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Putting Financial Power into Africa’s Phones

“We believe that poverty alleviation starts with financial inclusion,” declares Emma Smith (USA, UWC-USA, Duke ’16). She is the cofounder and chief operating officer of Eversend, a startup that offers Africans a mobile-phone-based “multi-currency e-wallet.”

Over 66 percent of African adults lack a bank account, Emma notes, but nearly all have a mobile phone, and about half of those phones have a money account for simple domestic payments. “We thought: Can we create a platform for financial services more comprehensive, more complete, that integrates with mobile money operators and leverages their adoption?”

Eversend allows users to pay bills, buy insurance, build credit, and spend and send money from mobile phones at affordable rates. Launched in March 2019, Eversend had 24,000 users by year’s end, and had handled over $1 million in 23,000 completed transactions. The company serves Uganda and Kenya, with plans for growing into Nigeria and Ghana early in 2020.

“It's taken a lot of wonder, wander, and failure to land up on Eversend,” says Emma, who lived out of a carry-on suitcase for two years and “stayed on the couches of too many UWCers to count,” traveling to over 25 countries in 2019. She was named to the 2019 Forbes “30 Under 30” list for technology in Europe.

“At Eversend, we are made up of Indians, Kenyans, Ugandans, Americans,” Emma says. “Our investors are Swedish, German, American. My home is the people, nations and cultures that I work alongside for peace and a better future.”