From childhood Rosine Ekambi Soppo developed the passion for entrepreneurship through an autodidact parent. She is a wife and a Financial Engineer graduated at Paris Dauphine , with a background in Private Equity through the experiences as an Investment Analyst in Investment funds in France like Argos Wityu and Platina Partners.After moving back to Cameroun she founded SuiTch, a company which offers digital financial services for underbanked and non banked populations : mostly young people and women with most of them in the informal sector. Her ultimate goal is to provide affordable and accessible financial services to underserved populations. Her venture capitalist expertises stems from managing an Investment Club, Malaika Investment Partners, which aims to provide financial support to SME’s.
Tell us how your background in the investment banking industry emerged into entrepreneurship ambitions to create the platform SuiTch?
In my family, I have the reputation to be the nerd, in french “l’intello”, the one who always had good grades, who tries to get people to do things right. So as a financial engineer, I realized that my mother who had activities that generated her income, never had a bank account. She never felt the need to have one and nobody told her that she could have one. When I came back to Cameroon I started talking to her about it and the 1st step of the process was opening a savings account. She went to a microfinance and opened the account as I ask her. But a few months later, she started complaining about high amounts taken from her account every month. -That was the management cost of the account. -Tired of paying too much, she finally withdrew all her money and closed this account. This experience showed me that there are a lot of people in the same situation and that there is a mismatch between their needs and the current financial services offered. That’s why I created SuiTch.
What problem does SuiTch seek to solve ?
With SuiTch, we are solving three problems : the accessibility, affordability and the user experience of financial services. A large part of the population still does not have access to financial services due to paperwork, cost, lack of value-added services and those who do have access are highly dissatisfied with the service offer. Our aim is to bring to the market an alternative that will foster the growth of our core target which is the bottom of the pyramid as they seem to be abandoned by banks and other financial institutions and provide them with suitable financial services.
According to the Big Deal , Women run 40% of Africa’s SMEs but receive only 1% of funding from VCs . As an angel investor what are the factors that contribute to this disparity?
As an angel investor, I have always wondered why I received so few applications from women. I can obviously say that the number of deals carried by women is not sufficient to play in favor of this rate. Few of them have the same thirst as men and do not explore all possible avenues for funding. They are also suffering from impostor syndrome due to the lack of self confidence. When it comes to opening up their capital, they are quite hesitant and they like to start small due to the lack of financial education. Hopefully in Cameroon, these days, many women are stepping up and are leading the movement so we can expect to see a change about this subject.
According to Forbes In Francophone Africa ,informal savings and credit groups called ‘tontines’ are commonplace. Women in these areas start off their companies by borrowing from relatives ,only 3.5% in some countries borrow from banks and micro institutions. What can be done to improve access to funds for women?
Tontines and love money from family and friends are the most widespread financing methods in Africa because they are based on mutual trust. For example, tontines regroup more than 60% of Cameroonian and can collect up to 500 billions CFA F per year (CRTV). If structured, they can become a general mode of financing the economy. In our countries, banks, micro-institutions and even telcos still have a lot of work to include the population in their offers. In most of the cases, only those who can provide a collateral are eligible to apply for a loan. For the telcos, the paperwork, the cost, the user experience and the lack of support make it difficult to onboard people easily. Also, the lack of confidence in these institutions does not contribute to creating a strong relationship with the population.
To improve access to funds for women, we need to :
- improve their self confidence with a good financial education,
- make sure they understand that they didn’t get where they are by accident and that they deserve to be there,
- make them understand that they have the right to talk about money without complex,
- they must understand that their activity must be able to generate income in order for it to exist and for them to be able to live from. So talking about money is essential.
Less than 2% of venture capital funding went to all-female founding teams in 2021 according to Pitchbook. As an angel investor, how do you seek to increase the representation of women ?
Through financial education and the contribution in the ecosystem to the creation and promotion of more adequate and dedicate products for them like female focused incubators/accelerators/VC.
Fundraising is an important aspect of growing a business , what are the common failures entrepreneurs make when pitching their businesses to investors ?
- The poor quality of the pitch deck
- The lack of focus on solving a specific problem
- The lack of focus on building a real competitive advantage
- The poor knowledge of the key figures of their activity
- The poor knowledge of their market
- The inconsistency between the funds requested and the actual needs of the activity
- The lack of diligence on which kind of investors they have to address and their background
- The mismatch between the product or service and the market
- As the access to capital is difficult, business models that need high amounts of fundraising are complicated to execute. That’s why B2B business models are interesting for Venture Capital than B2C.
What are some of the common mistake angel investors make when investing in African businesses?
For foreign investors
The lack of diligence on the founders. They sometimes tend to transpose the experience they have lived in their country in Africa. Most of them don’t really understand the real challenges and don’t immerse theirself in our environment. They tend to direct through their financing the sectors in which investments must be made without a good understanding of the local needs.
For local investors
They tend to invest only in very short-term income-generating activities, but you don’t build an economy by selling imported products.
What are some of the highlights you’ve experienced being an Entrepreneur?
Even if I’ve managed to raise a lot of funds locally thanks to my background, it’s hard to rely on local investors yet they are the most likely to understand the problem we want to solve. They are still risk averse especially when talking about the tech industry. We have to be able to constantly be creative with innovative strategies to survive, reinvent ourselves, pivot if it’s needed and build bootstrapping strategies so as not to be dependent on fundraising.