Nigerian tech entrepreneurs set up COVID-19 donation platform

Tech innovators have designed a crowdfunding platform to receive and distribute relief funds to financially distressed Nigerians

A group of Nigerian tech entrepreneurs from different companies have launched We Are Together, a crowdfunded COVID-19 relief fund for the country. The website was set up in response to the socio-economic distress many Nigerian face as a result of the pandemic and efforts to control it.

Called “Better Angels”, the group is made up of innovators from Paystack, Hygeia HMO, Zedvance, Accounteer, Future Africa, Hotels.ng, Zrosk and Bento. 

“We are leveraging the power of networks to crowdsource a fiscal stimulus for Nigeria,” the group wrote.

Their newly created crowdfunding platform accepts donations from donors and redistributes them directly to people in need of financial support. Nigerians in financial distress can apply to receive ₦10,000 and can reapply every three weeks.

The group said it has built a decision engine based on “a mix of sociology, economics, psychology, conflict theory and our understanding of the current situation.” 

Using applicants’ Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) and bank account numbers, the platform is able to determine who is eligible for the fund within seconds and disburse funds.

Funds are disbursed between Mondays and Fridays and it is announced on social media. It will keep distributing funds until December 2020.

Within a few days of its launch, Better Angels has raised ₦9.6 million from 100 donations. It has so far disbursed ₦8.5 million to over 840 applicants. An audit log also shows who the donors are and how much they donated.

“We are not angels,” Better Angels said in a finely worded note on its website. “We are like you – men and women looking at the world, aghast, shell shocked and wondering how an unseen enemy has been able to turn the entire world upside down.”

Like all nations, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the Nigerian economy. Already struggling from the low oil prices, the pandemic is spreading gradually in the country forcing the government to lockdown major parts of the country.

Known as the poverty capital of the world, many people survive on their daily income. But in the absence of any social or economic safety nets, the lockdown meant pushed millions into financial distress. Furthermore, some companies have laid-off workers, slashed salaries or furloughed workers.

Better Angels said, “[w]hat we are experiencing is a massive exogenous shock to several of our systems – our healthcare system, our economic system, and of course, to our psyches.”

While the Nigerian government has announced its own relief fund for households, Better Angels said the government efforts alone will not suffice. 

“What if we can crowdfund a fiscal stimulus because it is in our collective interest to do so?” the group asked.

“Those who have some will give to those who do not have a lot in order to stem mass civil unrest and keep the economic engine churning.”

The group is just one of different initiatives trying to offset the worst of the pandemic. Since Nigeria recorded its first coronavirus case, companies and wealthy individuals like Aliko Dangote and AbdulSamad Rabiu of Bua Group have donated over ₦15 billion to Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) Relief Fund created by the Central Bank.

Beyond CACOVID, companies are playing making other efforts. Sterling Bank, for instance, has donated ₦250 million to CACOVID and also created a crowdfunded platform for donations to support health workers fighting the pandemic. It seeded this with a ₦25 million donation.

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