Q. Tell us a little about yourselves?
A. Vincent and Njeri are both individuals who are deeply passionate about effecting sustainable change; throughout their careers and personal lives, they have been working to leverage their expertise to create social impact. As an individual born and raised in Kenya, Njeri took on a financial career in effort see how she could use her skills to improve financial inclusion and broaden the scope of financial services in the region. When she moved to London, she began her journey in seeing how to connect people like herself, the diaspora, to their home countries. Through networking she was introduced to Vincent who had been working diligently for nearly two years on developing a digital solution to the Nigerian diaspora to develop off-grid solar. They realized that ultimately they shared the same ambition—to leverage technology and finance to serve an African Market. As they shared a vision and complementary skillsets, they felt it best to work together to build ZAO.
Q. How did ZAO come about?
A. Founded in 2019, ZAO is an early-stage platform facilitating diaspora investments in impactful projects in Africa; we envision a world where finance plays a central role in solving social challenges. On one end, there is a need for the diaspora to find ways to better participate in the socio-economic development of their home countries and regions beyond remittance transfers. Currently diaspora investments are primarily done through personal relationships or through bespoke processes—there is a lack of transparent and trustworthy digital solutions offering impactful investment opportunities. On the other end, there are several SMEs in frontier / emerging markets that have profitable businesses, but suffer from very limited access to financial services and affordable credit. Common market practice is to charge above 30+% interest rates on local cash loans. Local capital is scarce and expensive.
Q. In what countries do you currently operate?
A. In the United Kingdom and Kenya currently.
Q. What has been the highlight since you both started ZAO?
A. First pilots are currently on going. Growing week-on-week signups. 6+ requests for SME funding to date.
Q. What has been a key lesson learned, one you didn’t expect when you started ZAO?
A. Acquiring diaspora audience upstream requires high work.
Q. What are your 3 key tips for aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs?
1. Understand your business model and sustainability plan for easy storytelling to your audience. 2. Be teachable- keep learning and bettering your knowledge both as an innovator as well as for your enterprise. 3. Surround yourself with people that support you and your innovation
Q. Where do you want your start-up, social enterprise, business or innovation to be in 5 years?
A. Working towards getting 1 million Africans out of financial exclusion by 2027.
Q. Why did you join Afrinection and why would you recommend others to join?
A. Afrinection influencer Yves Samba contacted us. You guys do amazing work in promoting social enterprises. We at Zao want to make a measurable impact, together with you.
Connect with ZAO on Afrinection today by visiting their profile at https://afrinection.com/profile/1361/. If you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog plost, please create a free company or individual profile then click on the following link to complete an interview questionnaire: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdn_MPwIlg6cQ6JIqTF2ou8Ha6ey6IFEW-0W96qN3BuPzwnwQ/viewform?usp=sf_link.