woman standing next to table of groceries

Mamamoni Ltd is a Nigerian fintech social enterprise that is closing the credit gap for low-income female entrepreneurs in rural and urban slum communities in Nigeria through easy access to finance and micro-loans. Its non-profit arm, Mamamoni Empowerment Foundation, provides free vocational and financial skills and grants to low-income rural and urban women to help them establish and maintain businesses that provide for themselves and their families.

Since its inception in 2013, Mamamoni has impacted 8,050 women in 100 communities, also indirectly impacting over 40,000 children. It was founded by Nkem Okocha, a social innovator passionate about financial inclusion, women empowerment, technology and entrepreneurship. A 2015 TEF alumnus and 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow, Nkem is dedicated to bringing about the change that is possible from investing in poor women in underserved communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic and mandatory lockdowns resulted in hardship for millions of women, many of whom were already in precarious financial situations prior to the pandemic. During this time, Mamamoni distributed food and money to indigent women in various rural and urban communities. The Mamamoni team also organised sensitisation missions to markets, educating traders about COVID-19 and distributing masks, hand sanitisers and food items. When nationally mandated lockdowns ended, Mamamoni found that many women had ben forced to use both capital and profits from their businesses to survive, and would be unable to repay any business loans. Instead, they pivoted to supporting women in their network via microgrants, providing “stock financing” i.e., purchasing goods to allow traders restock their businesses, as well as finance training. With the support of some local partners, Mamamoni was able to reach 200 women in 8 Nigerian states.

To build a more sustainable framework for the thousands of women in its network and the thousands more it intends to reach, in 2021 Mamamoni is focused on scaling the enterprise to raise funds to build a more robust team with experience and expertise in microfinance and women empowerment. The business also intends to expand its lending services to women outside of Lagos State, and to establish its online platform as a peer-to-peer lending and donation platform for low-income female entrepreneurs. Through the platform, socially-conscious corporations, agencies and individuals can lend to existing businesses in Mamamoni’s network or donate funds to serve as grants for new businesses so that women who cannot afford to start new businesses in debt can also be included. Businesses established with grants that become sustainable can then graduate to the lending platform to have access to more credit options.

Mamamoni is doing more than providing financial assistance to Nigerian women. In partnership with Union Bank of Nigeria, the social enterprise established an Innovation Hub in Lagos, a free training centre where women can learn skills such as catering, make up, fashion design and more. Thanks to donor funds, a few select recipients of this training can receive funding and materials to enable them set up businesses to monetise their new skills. With more robust funding, Nkem says she hopes to provide every woman who goes through the Innovation Hub with necessary materials to start businesses in their chosen skill and register these businesses as sole proprietorships so that they can access the opportunities available to government-registered businesses. The brand has also recently launched a mobile learning app, SheSABI, where women can learn vocational skills for free, earn certificates, and access funding for their business.

You can hear stories from Nigerian women who have been impacted by Mamamoni via the MamaBiz documentary series.

Despite so-far raising most of its funds by referrals and word-of-mouth, Mamamoni has an established track record of empowering women and is positioning the brand to become a resource similar to Kiva for women-led businesses in Nigeria, and eventually Africa.

Mamamoni is also launching a micro-loans lending app in August to enable low-income female entrepreneurs access funding from their mobile phones anywhere they are in Nigeria. It is a progressive web application and Android app. This new solution will enable women in rural communities act as agents who can bring banking to other women in their communities, assisting them with financial transactions and accessing loans.

The work being done at Mamamoni is so vital because 2020 statistics reported a 40.1% poverty headcount level in Nigeria. This stark figure is compounded by rising inflation rates. In addition, despite the admirable work being done by many emerging and established fintech startups in the country, there is still a significant unbanked population – financial exclusion rates lie around 37%. Even as SMEs provide a means out of unemployment, women in rural and urban slum areas must be recognised and given the tools and support they need, because women entrepreneurs are indeed a force to be reckoned with, and when a woman is economically empowered, it has a ripple effect on the family and society.

I met Nkem in July 2015, and supported Mamamoni micro-fund with some funding. Within six months she was ready to return the initial investment with interest. I declined and asked the money be reinvested and used to support women. Over the years I have seen her grow and in 2018, I interviewed her for a documentary film. If you would like to support the work being done at Mamamoni, you can visit its web platform here, or contact the founder Nkem Okocha here.

About Parminder Vir OBE

In a professional career spanning 40 years, Parminder Vir OBE has dedicated her life to telling untold stories, resourcing the skills and imagination of under-served communities. She is an expert on African entrepreneurship, an award-winning film and television producer and advocate for arts and culture. She currently serves as the Chair of Ongoza, Kenya, and an Advisory Board member of Dalberg Media. She served as the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation where she designed and implemented a holistic entrepreneurship programme, impacting over 10,000 African entrepreneurs across 54 African countries from 2014–2019. She continues to advocate for entrepreneurship as the best path for the social and economic development of Africa.

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