Kenya’s Hisa Play upskilling youth in stocks and shares

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Kenyan startup Hisa Play, which aims to equip young people with practical financial literacy skills to enable them to trade in stocks and shares, has expansion on the agenda for next year as it feels it solves a problem that is common across the continent.

The Hisa Play app is a virtual stock market simulation game that mirrors the trading activities of the securities market, aiming to educate users on how, why and when to invest, and in which stocks.

Hisa Play, which runs on numerous Android platforms and can be played either individually or as a group, was first released in beta in December last year before a paid version came out in March.

The startup was born after founder Jamlick Maina was looking for a way to invest some spare funds. Tempted by the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), Maina found the information provided on it vague and research difficult to undertake. Realising every other Kenyan citizen must be having the same issue, he undertook to come up with an easy way of understanding the process.

Though some other products attempt a similar thing, Maina told Disrupt Africa that Hisa Play is different as it uses live NSE data and “sees the bigger picture”.

“We see that every Kenyan needs to know learn how to be a competent investor. We have also made app very user-friendly, so even a nine-year-old can use it, and we have made the lessons simple with terms that are understandable. Users can play trade 24 hours a day, even when the market closes, so it’s flexible to the user time schedule,” he said.

Initially funded by Maina’s savings, Hisa Play won a cash reward from the Next Big Thing competition in 2014 and then obtained funding and incubation from the Nailab in Nairobi. It is making revenues – which it ploughs back into the business – from its three-tiered revenue model.

Hisa Play charges subscription fees, offers in-app advertising and push notifications, and looks for partnerships with stockbrokers. Users can pay via M-Pesa or airtime, buying virtual currency. Maina has plans to take the startup beyond Kenya, as he feels it solves an issue common to most African countries.

“Our short-term goal is to change perceptions and build a Kenyan society that takes investment opportunities seriously,” he said.

“In the long-term we want to venture out in March 2016 to other East African countries, such as Rwanda and Tanzania. We see a product that can be applicable all over Africa, as we tend to face the same problems.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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