A report published by Financial Sector Deepening Uganda in April 2021 on the economic resilience of Ugandan households during COVID-19 indicates jobs returned by September 2020 but 73 per cent of respondents reported lower incomes compared to 2019. Two out of three respondents would not be able to raise Shs115,000 in seven days for emergencies. Most respondents borrowed money from family and friends and 15 per cent borrowed from digital applications. These are not just numbers, but a reflection of the economic hardships faced by the working population today. Our community member, Zofi Cash made its entry on the market in 2021. We talked to Paul Kirungi about the startup’s planned impact.
Who is Paul Kirungi and what does he do?
Paul is a Ugandan entrepreneur and currently Team Lead at Zofi Cash. I’m a trained systems administrator. I previously worked a corporate job in Los Angeles, United States of America but am now entirely focused on Zofi Cash.
What is the inspiration behind your entrepreneurship journey?
My entrepreneurship inspiration has always been independence and the ability to do or live life on your own terms. For me, this journey started way back when during holidays, I worked at construction sites, mostly to pay my school fees when my parents couldn’t. It has been God through it all, and we are only getting started.
What is it in the country that you seek to change with Zofi Cash?
Zofi Cash is a financial services company focused on breaking the 30-day pay cycle. We seek to change the way employees or contractors get paid in this country and across Africa. That is why our salary advance service is now a market leader, and we haven’t stopped innovating. Our teams are intentional about the continuous improvement of the platform to allow more people to get paid daily. Many Ugandans accrue heavy debts at the money lenders every month before they get paid. This is major because there are emergencies that can’t wait for payday, and if not taken care of, their productivity decreases tremendously. We are coming in to help employers to keep their teams motivated. Happy employees are productive employees.
What challenges have you met in the entrepreneurship journey, and how do you navigate them?
Entrepreneurs are faced with endless challenges daily. It is always up to the person to flip those challenges into opportunities for growth. It is always a mindset shift. A case in point was when the COVID-19 pandemic hit at a time we had planned to launch Zofi Cash. Dates set, everything booked and ready. Our business depends mainly on other people thriving and progressing, so we couldn’t launch. It was our biggest challenge last year. Instead of getting depressed over this challenge, we chose to work on refining the product. Believe me, by the time we launched, we had refined so many aspects, and our App was way better. Every entrepreneur should be grateful when there’s a crisis; it is always an opportunity for growth.
What milestones have you hit so far and what do they mean for you?
There’s so much to entrepreneurship that we can’t begin to confine in milestones. It is never about money and fame as it is about the person I have become, the people I have met, the people whose hand I have been able to hold. Now, those are milestones! It’s been a milliard of lessons over the years; I have grown to learn that this matters more than the money goals. So, entrepreneurship is a game; the more I play, the more I want to continuously improve and play better. The goals and milestones are the icing on the cake. They come in as side effects, the reason I never keep track.
What can ecosystem builders like The Innovation Village offer entrepreneurs like you?
To begin with, we are so grateful to belong in an ecosystem such as The Innovation Village. Having an environment with like-minded individuals coming together to craft world-changing ideas is priceless. Ecosystem builders should continue to provide safe spaces for the crazy ones working hard to challenge the status quo and provide sustainable solutions for growth and contribution.
From where you operate, what does the business look like for Zofi Cash now that the economy has opened? And in five years, where do you want to be?
Currently, we have had over 6,000 application downloads and have processed over Shs200m in salary advances to more than 1,000 employees. We have grown by 170 percent month over month for the past three months. We want to be a Neo-Bank in the next five years. We have our game plan figured out, and that is our 5-year plan, and all the new services that we will be rolling out before then are targeted towards achieving that ultimate goal.
Anything you’d like to be remembered for?
History will tell that we broke the 30-Day pay cycle. But, even more importantly, there will be millions of people that we will have touched and inspired along that journey.