Tatenda Furusa - on the fintech frontier
As part of our spring focus on digital technologies in Connect: Business we speak to Tatenda Furusa (MSc Business and Management, 2017). Tatenda is co-founder of fast-growing fintech startup ImaliPay, which aims to help millions of 'gig economy' workers across Africa. In less than 12 months the business already operates in three African Markets (Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria), growing to a staff of 40, currently supporting tens of thousands of customers who earn a living across 11 gig platforms.
What was your ambition while at Nottingham and after you graduated?
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, I have a history of building start-ups. I co-founded two start-ups before in the USA in 2009 - 2011, during my undergraduate days at Bradley University and always had the desire to build again from the ground up.
Despite these two start-ups not succeeding, I learnt a lot during that time and eventually moved back home. I joined a Pan African fintech company called Cellulant and spent three years there. In 2016, I got the prestigious Chevening Scholarship and attended the University of Nottingham.
It was during this time, I reinvented myself and fostered a desire to go back into entrepreneurship and in particular Fintech. I re-joined Cellulant in Nairobi, Kenya as Chief of Staff to the former CEO (Ken Njoroge) and was able to learn from him a great amount in terms of running a successful business across Africa. I also re-connected with my now co-founder Sanmi Akinmusire who was CCO based out of Nigeria.
What was it that inspired you to create ImaliPay?
A problem I observed in Nairobi when Uber and Bolt Drivers constantly ran out of fuel. I asked myself, is there a bigger issue here? I then called Sanmi (who was leaving Cellulant for a sabbatical) to see how we can fix this seemingly small problem but for the wider gig economy.
If you had to sum up the core objective of the business what would you say?
To economically empower and bank Africa’s gig economy over the next decade towards financial freedom.
Can you give some insight into the issues gig workers in Africa face?
Being neglected from traditional financial services which are typically reserved for 9-5 employees, specifically, a lack of working capital, lack of safety net in tough times and a digital identity. The fact that gig work is very sporadic, volatile and unpredictable compared to a 9-5 job. So this means gig workers are paid late (every 1-2 weeks) and are often short on cash. We are plugging the gap for them in terms of accessing cash (e.g fuel on credit) in their wallets sooner rather than later.
Can you share some of the ways ImaliPay is able to support people by making use of Big Data and AI, why is this important?
We’ve built proprietary technology that understands the behaviours of gig economy workers and can personalize and tailor specific financial services for when they need them most. Big Data and AI allows us to create bespoke offerings and be the true financial sidekick for gig workers in Africa.
Tell us about the funding you received as part of the Google Startups scheme?
We were privileged to receive a grant of $50k from Google Black Founders Fund. The fund was set up to support typically underrepresented black founders in Africa to provide them a kickstart to launch and scale operations. It’s a huge badge of honour to be backed by Google!
What are your career goals over the next 5-10 years, what do you want to achieve?
I’m more of a serial entrepreneur and would like to build out systems that enable ImaliPay to be the "one stop shop" financial services offering for gig economy workers and platforms in Africa. That means empowering the ImaliPay team to both strive for greater heights for their careers and make our customer lives much easier and better.
How do you see the digital infrastructure in Africa evolving?
Digital infrastructure in Africa is widening and expanding rapidly due to a few reasons. This includes increased smartphone penetration, a youthful population and affordable data. That means more people going online seeking jobs, opportunities and information that make their lives better.
Find out more about ImaliPay and connect with Tatenda on LinkedIn.