A Danish entrepreneur has come up with a novel and bold idea to raise finance for Africa's small-scale businesses. The MyC4 concept, using a website and modifying the principles of eBay, has been phenomenally successful over a short time it has been in existence. Anver Versi has the details.
Mads Kjaer walked into the meeting room where his colleagues, Ina Cordelia Pontoppidan and Alette Pramming, had been briefing me about MyC4, and announced "the baby is doing fine. It is crawling but will soon start to walk".
The 'baby' is of course Kjaer's passion, a new web-based system dedicated to raising business loans for Africa's millions of small-scale entrepreneurs. Why MyC4? "It stands for something or somebody you care for," explained Ina Pontoppidan.
The large open-plan office in the fashionable heart of Copenhagen city was thrumming with activity. Light poured in from the large windows (since they don't get a lot of it, Danes worship natural light) illuminating a variety of artwork including a big, gnarled carving from Mozambique and several posters on an African theme.
MyC4 had been launched only in October--hence Kjaer's reference to it as 'the baby'; but, as Ghanaians would say, it was a baby born with teeth. It was already changing lives for the better, especially in Uganda which was the focus of operations.
Essentially the concept is simple. The genius lies in combining disparate elements, such as the buying-by-auction system pioneered by eBay and modern technology in the use of websites to solve one of the most critical issues of Africa today--sourcing financing for the 'unfundable' in Africa, to coin a phrase.
"The aim of MyC4," Kjaer says, "is to help eradicate poverty in line with the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We do this not through charity but by bringing people together in business deals at the best market price." Kjaer, Ethiopia's honorary councillor in Denmark, has 24-years business experience in Africa, mainly in East Africa where he exports cars through a Nissan dealership. He knows all about the poverty in the slum areas that surround African cities.
He also knows not just how enterprising the average African is but also how obstacles conspire to crush aspirations and nail people to the bottom.
"Finding finance to stabilise or expand a small business is almost an impossible dream for even the most determined people in these sort of areas," he says.
Small-scale entrepreneurs, those who run tea stalls, small restaurants, shops, tailoring outfits, reach a certain point then stop. Expenses--rents, food, clothing, schooling for the kids, etc, eat up all savings. There is no...