SA’s Cashful works to build digital financial identities for underbanked communities


South African startup Cashful is working to unlock informal market potential by leveraging alternative data and machine learning through a mobile application to build digital financial identities for underbanked communities operating outside of the formal financial ecosystem.

Founded by Mahlomola Mokoteli, Cashful began life as a mobile payments platform but quickly pivoted to alternative credit after discovering a deeper pain point in access to formal credit for financially excluded communities. 

“We found that a lot of microbusiness owners struggle to access a line of credit formally due to a lack of banking data. Without any data to assess risk, they often turn to informal channels despite high interest rates and risk of exploitation,” said director Mahlomola Mokoteli.

“Unlike Central and West Africa, players in the alternative lending space in Southern Africa are few and far between and the market is predominantly occupied by unregulated providers. We’ve identified a great need for financial services tailored towards underserved populations.”

The startup initially took a behavioural approach to credit scoring and experimented with psychometric assessments, and built on those insights. 

“We then received a small grant in 2021 to further validate our concept and build our MVP which just launched,” said Mokoteli.

We’ve seen impressive uptake during our offline trial phase, driven by the need for affordable, accessible credit for thin-file borrowers. We expect growth to accelerate as we progressively expand to more regions and target audiences.”


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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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