Chaperone, driving financial inclusion through technology

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Bereng Mpaki

CHAPERONE Ltd is one of only five fintech (financial technology) companies that are licensed to offer mobile money services by the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) in the country.

Founded in 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chaperone is currently well known for providing the mobile money platform called C- Pay, although it also has other digital financial solutions.

Barely two years old, the platform is fast gaining traction and has already registered over 100 000 users while it has also landed the government as one of its clients.

The company has provided the government with a bulk payment solution to disburse payments to its beneficiaries and workers.

Through C- Pay, users can deposit, send and receive money at their convenience, including paying their different utility bills.

C- Pay is accessible by downloading the C- Pay App for android phones or by dialing *220*77# for Vodacom users and *130*77# for Econet subscribers to create a user account.

The company currently has 340 agents around the country and is planning to increase the number to 660. This will be done by adding another 320 agents in remote rural parts of the country by the end of 2022.

Mohau Mochebelele, Chaperone’s founder and managing director, said the company’s mission was to advance financial inclusion by harnessing the power of digital technology in and outside Lesotho.

“Chaperone is a financial technology company that provides digital platforms, and one of these platforms is C- Pay, which is our mobile money solution,” Mr Mochebelele said.

“As an investment manager by profession, Chaperone was inspired by my observation of financial exclusion and lack of innovation in the existing financial solutions in Lesotho. I saw mobile money as a tool through which these can be addressed and that is how we developed Chaperone.”

The company attributes its remarkable development to the strategic partnerships it enjoys with international players through the influence of its South African and Canada shareholders.

“We are where we are today because we have benefited from two key business competitions where we competed with other business start- ups for technical support.”

Mr Mochebelele said they have featured in a pan African start-up competition where they were named among the best eight of 300 entrepreneurs after showcasing their services and growth.

“We made the top eight best start-ups in the competition, and we went on to receive technical support which allowed us to form strategic partnerships with international companies.

“The World Bank also ran a similar competition which focused on the Southern Africa region. Here between 160 and 200 start-ups participated and were selected we were among the best 14 finalists who received technical support.”

This support has helped the company to come up with innovative digital solutions to better serve their customers.

Mr Mochebelele said the company had adopted a business-to-business approach to target a niche currently uncatered for by existing players.

“The fin-tech market in Lesotho is mostly on business to customer business approach (B2C). While we are also into B2C, our primary focus is on business-to-business approach (B2B).

“This means that businesses are forced to consume existing mobile money services. There is never a time when the mobile money operators (MNO) will ask businesses about their actual needs. Business care a lot about whether services they get are the right fit for their needs.

“But through the B2B approach, we can create special businesses to service the business customer fully. Through that, we have been able to bring on board many clients including the government, Alliance Insurance and Pulamaliboho Financial Services.

On her part, Chaperone’ sales and distribution manager, Hlompho Hlalele, said the C- Pay mobile money platform did not discriminate between users of different network operators.

“Since we do not discriminate against mobile network operators, users can send money and buy airtime across different networks.

“Currently, we are onboarding about 320 agents from remote rural areas. This means we are looking to have 660 agents countrywide by the end of this year,” Ms Hlalele said.

The company is also introducing a new product offering, currently at pilot stage.

“We are not only focusing on mobile money, and we are bringing user friendly products to the market. They are very flexible and very innovative. One of these is a new product which is an advance product which can allow our users to get an advance to buy things like electricity, pay insurance and other services. We are currently piloting it.

“The expectation is that a person should be able to pay it back within 30 days.  The thinking is that now that we have digitised the operations of our partners, we will be able to do what is called alternative credit scoring. What it does is to rate the credit worthiness of our clients. In the back end we are supported by Amazon to bring financial inclusion to Africa.”

The company also has the Market Place, a product which facilitates electronic commerce (e-commerce).

“Market Place helps people who would like to promote their business products online. The Covid-19 pandemic has opened our eyes to digital ways of selling our products. Any business is welcome. It can be used by individuals and companies. If you need to buy anything, you can go into our portal to order what you want and pay using your C-Pay or a Visa or Mastercard. You can also access cab services for delivery on the C-Pay App,” Ms Hlalele said.

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