Awabah: Story, Founders, Investors & Funding Rounds
Launched in 2020 by Tunji Andrews, Tina Ajishebiyawo, and Gboyega Olatunde, Awabah is a digital platform providing pension access to Africa’s self-employed.
The startup is dedicated to making micro-pension services available to those in the informal sector and those whose employers are not legally required to deduct and remit pensions.
Tunji Andrews co-piloted a project to help informal workers save for the future.
Those efforts culminated in the January rollout of Awabah, a digital platform that provides micro pension access to self-employed Nigerians and informal workers.
Awabah Nigeria automates micro-pensions and target-savings for self-employed Nigerians and workers in the informal economy.
An understanding of the unique characteristics of its target market has been key to Awabah’s operations and ensuring last-mile delivery.
Lower-income members of the informal economy can be difficult to capture and most engage in local cooperatives and market associations.
Awabah has leaned heavily on town hall meetings to reach these people in large numbers, introducing its product via group presentations and one-on-one sessions.
After onboarding them, the company uses either its web platform or a network of local banking agents to continue taking collections from, educating, and further engaging with contributors.
How it Works
A Pension is a regular income received by a person after retirement to cater to their needs.
Mandatory and Mico-Pension Plan
The mandatory pension and Micro Pension Plan are arrangements under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
The only difference between the two is the nature of participation. Thus, the mandatory pension is obligatory for all eligible employees and both the employer/employee contribute towards the payment of the employee’s pension at retirement.
Micro Pension on the other hand is voluntary and solely funded by the contributor.
Micro Pension Plan refers to an arrangement under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) that allows the self-employed and persons working in organizations with less than three (3) employees to make financial contributions towards the provision of pension at their retirement or incapacitation.
Micro Pension guarantees a secured future through steady income at retirement. It reduces old age poverty and the process is easy, simple, and flexible.
Micro Pension Plan has been successful in countries like Ghana, Kenya, and India.
A Micro Pension prospect must:
a) Be a Nigerian, not below 18 years of age;
b) Have a legitimate source of income;
c) Belongs to trade/association/profession; and
d) May be self-employed or an employee of an organization with less than three employees with or without a formal employment contract.
An eligible Micro Pension contributor can enroll/register through any Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) of his/her choice, and obtain and complete the Retirement Savings Account (RSA) Opening Form either physically or electronically.
A unique Personal Identification Number (PIN) would be issued to the registered contributor.
The detailed list and addresses of all Licensed Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) can be accessed via National Pension Commission’s website www.pencom.gov.ng.
There is effective monitoring and supervision of the Plan by the Commission through daily monitoring of the Plan asset and investment decisions made by Pension Fund Administrators to ensure that their decisions are in line with relevant laws and Investment Regulations issued by the Commission.
Additionally, the Pension Fund Custodian (PFC) has provided a full guarantee of the total pension assets under its custody. Thus, any kobo lost will be refunded by the Custodian.
Investment decisions are made by the Pension Fund Administrators in line with Investment Regulations issued by the National Pension Commission.
Micro Pension Plan is different from savings accounts maintained with a Commercial Bank because any savings made under the plan can only be withdrawn as a monthly pension after retirement.
On the other hand, savings made with Commercial Banks can be withdrawn anytime as the need arises.
There is no stipulated minimum amount of contribution under the Micro Pension Plan because it is dependent on the Contributor’s pension aspiration and financial capacity. Thus, higher contributions will result in more money available for pensions.
Contributions can be made daily, weekly, monthly, or as may be convenient to the contributor and shall be subject to reporting requirements under the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
Contribution under the Micro Pension Plan can be made by cash deposit or electronic transfer through any payment platform, or other financial service agents approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
A contributor can access the balance in his/her RSA through two means namely; Contingent withdrawal and Retirement benefit withdrawal.
Additionally, a Micro Pension Contributor shall be eligible to access the contingent portion of the balance of his/her RSA three (3) months after making the initial contribution.
Subsequently, he/she can make withdrawals once a week, from the balance of the contingent portion of the RSA.
