David Adeleke’s Journey to Building Africa’s First CreditKarma with AI

This week on our new “How I Move my Money” blog series, we sat down with David Adeleke, CEO and Founder of Zeeh Africa, to discuss the payment industry and get insights from him on how he moves his money! 

Can you tell us what Zeeh Africa does?

Okay, so at Zeeh Africa we’re currently building a consumer-facing platform that we call the CreditKarma for Africa. We’re leveraging on Zeeh open banking and AI to provide seamless access to real-time and reliable financial data, such as data used for KYC, and transaction data like account statements which can be used to generate insights into people’s financial standing. We have an algorithm that generates credit scores for people. It literally analyzes people’s account statements and from there, it gives a credit score. The end goal is to avail diverse credit offers for users and also enable lenders to make smarter lending decisions.   

How long has Zeeh Africa been in existence?

Zeeh Africa is currently 9 months old. We started pilot testing and then released it into the market, and from there we went live. It’s 8-9 months old at the moment. 

So, how does money work? Do you guys deal with cash? How do you move money around?

We’re currently integrated into a payment gateway. We use that payment gateway to power our wallet system. Our business model is in 2 ways. One is the subscription model and the other is the pay-as-you-go model. With pay-as-you-go, you fund your wallet, and for every API call you make on our platform, we charge you. Our payment gateway provider currently powers that wallet, in case one of our clients wants to fund their wallet. So, that’s the only form of payment we currently carry out at Zeeh Africa at the moment. 


What makes it unique is that if you have money in your GTB but you link your Access Bank, our system can go and fetch all your bank accounts (remember we can get all your bank accounts through your BVN), and take a portion of the money from here or there with the BVN that you linked. So, we’re creating a very safe ecosystem for lending to build the community at large. That’s another way we’re having to move money around.

We also generate credit scores for people using the FICO standard in our algorithm so it is standardized.


Amazing! So have you experienced any major challenges in moving money around? 

Hmmm…greatest challenge. I’m currently even facing one at the moment [laughs]

I had to go to the bank myself. That’s the first time this year I had to if I’m not mistaken. They said it was a network issue. So one of the major challenges we face with traditional banks is downtime, service unavailable, etc.

So now for the fintech space, one of the major challenges I’ve seen is that there’s very poor KYC [process], so this kind of promotes fraud. It increases the fraud rate. These are major challenges that I have experienced, but thankfully they couldn't get away with it. So the major challenge that has been, that is, and will still be is the high level of fraud in moving the money everywhere. 

I know that a lot of companies are facing this fraud issue, is there a lasting solution to it or we should just accept that people are fraudulent?

I like that question. I'll be very sincere with you, there’s no solution to fraud because these guys if you sit down and see how they think… 

There’s no long-lasting solution to fraud. The only solution I can recommend is to try as much as possible to keep your system as tight as possible such that whoever is coming…let them sweat before they can make their way. And the more they keep trying, the more you keep upgrading your system. That’s the only solution, but to say we can have a system free of fraud…nah, it’s not possible. 

“There’s no solution to fraud…you can’t counter fraud.”


Interesting! So going back again to Zeeh Africa, where do you project that your company will be in the next 5 years? 

Oh, by then we would have expanded into at least 5 countries...of course, we have the roadmap that we’re working with and by two years we should be the largest data bank for credit data, such that we have an insight on every individual, both the banked and the unbanked. We’re expanding across Africa, such that we’ll truly be the credit data bank for Africa. 

We should have launched our Credit Karma which is the customer-facing app, onboarded at least 5 million users, and been one of the biggest players. We want to be the biggest players. And above all, we definitely should be a unicorn by then…yeah (and be worth) at least $1 billion valuation in 5 years. 

Wow! That’s a truly ambitious goal.

It's very attainable, trust me. It’s possible. We just crossed 1 million API calls recently. We’re still new and we’ve crossed a million API calls, we’re doing pretty well. 

Wow! That’s very interesting! That’s pretty good to hear. So what advice would you give to somebody who’s just starting and looking to build their product? 

I’ll be informal with you, they should just be ready for shege pro max [laughs]. 

[laughs] I think that’s what we’ll use as the headline



Because whether you have money…honestly speaking, if you even think you have money, when you get into the real building and you want to build a sustainable system that you’re looking at being scalable, Money is not everything. Money will fail you. You have to believe in what you’re building 100%. 

Two, you have to know when to pivot. Not everybody started building something and end up being known for what they started with. There’s one point you have to pivot. 

 As a founder, you must have that special talent for identifying good skill sets and people. Don’t outsource the first line of people that will work directly with you. Those are the people that will be the foundation for whatever you want to build, and from there you can scale up. 

Lastly, one mistake that we all make as founders is, you have beautiful ideas and wow, lots of features. And the next thing, boom, you start writing your codes and you want to put everything out at once. Start with one simple part of it. Build it, get users, and let them start paying. Start with something simple. Investors want to see a working product that’s generating revenue. You don't have to be making the millions yet but they want to start seeing baby steps. 

So, yeah, that's my little word of advice. It’s a lot. I can keep on teaching founders what to do but that’s a little part of it. 

Wow, this is interesting! Where do you think Africa in general, is going in terms of implementing a  cashless economy? 

I think we’re getting there already. After the whole cashless hullabaloo. Then we saw one app that had a whopping 41 million customers just because of that. Now people are used to it already. I want to buy fuel for my car before they don’t take transfers now everyone is comfortable taking transfers. That's where fintech comes to help a lot. It’s a very strong possibility. 

There’s already an existing model of contactless payment in Nigeria. I’m not sure a lot of people know it. That’s the BRT bus system.

…with the card system

Yes, with the card system. So, it’s working perfectly already. That has even given the footprint of how to grow. We’ve seen a lot of other startups plan. I know a couple that are still building at the moment. When they launch out to the market in the next few years, it will be a regular thing (contactless payment). For Africa at large, I can't categorically say it’s going to go large but for Nigeria for a fact, we’re seeing an uprising in contactless payment. 

In as much as technology makes things easy for mankind, it also brings avenues for people to exploit the system. Imagine someone stealing your card and emptying your wallet without you having any security. The more the technology comes, the more risk is attached to it. But it’s going to be a good one and it will reshape the nature of things in the finance space in Nigeria. 

Mr. David Adeleke, thank you so much for being our first feature on the “How I Move My Money” series. Enjoy the rest of your evening!

You’re welcome. Yeah, bye!



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