Mr. Chijioke Dozie is co-founder and CEO of Carbon Finance & Investments Limited and founder and chief executive officer at Paylater. Carbon has transformed from a micro-lending platform frankly captured by the name, PayLater to become the fintech fiefdom and challenger bank.
Carbon emerged from a rebranding that brought together OneFi – the holding company that acquired Amplify, a payment solutions company and PayLater, to become a one-stop-shop for fintech services. It is a digital bank, offering services that range from savings and investment products, fund transfer, lending and bills payments.
The new name appears to indicate the solidity built from the component parts that form the financial service bond the company planned to be ubiquitous in Africa. And so Carbon is spreading from Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa into Kenya – the hotbed of fintech.
At Carbon, Dozie is on a mission to give the banking public what it isn’t getting from regular banks: credit and that happens much faster and on easier terms. Its niche lies in the difference between the 40 million Nigerians that have bank accounts and the only one million of them that have active loans from a regulated financial institution.
A big hurdle for banks is credit bureaus that are able to capture only 11 percent of the population due to limited data. Credit files are thin for the rest of the population due to Nigeria’s poor addressing system, fragmented national identification systems and the prevalence of informal population.
Banks cannot therefore assess the credit worthiness of the larger segment of the population, which denies them access to credit.
Dozie resorted to a digital approach to proffer a solution by changing the source of data – the mobile phone. Mobile phone users generate volumes of non-traditional data through the use of the phones and therefore have transaction history.
Carbon is able to assess credit-worthiness by analyzing a consumer’s digital footprint. With that, it has opened a large credit market where it makes short term, unsecured loans to any customer with a smartphone and a bank account within 5 minutes, via a mobile app.
The strategy is one of coming down to the level of the market to design a fitting service. In Nigeria, as much as 60 percent of working adults belong to the informal sector of the economy and do not have formal records of their transactions – which is required to give them access to mainstream financial services. This is the gap that fintechs like Carbon are in the market to fill.
According to Dozie, fintechs make it possible for people without formal transaction records to access credit. They do so by redefining the barriers to entry and using existing information to connect people to the funds they need.
The advantage, he said is that “fintechs also offer a faster and more cost-effective way to deliver potentially life-changing financial services to a wider range of people than the traditional banking model has done to date”.
The difference is that the financial exclusion under traditional banking practice has given way for financial inclusion by fintechs. The emergence of fintechs as a popular choice for investment in Africa hinges on the issue of financial inclusion.
Dozie explains that financial inclusion for Africans goes beyond access to a bank account to deposit money. “It is about having access to advisory and business management services that can enable their lives and businesses to thrive and flourish”, he said.
He has positioned Carbon to exploit the opportunity that digital banking has presented to address the pain points experienced by Africans in terms of low access to credit arising from underdeveloped banking system for the mass market. Leveraging the power of the mobile phone, the company has defined the huge unbanked/under banked market across the African continent as its target.
The founder’s vision is to build a Pan-African digital bank for Africa and Africans in the diaspora. “We want to be the most diverse digital finance platform anywhere and we are looking forward to expanding the range of services we deliver to customers in the markets we serve”, Dozie said. His launch into Kenya is a strategic step for him in realising the vision.
Carbon has unique operating features that distinguish its services from competitors. These include its hassle-free process that enables frictionless access to credit. It promises easy access to funds and other services with maximum convenience hardly found anywhere else. It requires no guarantors, collaterals or long approval processes.
The company also offers flexible saving schemes and interest rates on savings that beat the marks available from conventional banks.
It has also structured its services for the African market so that its products can truly impact individuals and businesses as widely as possible. Dozie enhances value deliveries across markets by taking learning from successful fintech markets and replicating in other markets.
Dozie holds Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University of East Anglia and a Master’s degree in risk management from the University of Reading. He obtained an MBA from Harvard Business School.
He worked with Zephyr Management LP in the United States and South Africa as an investment associate where he was in charge of sourcing private equity opportunities in Africa and working closely with Zephyr’s portfolio companies.
He later moved to International Finance Corporation as an investment analyst responsible for sourcing investment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa.