HerVest is a social enterprise that provides financial inclusion for women through a Gender Lens approach. It is also built to help women around Africa to take control of their finances one impact at a time.
The CEO and Cofounder of HerVest, Solape Akinpelu came to a conclusion after years of working for a number of financial services companies in marketing, that there was an “alarming low adoption” by women for financial services in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole.
She recalls she could see women living the reality around her and those women could not make sound financial decisions. They do not even know they could do better with their money.
This problem she found was particularly acute for women living in rural areas, especially those working on farms.
This made her teamed up with Yomi Ogunleye in August 2020, to found Lagos Nigeria-based HerVest, a startup that describes itself as “an inclusive fintech company” serving underserved and excluded women in Africa through a gender lens. This was presented by the company at the Startup Battlefield.
Akinpelu said the startup provides familiar access to savings, fund transfers, financial insights, impact investment, and tools to underserved women while offering blended finance to smallholder female farmers in poor African communities.
In simple terms, it offers a way to invest in female farmers while seeing a return on that investment and gives the farmers the financial education and opportunities they might not have had access to.
Generally, HerVest aims to bridge the $42 billion gender finance gap for urban and last-mile women in the country with an emphasis on women in agriculture.
She also said, “We want to address the gender gap in Africa by giving access to savings and credit to women, regardless of who they are and where they live.”
HerVest has over 4,000 women on its platform just after a year Akinpelu started the company. The company started its operations as a distributed company and still operates as one.
HerVest raised a friends and family funding round of $100,000 and the company plans to add the capital to its nine-person team, strengthen its digital infrastructure, and accelerate marketing efforts.
Akinpelu’s last role before becoming the CEO of HerVest was head of marketing for capital market conglomerate Mersitem, and prior to that, she worked for various financial brands in marketing.
The experience gave her the insight into the need to provide more access to financial services for women. Akinpelu believes the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis have only emphasized the vulnerability of low-income women.
She told TechCrunch, “This makes financial inclusion ever more critical as a means for women to recover from the global crisis and build resilience in the long term.
While starting with Nigeria, a country where Akinpelu says is home to over 57 million working women, HerVest has plans to roll out its platform into other West and East African countries in 2022.
“The problem we’re solving is an African finance gender gap, not just Nigerian,” Akinpelu said. To get the word out, HerVest has relied on referrals and partnerships with cooperatives and social media. The company has a live app on iOS and Android and recently launched a desktop application.
HerVest says, according to its website, its cooperative members “can earn as high as 25% annualized returns while strengthening the financial capacity of female farmers” through access to capital, training, and markets.
Akinpelu said what this means is, women with disposable income pool funds together as credits (impact investment) for smallholder women farmers as a cooperative.
By investing in these women, HerVest aims to provide growth opportunities toward specific crops, grain banking, livestock, and provision of digitized e-extension services to female small-scale farmers in rural areas.
“To assure our stakeholders, our funds are held in trust by a trustee firm, FBNQuest Trustees Limited. This is an added layer of accountability and transparency of our funds management.”
She said “In addition, women also get to create automatic savings plans toward their personal goals. Picture an “inclusive neobank for women.”