Mamamoni is a social enterprise that empowers women to break the cycle of poverty with free vocational skills and mobile loans.
When Okocha Nkem was a child in Lagos, Nigeria, her father died. Because her mother had no marketable skills and no access to finance, the family was stuck in a cycle of poverty.
When a family friend visited them, and saw their condition, he took pity and gave Nkem’s mother a small amount of money. Instead of using the money to buy much-needed food and school fees, Nkem’s mother took the money and traveled to a far off-village where she bought vegetables. She brought them back to Lagos and sold the vegetables for a profit. She began doing this regularly to support the family. Because there were four children, this money was still not enough. So, Nkem joined her in the market, selling cosmetics.
Nkem eventually became a house help, living with a family and caring for their children. This allowed Nkem to pay her school fees. She went on to complete her university degree and landed a secure role in a bank. But Nkem is an entrepreneur. While working in the bank, she also built a small “side hustle” business doing web and mobile development. And after eight years, her project became big enough for her to move to this work full time.
As Nkem went to her office every day, she met women who were stuck in poverty because they lacked the skills and capital, just as her mother had years before. These women would come to her and say “Aunty, can you help? I have not eaten today.” Nkem took her meager means and printed fliers. She enrolled a friend into helping her to train these women in vocational skills. She bought the supplies needed to teach the class. She invited women in her community to the class for free.
Nkem began to teach these women skills that would allow them to start businesses. She lent them working capital from her small personal savings. She also added financial acumen training to help them to keep track of their businesses. They developed a tool kit to help these women keep track of their finances. Because these women were un-banked, she developed a mobile money platform that would give them access to banking services. This was the beginning of Mamamoni.
For two years, Nkem funded the initiative from her personal business. She documented what she was doing on social media.
In 2015, the US Consulate General put out a call for proposals for businesses that empower women. Nkem put in a proposal, describing her work at Mamamoni. Because the embassy could see the evidence of her two years of work on social media, they agreed to fund her.
Mamamoni is a Fintech social enterprise that breaks the cycle of poverty, creates livelihood and improves financial inclusion through vocational skills and mobile loans. Mamamoni’s web platform enables individuals anywhere to invest in poor women by lending to them, helping them to break the cycle of poverty.
The women are organized in groups of ten with a group leader. Loans are repaid weekly to the group leader. Because of this social process, their loan payback record is over 99%. More than 90% of the women that they have trained have started a business. Through this process, Mamamoni has been able to train more than 4,000 women. This allows them to feed, clothe and educate their children.
Note: Nigeria is one of several countries in which a person’s surname (family name) is mentioned before their first name. Okocha is her surname. Nkem is her first name. While it might be a bit confusing for some, in this interview, I say her name in the preferred order.
Advice to Break the Cycle of Poverty
Nkem advises, “Start small. Don’t wait. I was waiting until I had millions. I always thought you had to have a lot of money before impacting people. But when I saw that, these people really needed my help, I just started with what I had. If you’re going to start, start with what you have. It might be your talent. It might be your time. As you go on, things will begin to fall in place.”
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Okocha Nkem
“Going to school, feeding, was a very big challenge for us.”
“As I was growing up, I had to learn many skills.”
“She has eight children. Some of them are in school now.”
“I used what I had to do what I wanted to do. Then the funders started coming.”
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Mamamoni: http://mamamoni.org
- Mamamoni on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mamamoni.org
- Mamamoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mobilewomenbiz
- Mamamoni on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mamamoni_nigeria
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