Africa Leaders Magazine

FARIDA BEDWEI – Co-Founder of Logiciel’s Entrepreneurial Journey thus Far

FARIDA BEDWEI – Co-Founder of Logiciel’s Entrepreneurial Journey thus Far - African Leaders Magazine

Farida Bedwei is one of the two creators of Logiciel, a software company that promotes financial inclusion for people without bank accounts via innovative tech solutions. Founded in 2012, Logiciel delivers world-class software in banking, finance, mobile monitoring, tracking and electronic-data processing. It invests in infrastructure and human resources to deliver tech solutions and consultancy services, also specializing in cloud systems for financial institutions in Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa.

A leader in IT services for microfinance institutions in Ghana, Farida also has cerebral palsy and is a renowned disability rights advocate. She’s been recognized as an influential woman in finance in business in Africa and has spoken about her experience and advocacy on outlets such as CNN African Voices.

Farida shares her entrepreneurial path so far and provides some insights into Accra’s startup ecosystem.

FARIDA BEDWEI – Co-Founder of Logiciel’s Entrepreneurial Journey thus Far - African Leaders Magazine

How did you initially become interested in impact and software engineering?

I didn’t set out to impact anybody. I set out to prove to myself and to society that I could be a successful software developer despite having a neurological condition.

I got interested in tech at an early age. I was introduced to the home computer at the age of seven, and it became a medium of written communication for me, since my disability affects my writing skills. I can write, but it takes much longer for me and it’s not very legible when I get tired. I used the computer to correspond with pen pals and do school work.

At the age of eleven, I did a formal introduction to computers course, plus other courses in WordPerfect, Lotus 123 and DBase IV. Remember, we’re talking about 1990. After this, I went to junior high school for three years. However, due to the disability-unfriendly terrain of high schools in Ghana, I wasn’t able to navigate my way around there. I decided instead to do a professional diploma in the management of information systems.

After working in the industry for 12 years, I branched out and worked with a microfinance company, managing their IT infrastructure. While there, I realized their banking system was inefficient, so I decided to build one for them. The new system simplified their processes and made rapid expansion possible.

Very soon, other financial institutions wanted to buy the solution. The founder of the microfinance company I was working for saw this as a business opportunity and decided to resign so he and I could start Logiciel and sell the solution to other microfinance companies.

FARIDA BEDWEI – Co-Founder of Logiciel’s Entrepreneurial Journey thus Far - African Leaders Magazine

What were the main challenges you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

Our main challenge back then was to convince people to adopt the concept of cloud computing. Our solution runs on the cloud and most companies wanted it installed on their local servers because they didn’t trust the cloud. We lost a few contracts as a result, but we stuck to our business model. We were eventually able to convince our potential customers of the advantages of cloud computing.

If you are able to build a compelling case for change, people who are set in their ways can and will change, especially when the change introduces measures that cut costs. We also partnered with the Ghana Association of Microfinance Companies and Micro-Credit Association Ghana to become the preferred software vendor for all their members. The organizations didn’t make it compulsory for their members to use our solutions, but being recommended by these associations helped us in our marketing strategies.

What do you believe was your biggest mistake?

My biggest mistakes were to take certain jobs or contracts that were not in line with our business model just because we needed the money. For instance, we sometimes had to tweak our product to meet the needs of another industry, and we didn’t know that much about that industry. Though we pleased the client initially, later on when other requests came up, we wouldn’t be able to fulfill them and it would frustrate both us and the client. In those cases, we lost the clients.

If you don’t have a passion for your product and you want to become an entrepreneur because of the money, close up your business and look for a well-paying job.

What would you say was your best decision as a founder?

My best decision was sticking to our original business model. Years later, it definitely paid off. Within a year of setting up Logiciel, we had over 60 microfinance companies using our product. We currently have about 150 institutions using them, and at one point we had over 300 institutions.

FARIDA BEDWEI – Co-Founder of Logiciel’s Entrepreneurial Journey thus Far - African Leaders Magazine

The market has been shaky for a bit, with many of these institutions collapsing intermittently. In 2019, the central bank here stepped in and revoked the licenses of over 300 institutions, and we lost almost 90 clients in one day. We had to go back to our drawing board, so to speak, and see how to be sustainable. Though we were still the market leaders, the market size had shrunk.

What advice do you have for young founders and entrepreneurs today?

If you don’t have a passion for your product and you want to become an entrepreneur because of the money, close up your business and look for a well-paying job.

The frustrations and disappointments that come with entrepreneurship can break you, but if you are in it because you want to make a difference or you believe in what you are producing, then that spurs you on.

What have been the benefits and drawbacks of starting up in Accra? What’s the ecosystem like and where do you see it going in the future?

Since I haven’t built a startup anywhere else, it’s difficult to draw a comparison. Accra has had its own infrastructural challenges, such as periods of extensive power cuts due to load shedding, low penetration of fintech apps amongst the masses, and so on. However, the fact that mobile money has caught on is an indication that fintech apps that are deemed a necessity can thrive in any environment.

The main advantage is the fact that it is easy to be a pioneer and introduce new ideas and technologies into the market here. The possibilities are endless. There is a lot of potential for fintech in this part of the world.

FARIDA BEDWEI – Co-Founder of Logiciel’s Entrepreneurial Journey thus Far - African Leaders Magazine

How would you describe your company culture?

Our company culture is simple: everyone is an essential part of the team. We either succeed or fail together. Mistakes are treated as learning curves for the entire company and employees are encouraged to take the initiative.

What do you do to connect in your team?

For the past three years, we have been in survival mode as a company, so we haven’t had time for any other activities as a team.

What practices have you cultivated to keep you disciplined and inspired?

Seeing the impact of the work we do and seeing the opportunities ahead are what inspire me to press on through the lows.

What are your greatest concerns and hopes for the future of Logiciel and the ecosystem in which you want to thrive?

There is a lot of potential for fintech in this part of the world. However, low literacy levels and low spending power don’t allow some initiatives to start up quickly or to thrive. So we cannot innovate as much as we wish to with the latest technologies. This being the case, we’ve had to learn to build for the market we are serving, working according to their pace. It may mean, for example, that we have to build a USSD app instead of a mobile app with fancy features if the company wants it to be used by the masses.

It is my wish that as the government pushes the cashless-system agenda, barriers that deter people from using fintech solutions, such as high fees, will be reduced so that such systems will be used by a large percentage of the populace.

 

 

source: startupguide.com

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