Heleza, the mobile app that is revolutionizing Women’s Financial Inclusion in Eswatini
Launched by Imbita, Heleza is a mobile app that is literally changing women’s financial inclusion in the little Kingdom of Eswatini. Have you ever heard about it?
Operating in the African country for over 30 years, Imbita Swaziland Women’s Finance Trust has been a forerunner of addressing the economic and socio-economic challenges faced by women in the Kingdom.
Heleza bridges the gap between banks and the unbanked, as access to finance in developing countries remains a challenge especially for the underprivileged people.
An Innovative Fintech Platform
More specifically, Heleza is a USSD-based digital platform, with an interface in the local language that enables Imbita members to quickly and easily make several financial operations.
Through Haleza, people can save money, access loans, enquire on savings balances, launch enquiries on the platform, repay loans, apply for savings withdrawal, receive their savings statement, or sign up for other Imbita services.
Members are also able to avert the risk of theft by not physically carrying large sums of cash.
Users must have money in their mobile wallet to be able to transact. Even more interesting, this app does not require a smartphone, as its services are available even on basic, old generation devices. Like the ones still in use by many senior citizens.
The app also works as an onboarding channel, as non-members can use it to register as Imbita members 24/7 and from anywhere in the country. The subscription process is completely paperless and prospect members are spared a visit to the nearest Imbita physical office.
The app was released thanks to the collaboration between Imbita, Grameen, and the generous in-kind support of MTN Eswatini.
How The Idea Came Out
The idea of Heleza came about as a response to USAID’s call (in partnership with Grameen foundation, American Bar association and MTN Foundation Eswatini) to develop an innovative Fintech product that could address the challenges faced by the unbanked communities and thus ensure financial inclusion.
Imbita took part to the call and won a prize, that was used to develop and implement the platform.
A crucial role was player by MTN Fintech. The company was approached during the application process to tap into MTN Mobile Money, and its contribution helped better define the project that led to the release of the Heleza app.
The History Behind the Name
As stated by the company, the name Heleza means “to move fast” which is a true interpretation of what Heleza does. In the past, members needed to visit the office or local meeting points to be able to access Imbita services.
This meant incurring travelling expenses. Moreover, factors such as unforeseen weather conditions posed a challenge in service provision, as some local meeting points are unsheltered.
Heleza has allowed Imbita products to be digitalised, making finance more accessible to members and allowing for a wider reach of Imbita services beyond its current portfolio.
After the beginning of operations in October 2022, Heleza was able to reach over 37,000 members inclusive of self-help groups which boast over 30,000 members through extensive education sessions with members.