Evelyn Kaingu, a Zambian fintech champion empowering women and business — Lionesses of Africa

Lioness Weekender spoke to change-maker Evelyn Kaingu about her passion and commitment to playing her part to build inclusive digital financial products that empower women and help support small businesses to grow.

What does your company do?

Lupiya is the first online lending marketplace that provides financial services to 65% of the adult population in Zambia with a special focus on women. Lupiya leverages technology to provide a low cost branchless service to this demographic. By employing alternative data in advanced machine learning models, Lupiya is able to provide credit to a large market segment that was ignored by traditional financial institutions.

What inspired you to start your company?

After leaving full time employment, my husband and I set up a trading business. With a few months of traction in the business, we were fortunate to be awarded a large supply contract which we were unable to fulfill because we lacked capital and did not meet the requirements of most formal lenders. This experience brought us to the reality that millions of small businesses in Africa shutdown every year, as did our trading business, because of lack of access to capital. We then set out to create a low cost model that required minimum requirements to access a loan that would use an alternative data scoring model to provide access to loans to individuals and businesses who are marginalized from formal financial institutions.

Why should anyone use your service or product?

We built the first fully online low-cost platform in Zambia which helps individuals and businesses access financial products affordably with very minimum requirements.

Tell us a little about your team

We are a young team of hustlers and “hackers” whose self-beliefs align that, everyone should be given an equal chance to better their lives through access to financial services. We are committed to playing our part to build inclusive digital financial products that empower women, help support businesses and educate children in the regions that we operate.

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

With very short experience of running a trading business, I ventured into developing financial service products with only $500 to invest in Lupiya. In 2016, I co-founded Lupiya, with a goal to expand access to credit and lower the cost of borrowing for millions of Zambians. In 2018, I launched Lupiya for Women, a special focus financing product that would help support small women enterprises. I knew that one of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs in Zambia was access to credit through a platform with affordable repayment terms. This product has supported women entrepreneurs access small loans and financial literacy products. I have designed products with very few resources and bootstrapped Lupiya with support from friends and family until its pre-seed investment in 2020 from Enygma Ventures of $1m. Some of the notable awards Lupiya has received include:
1. Top runner up, Startup Cup Challenge, WECREATE| Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia, 2016.
2. Nominated as country representative, Global Entrepreneurship Summit Hyderabad, India, 2017.
3. Runner Up, Digital and Economy Innovation, GIST Catalyst Pitch Competition, Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Hyderabad, India 2017.
4. Aspen Ideas Festival Fellowship, 2019.
5. Country representative startup, Afro-Asia Fintech festival, Kenya, 2019.
6. E-commerce award for financial inclusion, 2020.
7. Google Black Founders Fund recipients, 2021.
8. AfricaArena, Best Series A startup – Southern Africa, 2021.
9. Global Startup Awards, Startup of the Year – Southern Africa Region, 2021.

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

In serving our customers for the past 5 years, we have learnt first-hand that providing credit only solves part of the financial exclusion problem. Our customers need access to a fuller suite of financial services such as savings, investments and insurance. It is for this reason that we have started to broaden our service offering to become the first digital bank that is solving problems for emerging African markets.

What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?

Being able to wake up every day and intentionally solve problems for the demographic that we serve.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?

Reflecting on how we started Lupiya with only $500, I would advise women to launch businesses with whatever resources they have at hand and “keep building the plane while flying”.

To learn more about the work of Lupiya and its vision for the future, contact: evelyn.kaingu@lupiya.com or visit the company website: https://www.lupiya.com/pages/home. Alternatively, follow Lupiya on social media: 


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