The Micro Pension Contributor who secures formal employment shall notify his/her PFA for conversion into the mandatory pension.
The Micro Pension contributor shall also retain his/her existing RSA to be used for the mandatory pension.
However, a contributor cannot access an amount over his/her Micro Pension Plan account balance because the Pension Reform Act 2014 prohibits such transactions.
It is the withdrawal of that portion of the RSA balance (contributions plus returns on investment) made available for withdrawal to ease financial pressures or needs of the Micro Pension contributor before his/her retirement.
A Micro Pension Contributor can withdraw an amount from his/her contingent portion by applying to his/her Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) in a prescribed format.
In addition, the Pension Fund Administrator is mandated to approve and pay the amount requested from the contingent portion within 48 hours of application for withdrawal.
It is the withdrawal of that portion of the RSA balance that the Micro Pension Contributor shall be eligible to access as a monthly pension upon retirement by the Regulation for the Administration of Retirement and Terminal Benefits.
A Micro Pension Contributor shall retire upon attaining the age of 50 years or on health grounds. However, a Micro Pension Contributor can choose to extend his retirement age beyond 50 years.
A Micro Pension contributor shall, upon retirement, access his/her retirement benefits through either Programmed Withdrawal or Life Annuity.
Micro Pension Plan only allows for conversion from Micro Pension Plan to the Mandatory Contributory Pension.
Additionally, the balance in a Micro Pension Contributor’s RSA shall, in the event of death, be paid to the legal heirs of the deceased/contributor as may be appointed by a Will or Letter of Administration granted by a Probate Registry or as may be directed by a court of competent jurisdiction in the State of residence of the deceased contributor, as the case may be.
Programmed withdrawal is a mode of benefits withdrawal by which a Micro Pension retiree receives a pension through his Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) periodically, i.e. monthly or quarterly.
An annuity is a method of receiving a pension by a retiree through a contract purchased from a Life Insurance Company.
It provides a guaranteed periodic income (pension) to a retiree throughout his/her life after retirement.
The Retiree Life Annuity is guaranteed for 10 years. Thus, if a retiree dies before 10 years, the balance of the equivalent monthly pension to complete the remaining period up to 10 years would be paid to his/her beneficiaries.
Where the retiree dies after the guaranteed ten years period, nothing would be paid to the beneficiaries.
Tunji Andrews is the Co-Founder and CEO at Awabah.
Tina Oluwabukola Ajishebiyawo
Oluwabukola T. Ajishebiyawo is the CO-Founder,CTO and Software Engineer at Awabah Nigeria, (Techstars ’21).
Oluwabukola T. Ajishebiyawo attended Udacity.
Gboyega Olatunde is the Co-Founder at Awabah.
Investors & Funding Rounds
ODBA & Co Ventures, Correlation Capital, Techstars
Awabah raised US$200,000 in angel funding, which it has followed up by banking another US$120,000 after joining the Techstars London accelerator program.
Having signed up over 700 clients since its launch, Awabah raised US$200,000 in angel backing from early-stage investors including ODBA and Co Ventures and Correlation Capital, which it used to roll out its services in Lagos and Ibadan.
It now plans to start providing services in five more Nigerian cities and expand to Ghana, after being selected to take part in the Techstars London accelerator.
Going forward, the startup plans to leverage the penetration of mobile phones in Nigeria to reach an even wider audience, starting with the planned launch of a USSD option.
Through a shortcode, existing and potential customers will be able to learn about and sign up for Awabah, as well as get financial literacy lessons in local languages. For those who have smartphones, Awabah will engage them via WhatsApp.
Awabah also recently gained acceptance into the Techstars London accelerator program, where it will get some funding.
Additionally, a new fundraising round is in the works, which will help fund a larger expansion.
Currently, Awabah has partnerships with three Pension Fund Administrators, including Leadway Pensure, which holds the PenCom license under which it operates; a microfinance bank via which it provides mobile wallets; as well as two agent banking networks.
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