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How to Maintain a Healthy Portfolio during Covid-19: Invest in your Customers

It has been a difficult year for most of us financially. The covid-19 pandemic has affected many businesses and has left many people furloughed, 30% or more reductions in pay or in some cases unpaid leave. The International Labour Organization, in a recent article, estimates that about 25 million people globally could become unemployed with the loss of income as high as USD 3.4 trillion globally. In Kenya alone, the labour ministry estimates a loss of 342,300 jobs since April with 133,657 of those being formal jobs and about half a  million employees  being sent on unpaid leave. 

Financial institutions are not immune to the adverse effects of this pandemic. Some of the pandemic aggravated challenges include:

  • low loan repayment rates from customers and reduced agent/customer relation due to mobility restrictions
  • policy changes leading to  reduced interest rates
  • restricted movement of field staff and agents 

Given these challenges, financial institutions are now pushed to rethink their strategies and find remote solutions using technology to overcome the adverse effects of business disruptions caused by Covid-19. To maintain a healthy loan portfolio, the financial service industry should consider supporting the financial wellbeing of their customers to reach a win-win. At Arifu, we have seen great success and ROI for our partners that are investing in building customer financial capacity.

A case in point is Arifu’s partnership with Vodacom in Tanzania, where MPawa users were provided with interactive mobile training via SMS on topics such as savings, loans and product knowledge. A study conducted by CGAP found that customers that accessed at least 10 messages in the Arifu training had:

  • 8x increase in savings deposits
  • 20% increase in average loan size
  • And 9 day sooner first payment of loans

To read more about this project, click here

Financial institutions can derive value from investing in the upskilling of their customers on topics such as adopting better financial management practices, diversifying their incomes and finding innovative ways to combat the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic at an individual and household level. The medium and long term outcome of promoting better financial management practices is seeing an increase in customer repayment rates and a healthier bottom line.

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© 2020 Arifu. All Rights Reserved
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Articles Life At Arifu

An update from our CCO

MANDEEP BIRDI

Greetings readers.

As the new and first CCO of Arifu, I take immense pleasure in announcing the launch of our Arifu Whatsapp channel, which launched in early August and is continuously being updated with more and more content in collaboration with some of our partners.

Social media messaging accounted for around 40% of user activity among a vast sample base of 15,000 tracked apps and three different WhatsApp mod versions were among the ten most used messaging apps according to analysis based on anonymously logged smartphone activity tracked by Caribou Data’s research app on users’ phones, with their permission.

As of July 2020, WhatsApp has topped over 2 billion users. The platform is particularly ubiquitous in the Global South, especially in countries with unreliable internet and low average incomes and local entrepreneurs are not only using Whatsapp for personal messaging but also selling their products.

Source: Statista

As an example, I can order fish from a Mombasa fisher using WhatsApp and even though I tried to convince the merchant to consider an online e-commerce website, he politely declined on the basis that he has generated sufficient orders all via WhatsApp. In his own words “WhatsApp is already there,” Ricardo says. “So it’s the easiest way to reach somebody.”

I also foresee that with companies such as KaiOS and Safaricom’s, there will be a massive increase in the growth of smartphones in Africa. In recent news a few days old, Safaricom in a unique partnership with Google has launched a new product where customers can now access a brand new 4G-enabled smartphone by paying as low as KES20 daily for the devices. Safaricom will now give qualifying customers more accessible access to the internet through their world-first initiative dubbed Lipa Mdogo Mdogo in partnership with Android, Google’s operating system for mobile. This initiative will allow qualifying customers access to the internet and the world of possibilities through a smartphone that they can pay-as-they-use on a daily or weekly basis which will only increase the use of data messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

So in summary, I am delighted that we now have the ability for our learners to be able to learn through any of our diverse channels: iSMS, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Telegram. We look forward to continuous innovation both in terms of channels as well as expanding our content library to keep learners engaged and create an impact for every learner that interacts with Arifu.

