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Mobile Usoni: Here’s to a mobile future

The Monthly Financial Sector Bulletin (MFSB) recently introduced “The Microfinance Interview”, a monthly question-and-answer feature through which it engages with key stakeholders of the sector such as microfinancial institutions (MFIs), funders, service providers, development partners and regulators amongst others on issues of topical and mutual interest.

In the first interview, NewsDay’s financial columnist and editor of the MFSB Omen Nyevero Muza (ONM) caught up with Cameron Goldie-Scotie (CGS), the chief executive officer of Musoni Services, a Netherlands-based provider of a core-banking system used by 17 financial organisations in Zimbabwe, and discussed their current work and plans in the country.

ONM: What’s Musoni System and who is behind it?

CGS: Musoni is a multi-award winning core-banking system used by more than 75 organisations in 14 countries around the world. The software has been consistently proven to help financial organisations improve efficiency, reduce costs, and expand outreach into the rural areas where the majority of the unbanked live. Musoni Services is a Dutch company based in Amsterdam. Before starting Musoni Services, the team founded the world’s first 100% mobile microfinance institution in the world in Kenya in 2009, now serving over 40 000 clients.

As a result, we have first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to run a microfinance organisation and challenges faced in finding the perfect core banking system.

ONM: For a system that is from the Netherlands, what’s the origin of the name Musoni, a word which also exists in the Shona language in Zimbabwe?

CGS: Musoni stands for ‘Mobile Usoni’, which means “mobile future” in Swahili. We like to think that our use of technology represents the future of microfinance, and we take our clients on a technology journey.

ONM: What types of organisations are using this service in Zimbabwe and how many are they currently? What’s the international profile of the product like?

CGS: We currently work with 17 financial organisations in Zimbabwe, ranging from young companies just starting out, to more established organisations like Microking (now Microcred), Virl, Inclusive Financial Services, First Choice and many others. Globally we work with over 75 organisations across 14 different countries, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa.

ONM: How long has the system been in Zimbabwe and have you established any partnerships yet?

CGS: We first started working in Zimbabwe in early 2014 and after an extensive request for proposals process, we were selected as the first preferred and recommended software provider by Zimbabwe Association of Microfinance Institutions (Zamfi). We also work with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, mainly through the Financial Inclusion Thematic Working Groups such as the Microfinance Thematic Working Group.

Aside from that, from a technical perspective, we have integrated with local players such as EcoCash and PayNet, enabling MFIs to process SMS campaign messages such as payment reminders across all the mobile networks.

ONM: What challenges have you faced trying to penetrate the Zimbabwean market to service MFIs?

CGS: The Zimbabwean market is obviously challenging, as MFIs have less access to external debt financing than we see in other markets. This, of course, makes it harder for them to grow quickly at a sustainable rate. All the same, I believe this is where technology can make a real difference.

Using mobile money, tablet apps and credit scoring makes it more affordable to grow client numbers in previously hard-to-reach areas and we believe we can help MFIs to stay competitive and expand financial inclusion.

ONM: What would you say are your opportunities in relation to Zimbabwe?

CGS: A large proportion of the population still has no access to financial services. We are a social impact company first and foremost; so, improving access to financial inclusion is a core goal for us.

This is also a huge opportunity for Zimbabwean MFIs and those using technology like Musoni system will stand the best chance of growing rapidly in the coming years. We’re also excited and privileged to work with both Zamfi and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

ONM: We understand that you have just released the latest edition of Musoni System. What makes it different from the previous version?

CGS: We continuously work on enhancing the functionality of our system through feedback from our clients, potential clients and ongoing research.

To this end, we have just released the latest version of the Musoni System. We have added a lot of really exciting new functionality, including a custom report builder, the ability to build custom document templates (like loan contracts), send emails to clients and much more.

ONM: There are several management information systems on offer in Zimbabwe for MFIs. What’s Musoni’s unique selling proposition?

CGS: We’re the only provider that offers the full suite of technology to all our MFIs, including EcoCash integration, the SMS module, the tablet application, credit scoring and more.

Most providers offer just a core banking system and force the MFI to integrate with other vendors or pay more for additional features. We include it all as standard functionality, making it easier than ever for organisations to start benefiting straight out of the box.

ONM: We understand the Musoni System is a winner of an international award? Can you tell us about this award in terms of who conferred it and what’s it for?

CGS: Yes! We recently won the BBVA Financial Inclusion Special Award in recognition for our work in improving both the quality and availability of financial services around the world. The award was judged by a panel including judges from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, BBVA and the IIF Conference.

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