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Meet the woman behind changing the face of financial literacy

According to the latest Momentum | Unisa Household Wellness Insights Report, South African households are currently facing massive financial pressures. Dipping into precious savings and investment reserves were revealed as one of the top five selected coping strategies of households during the nationwide lockdown. Furthermore, the latest Momentum |Unisa Consumer Financial Vulnerability Index shows that consumers are still at very high risk of becoming financially vulnerable or insecure.

Amid this, one woman has committed to making financial literacy available to all consumers across Africa – one corporate partnership at a time. Monique Baars, CEO and Founder of FinEazy, has developed an innovative platform that helps to improve financial literacy in Africa through an artificial intelligence chatbot that teaches its users about finances.

As Baars explains, there is a massive need for consumer financial education. “It is essential if we, as a country, are to empower every citizen to participate in the financial marketplace with knowledge and confidence. This is the only way to truly increase the financial capability and well-being of all.”

“We all make financial decisions every day,” she adds. “It doesn’t make sense that finance is hardly taught at schools, or even spoken about in the home. It has always felt like real financial understanding is reserved only for those who pursue financial careers. So I decided to do something about it.”

Through her platform, FinEazy, Baars offers corporates the opportunity to help educate their customers, employees and suppliers in the basics of finance.

Baars’ passion for spreading financial literacy has caught the eye of South African based financial services group, Momentum, which teamed up with FinEazy. Momentum made FinEazy available to thousands of individuals, who seized the opportunity to make their way through the FinEazy course – gaining invaluable knowledge about their finances in the process.

“Our corporate partnership with Momentum has helped to bring FinEazy one step closer to our goal of democratising financial education and finally delivering it in a relatable way to anyone with access to the internet and a digital device. Momentum is an inspiring and forward thinking organisation. It was such a pleasure to work with their CSI team with a shared vision to increase the reach and impact of their programmes. We can’t wait to see what the future of this partnership holds.”

Having also partnered with various other corporates in South Africa and abroad, she states that her team is committed to achieving their mission of financial freedom for all. “We have an exciting road ahead. While we are constantly improving our product and expanding our reach, we are very focused on educating millions of South Africans over the coming months and years.”

Baars’ work on the platform so far, is an inspiring journey to success. The FinEazy platform was designed to personalise the learning experience and to be easily accessed through common messaging apps or online. Through the chatbot journey, participants choose a character that reflects their position in life and are then faced with fictional financial situations with multiple choices to make. “Some decisions can lead you to poor outcomes, but it’s very powerful to experience those outcomes in a safe, virtual space before making those decisions in real life. It will help you learn about what it means to be financially responsible.”

Baars and the team at FinEazy are currently working with a growing number of corporates across the African continent as well. This includes partnering with massive brands such as M-Pesa – Africa’s leading mobile money service boasting millions of active users. “We are excited to extend our impact into more African markets as we believe this is the starting point for real and sustainable financial inclusion on our continent.”

Baars says now more than ever, the financial fitness of consumers is the key to business sustainability. “Every person around the world has been negatively impacted by the pandemic in one way or another. There are financial, social and economic reasons for corporates to play their part in building the financial resilience of their employees, suppliers and customers.”

She believes that FinEazy has built the most effective, scalable way to do this. “If we work together, we can fundamentally improve the way financial consumers manage their money,” Baars concludes.

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