Buy now, Pay Later Isn’t Just About Increasing Retail Sales But Financial Inclusion

By Soko Directory Team / Published January 27, 2024 | 7:14 am



Money Market Funds

It’s no secret that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to achieving true financial inclusion in Africa. As recently as 2021, 45% of people in sub-Saharan Africa didn’t have access to a formal bank account.

That doesn’t just make it difficult for them to save effectively, but also to access formal lines of credit. 

The thing is, when most people talk about financial exclusion and the proposed solutions to it, they tend to focus on the “big” economic movers that come with financial inclusion.

A lot of attention, for example, is given to affordable home and vehicle financing and business and education loans. That’s understandable too: those are all vital tools in helping people advance economically. 

But financial inclusion can’t be limited to those big-ticket items. It must also cover many of the day-to-day purchases that people in other markets take for granted. We cannot, after all, talk about real financial inclusion if someone can access a business loan but still has to approach informal lenders to pay for their child’s school uniforms and stationery.

It’s why the rise of “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) services in Africa is so important. These services allow people to purchase items and choose to pay for them over a specified period, typically in installments with low-interest rates.

Unlike lay-by offerings, people are allowed to take possession of their goods immediately. While these offerings are most visible online, they’re increasingly common in physical retail spaces too.

A personal journey

There are several examples of how BNPL can empower ordinary Africans by enhancing their purchasing power. Maybe it’s someone needing to buy a new suit for a job interview, a promising athlete needing a new pair of running spikes as they look to secure a university scholarship, or someone needing to buy a laptop to start their side hustle.

Sometimes (as I discovered myself when I returned to Kenya in 2017 after studying in the USA), it’s just about staying connected. As I trawled the malls of Nairobi looking to buy a phone (something few of us can live without), I realized that very few stores had the option to pay off a device in installments. It came as a stark contrast to the US, where installment plans are available almost everywhere.

But it was also a lightbulb moment that inspired the founding of Lipa Later. I realized how effective BNPL could be in the Kenyan and broader African contexts, particularly if it was adapted to the way Africans shop.

That vision was further crystallised in the early days of the business when my co-founder Michael Maina spent hours walking around malls, speaking to shoppers. Many, he found out, wanted a specific phone that was just out of reach but which they could easily pay off over a few months.

BNPL for predominantly offline markets 

While many of us are familiar with BNPL in e-commerce contexts, we knew that launching an e-commerce-only BNPL product would have limited efficacy in an African context. Even in a country as renowned for embracing technology as Kenya, online made up just 4% of all retail sales in 2021 (the most recent year for which I could find figures).

But getting physical retailers on board with the concept wasn’t always easy. In the early days especially, there were a lot more noes than yeses. Nonetheless, we persisted because we knew that, implemented correctly, the BNPL solution we were building could be a “lifeline for a lifetime” for both our retailer and consumer customers.

As a result, today, we have a BNPL offering that works as effectively in offline physical retail settings as it does online. And because we’ve taken an attitude that everything about Lipa Later, from the name (Lipa is Swahili for “pay”) to the technology, should be tailored for Africa, we’ve been able to expand beyond Kenya into Uganda and Rwanda.

We also welcome the growing competition in the African BNPL space, not only because it’s pushed us to keep improving our offering (a partnership with Mastercard means that we’ll soon be rolling out the first buy now, pay the later card in Africa, for example) but also because it’ll help advance financial inclusion across Africa.

An increasingly important financial inclusion tool 

While BNPL can’t eliminate debt it can make a dent in it, and with nearly 60% of Kenyans living in debt and similarly high numbers across many countries on the continent, its role will only become increasingly important.

Without having to resort to expensive informal lenders, customers can save more of their money or use it on things that improve their lives, rather than simply servicing debt. As operators become mature and innovative (rewarding the best-paying customers with even lower interest rates, for example), their value will keep growing.

But consumers aren’t the only ones who benefit from this expanded financial inclusion. Retailers also benefit from increased customer bases. Those increased sales, in turn, can lead to expansion and even contribute to national economic growth.

So, as important as more traditional forms of financial inclusion are, it’s important to remember that consumer spending power is a critical component of financial inclusion, too. Tailored effectively to African realities, there are few more powerful instruments for improving that spending power than BNPL.

