The unmanned population in Nigeria was total 64 million in 2021, and although increasing mobile money adoption has reduced this to 40 million in 2022 the number is still large as it is higher than the population of entire countries. This is largely because more than 40% of the country’s population lives in remote zones that lack access to legacy banks and mobile money networks, and the fact that many Nigerians lack official identification documents required for bank registration.
Africa’s largest economy also faces existential challenges with access to formal credit. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimate that 70% of bank account holders in Nigeria do not have access to loans. According to a 2022 Gender Center for Excellence report, 98% of Nigerian women are excluded from access to credit.
Even if mobile money—or services that allow people to deposit cash and withdraw via text—are starting to replace it standard bank accounts in Africa their loans are often limited. And in Nigeria, one fintech entrepreneur has built an alternative source for people to access formal credit: their social media profiles.
Faith Adesemowo is co-founder and CEO of Social lender, a financial services platform that connects users with microloans. Social Lender’s algorithm will scan users social media profiles to compile what it calls a social reputation score, which can then be used to secure loans. The higher your social reputation score, the higher the loan amount you qualify for.
In Adesemowo’s core model, a person’s online activity—from how long they’ve kept their social media accounts to the people they engage with—helps validate their creditworthiness. As of January this year, Nigeria has 31.6 million social media users and 122.5 million internet users.
The company has also moved to include users who do not have access to the Internet; these users own feature phones, rather than smartphones, and have no digital presence. With services available via SMS or USSD, Social Lender generates “social guarantors” for applicants, or people who can vouch for borrowers’ creditworthiness.
“What we’ve built now is an alternative credit score,” Adesemowo told BBC News this year. In fact: Users who once had no traditional route to getting a loan can now get one in as fast as ten minutes.
To date, Social Lender has partnered with a range of Nigerian financial institutions – including Sterling Bank, Absa Bank, FCMB Microfinance, Unity Bank, iTrust, GOXI Micro Insurance and FBN Microinsurance – to offer credit to its users.
This story is part of Quartz’s Innovators List 2023a series that highlights the people who are deploying bold technologies and reimagining the way we do business for good around the world. Get the full list here.