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Life At Arifu

My 7 weeks since joining Arifu: Stephanie Pownall

It’s been 7 weeks since I joined Arifu and I’d like to take a moment to reflect on my experience thus far. Being a recent college graduate, I was overwhelmed with the excitement to get this opportunity to work at a cutting edge impact business. To me, Arifu offers an excellent opportunity to apply my academic knowledge and build practical professional skills. 

Why did I join Arifu you ask? Firstly, I am keen to gain some experience in the agriculture technology space as it helps me combine my keen interest in agriculture and helps me explore infinite applications of technology.  Undoubtedly,  Arifu was the perfect fit for me as it leverages the power of technology to bring relevant information to those that need it the most; vulnerable communities that are challenged by information asymmetry to achieve opportunity and earn livelihoods. As part of my BA in economics program at The Catholic University of Eastern Africa, I wrote my degree thesis on the correlation between training and productivity in the agricultural sector, specifically for smallholder farmers. The geographical focus of the study was Kiambu in central Kenya and through my research, I discovered that there is a significant information gap in rural areas compared to urban areas such as Nairobi due to smartphone penetration implying digital divide.  This insight and challenge made me more curious to dive deeper and learn further about some of the market based solutions that are potentially solving this issue. My ecosystem research led me to Arifu and I’m grateful to get the opportunity to work in the Business development unit as an associate.

Upon starting with Arifu and learning about its product and services offerings, I realised the importance of partnerships’ function at Arifu. Further understanding, these partnerships have helped us reach over 1.4 million learners/users across Sub Saharan Africa while providing a low cost and a highly scalable information dissemination solution for business partners. Arifu’s interactive capabilities enable our partners to gain insights and bridge the information gap between partners and the last mile. Furthermore, I had always hoped to work within a company that is driven by making a positive impact across the board in our society. Changing lives and helping people thrive! I wanted to be a part of that.

My first day at Arifu typically felt like one does when they try something new. I was nervous, anxious, a little scared but mostly excited and looking forward to getting started with this new journey. It was a foreign environment with all new people and systems to me. The highlight of my first day was knowing that I had someone new just like me, Andrew Thiong’o, whom I didn’t know much about but got along really well with. He was equally recently recruited into the team and the support we offered each other from orientation and the introductory tasks assigned to us aided in quicker adoption into the working environment . It was comforting knowing that I was not alone in this new journey or environment because we assisted each other in getting settled into the unfamiliar system.

As a BD associate my responsibilities involve assisting the team with  building technical and strategic partnerships. Specifically, my day to day job includes communicating with potential partners, providing information about Arifu, writing proposals and tracking work. Moreover, the position means interacting with everyone in the BD team and being of assistance wherever and whenever they need. Being assigned tasks in different aspects has personally been a great learning experience thus far. It’s taught me to be quicker on my feet, encouraged me to take more initiative when getting things done plus think outside the box. My colleagues have played a huge part in helping me learn what business development truly entails and how they manage all their responsibilities beats me!

I know that Arifu is truly going to be a wonderful experience as we go along and the learning process will be ongoing. Being with the Arifu family aligns perfectly with my goals to gain the necessary agtech experience, travel the world as well as help bring positive change to our communities at large. I’m excited for the future opportunities and I hope to make a positive difference in the world as my colleagues, as well as our partners are. A step at a time!

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Categories
Life At Arifu

My first 7 weeks at Arifu: Andrew Thiongo

Getting a new job is always a great feeling. Your emotions vary from happiness, anxiety, anticipation and even a fear of the unknown. These were some of the emotions I experienced when I received my job offer letter from Arifu in May earlier on this year. From the onset, I knew that Arifu would be a great  fit for me and 7 weeks in, I have been able to appreciate how amazing the company is and the role it is playing in making the world a better place. 

