspects of the financial products and services they need to effectively manage their financial affairs, as well as financial literacy to help them manage their financial responsibilities.

Through gamified financial education, traditional data and alternative data, Experian will be helping the credit invisible find a way to start their credit journeys while increasing financial inclusion across Africa.