Amole is a digital wallet solution launched three years ago in partnership with Dashen Bank.

Amole, a mobile wallet application developed by Moneta Technologies S.C., launches digital micro-lending services, allowing users to take out loans of as much as 100,000 Br through electronic devices.

The service will cover both individual and business loans in its bucket and an analytical tool that reviews borrowers` transaction history to conduct credit appraisal, developers disclosed to Fortune. For businesses, a "buy now, pay later" arrangement will be available through which proprietors can purchases goods and stock through the digital app's financing. For this segment, the loans can amount up to a couple of million Birr.

Amole is a digital wallet solution launched three years ago in partnership with Dashen Bank. It has 2.1 million unique users, providing various digital payment solutions such as facilitating payments for utilities, airtime top-up, and payments for retail services.  In April this year, Moneta launched an international eCommerce gateway. Thus far, the service is being integrated with 10 merchants to receive international payments through the gateway available with Dashen Bank. Last week, as part of its payment infrastructure expansion, Amole partnered with Flutterwave, a fintech company founded by Nigerians and based in the US, to introduce remittance inflow through its wallet.

Over 232 million Br in payments circulated over Amole in the past two years, with the digital wallet's overall ecosystem amounting to 7.3 billion Br. The total number of transactions made over the service has reached over three million through a mobile app, web app, USSD, and Telegram bot combined.

According to the Yemiru Chanyalew, CEO, an 85pc decline in transactions was recorded following the breakout of COVID-19 in Ethiopia. The majority of payments made before the pandemic were related to sports, entertainment, school, and retail, all of which stagnated after the first case was recorded in March 2020. Having learned from that, Amole is diversifying its interest areas and shifting its focus toward e-commerce and e-delivery markets.

Sources working at Moneta confirmed that the digital micro-lending service would be launched in a month.

Amole is likely to kick off the services by providing business loans as they are less challenging in terms of establishing accountability, the sources disclosed. Credit analysis, scoring appraisal, and disbursement are all to be done digitally within minutes.

Although it has yet to be decided, the interest rates are expected to be far below what is offered by banks and microfinance institutions, which is as high as 20pc.

Although digital lending has not been tested extensively in Ethiopia, the experience of neighbouring countries such as Kenya is telling of what might lie ahead for Amole and others. In Kenya, 10pc of the population, a majority of the young generation, has been blacklisted for defaulting on micro-loans. It is a common phenomenon amongst the young, which experts attribute to the age group's tendency to spend money.

According to experts, to avoid such incidences where a significant amount of people default on loans, setting up a strong credit scoring mechanism is crucial. However, relying on existing credit data could be difficult due to the low coordination of data in Ethiopia, according to Kinfemichael Yibkaw, a financial expert with two decades of experience in banking. The expert suggests that looking into alternative means of credit scoring could be utilised. Studying the cash flow of individuals or businesses, using psychometric analysis from spending, internet, and mobile usage data and investigating patterns of repayment such as tax can be useful, according to him.

"The initiative is to be appreciated," said Kinfemichael, adding that it brings forth advantages that might be missing in conventional loan schemes.

Digital micro-lending is crucial in availing financial services to those who would have otherwise been unable to take out loans, besides the swiftness of the services.

PUBLISHED ON May 26,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1099]

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