StanChart to use Nairobi MSME unit as a launchpad into Africa


Solv Kenya CEO Sheila Kimani. PHOTO | NMG

Solv Kenya, the Standard Chartered Plc-owned digital marketplace for small traders, plans to use the success of its operations in Nairobi as a benchmark to expand into other African markets, its chief executive Sheila Kimani has said.

The business-to-business platform, which formally launched operations on October 19 after a three-month pilot phase, enables credit-starved micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises to access funding based on their transaction history with suppliers without the need for collateral.

Solv says it will draw on lessons from Kenya to open other units on the continent where MSMEs dominate markets.

“We find that a lot of African countries or markets are very similar. There’s little difference in what you have to deal with when going to the market,” Ms Kimani said in an interview.

“The success of the Kenyan venture will definitely be the launchpad into the rest of Africa.”

The venture in Kenya by StanChart Plc of the UK— through its innovation, ventures, and fintech investments unit, SC Ventures — follows the successful launch in India in December 2020.

While the Indian platform is a business-to-business e-commerce marketplace where sellers reach new and verified customers, Kenya’s venture has initially focused on funding small traders such as bars and restaurants who are approved by large suppliers. The loan is spent on buying stock for their businesses.

Borrowers on the platform, who are nominated by suppliers, are required to digitally provide personal IDs, business permits, and their photos as part of the approval process.

“For Solv India, their entry point was an e-commerce platform, but for Kenya, the first thing we wanted to address is supply chain finance,” Ms Kimani said.

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