Read Also: The Role Of Fintechs In Bridging Financial Inclusion Gap in Africa




About Soko Directory Team

Soko Directory is a Financial and Markets digital portal that tracks brands, listed firms on the NSE, SMEs and trend setters in the markets eco-system.Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/SokoDirectory and on Twitter: twitter.com/SokoDirectory

View other posts by Soko Directory Team


More Articles From This Author








Trending Stories










Other Related Articles










SOKO DIRECTORY & FINANCIAL GUIDE



ARCHIVES

2024
  • January 2024 (238)
  • February 2024 (227)
  • March 2024 (11)
  • 2023
  • January 2023 (182)
  • February 2023 (203)
  • March 2023 (322)
  • April 2023 (298)
  • May 2023 (268)
  • June 2023 (214)
  • July 2023 (212)
  • August 2023 (257)
  • September 2023 (237)
  • October 2023 (266)
  • November 2023 (284)
  • December 2023 (176)
  • 2022
  • January 2022 (293)
  • February 2022 (329)
  • March 2022 (358)
  • April 2022 (292)
  • May 2022 (271)
  • June 2022 (232)
  • July 2022 (278)
  • August 2022 (253)
  • September 2022 (246)
  • October 2022 (196)
  • November 2022 (232)
  • December 2022 (167)
  • 2021
  • January 2021 (182)
  • February 2021 (227)
  • March 2021 (325)
  • April 2021 (259)
  • May 2021 (285)
  • June 2021 (272)
  • July 2021 (277)
  • August 2021 (232)
  • September 2021 (271)
  • October 2021 (305)
  • November 2021 (364)
  • December 2021 (249)
  • 2020
  • January 2020 (272)
  • February 2020 (310)
  • March 2020 (390)
  • April 2020 (321)
  • May 2020 (335)
  • June 2020 (327)
  • July 2020 (333)
  • August 2020 (276)
  • September 2020 (214)
  • October 2020 (233)
  • November 2020 (242)
  • December 2020 (187)
  • 2019
  • January 2019 (251)
  • February 2019 (215)
  • March 2019 (283)
  • April 2019 (254)
  • May 2019 (269)
  • June 2019 (249)
  • July 2019 (335)
  • August 2019 (293)
  • September 2019 (306)
  • October 2019 (313)
  • November 2019 (362)
  • December 2019 (318)
  • 2018
  • January 2018 (291)
  • February 2018 (213)
  • March 2018 (275)
  • April 2018 (223)
  • May 2018 (235)
  • June 2018 (176)
  • July 2018 (256)
  • August 2018 (247)
  • September 2018 (255)
  • October 2018 (282)
  • November 2018 (282)
  • December 2018 (184)
  • 2017
  • January 2017 (183)
  • February 2017 (194)
  • March 2017 (207)
  • April 2017 (104)
  • May 2017 (169)
  • June 2017 (205)
  • July 2017 (189)
  • August 2017 (195)
  • September 2017 (186)
  • October 2017 (235)
  • November 2017 (253)
  • December 2017 (266)
  • 2016
  • January 2016 (164)
  • February 2016 (165)
  • March 2016 (189)
  • April 2016 (143)
  • May 2016 (245)
  • June 2016 (182)
  • July 2016 (271)
  • August 2016 (247)
  • September 2016 (233)
  • October 2016 (191)
  • November 2016 (243)
  • December 2016 (153)
  • 2015
  • January 2015 (1)
  • February 2015 (4)
  • March 2015 (164)
  • April 2015 (107)
  • May 2015 (116)
  • June 2015 (119)
  • July 2015 (145)
  • August 2015 (157)
  • September 2015 (186)
  • October 2015 (169)
  • November 2015 (173)
  • December 2015 (205)
  • 2014
  • March 2014 (2)
  • 2013
  • March 2013 (10)
  • June 2013 (1)
  • 2012
  • March 2012 (7)
  • April 2012 (15)
  • May 2012 (1)
  • July 2012 (1)
  • August 2012 (4)
  • October 2012 (2)
  • November 2012 (2)
  • December 2012 (1)
  • 2011
    2010
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    2001
    2000
    1999
    1998
    1997
    1996
    1995
    1994
    1993
    1992
    1991
    1990
    1989
    1988
    1987
    1986
    1985
    1984
    1983
    1982
    1981
    1980
    1979
    1978
    1977
    1976
    1975
    1974
    1973
    1972
    1971
    1970
    1969
    1968
    1967
    1966
    1965
    1964
    1963
    1962
    1961
    1960
    1959
    1958
    1957
    1956
    1955
    1954
    1953
    1952
    1951
    1950