Before we get too far, let me explain what Arifu is and how the company operates. Arifu is a digital advisor and content marketplace which can be accessed free of charge on feature phones via a short- code of 22744 (in Kenya) and on WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook Messenger on smartphones. Arifu offers insightful and impactful content on good agricultural practices, financial literacy, business management and even youth employability skills, free of charge. We even have content on covid-19 which addresses signs and symptoms to be aware of and also prevention measures like learning how to make DIY facemasks and hand sanitizer.The content is action oriented and focuses on creating the desired behavior change amongst the learners who are able to utilize this information and make great strides in improving their lives.   

We also help our partners to increase awareness about their products and services. My manager @Ritika has an awesome way of describing Arifu as a Netflix of content because learners are able to access a variety of insightful information on different subject matters from our partners.

Reasons for Joining Arifu

I joined Arifu because Arifu’s main aim is to positively impact people’s lives through education. My educational background has enabled me to fully understand how learning new skills and acquiring more knowledge can help you achieve your goals in life. I also joined Arifu because I wanted to challenge myself as a business development professional and find ways on how Arifu and its cutting edge interactive technology can add value to businesses that have direct linkages with the communities. I’d like to learn more about how technology plays a role in agriculture, finance, energy and even youth employability training which is an area I especially feel that we can contribute a lot. Embracing digital learning through platforms like Arifu can help boost economic development in emerging markets such as sub saharan Africa, India and other regions where digitally disseminating  knowledge on good agricultural practices, business and financial management and other impactful information can help improve living standards for people in underserved communities. These are some of the top pull factors that got me to join Arifu. The next section will cover details of my first day Arifu, my responsibilities and how I think Arifu fits well with my long term career goals. 

My first day at Arifu

My first day at Arifu was a memorable day for sure. I had been eagerly waiting for this moment ever since I signed the offer letter which was immediately an hour after I received it. The day started off with an email inviting me for a team lunch and receiving lots of emails from the Arifu family welcoming me as one of their own. The team lunch had to take place virtually though, because the entire company was working from home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.  It was a lot of fun getting to know the team and also answering some of the questions that the team inquired about me. Some of the questions they had included what my interests and hobbies are and what book I was currently reading.  

What are my responsibilities

My role at Arifu is to help the organization generate more revenue and seek out more opportunities to expand learning to millions of learners. My specific responsibilities at Arifu involve assisting the team with stitching technical and strategic partnerships with potential partners, building and maintaining successful relationships with existing clients and prospects, attending networking events, conferences and webinars.  My function leads to expanding Arifu’s network through attending networking events,  writing insightful articles and tracking work. 

What am I learning?

In my first 7 weeks at Arifu I have been able to learn a lot. The work culture that the company has, encourages us to learn on the job and to also become innovative and provide solutions that can enable further growth and development of the organization. One of the things I have learnt about Arifu is that our services such as content based marketing, training and providing real time data analytics about our learners to our partners helps our partners to tailor their strategies towards meeting the needs of the target audience. I am also learning  about the relationship between technology and other sectors such as agriculture, financial services, employability, energy amongst others. Working at Arifu has also shown me that a phone is much more than just a device, but it is also a medium that can be used to share very insightful and life changing information. I have also come to understand that education and information can be a great enabler in the fight against poverty across the globe. If more people continue to embrace learning and implementation of new skills, then we can grow to become more self-sufficient and independent as well.

How does Arifu fit into my long term – goal?

Arifu fits into my long-term goal because the company has provided me with an opportunity to learn as much as I can about how we can positively impact the lives of people in our society. I always believe that in everything we do we should always strive to positively impact those around us and to leave the world a better place than we found it. In the next 5 years, my career goal is to grow as a  business development professional and help Arifu secure strategic partnerships with more companies across the globe that are looking to positively impact the underserved people in different communities. Arifu provides a platform whereby I can be a change agent and help to socially and economically empower people from low income communities across this wonderful continent and across different parts of the world. My aim is to do more to effect change through education because as a direct beneficiary of education, I would love for others to embrace and enjoy the benefits of education and Arifu provides the perfect way to achieve this goal.

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