I’m 20 min into a journey in Manila that only took 25 min yesterday and I’m not yet half way there. I thought I understood bad traffic after Jakarta but it seems I have much to learn.
Manila is a gritty and sometimes threatening city crying out for a mass transit system. The main form of transport are colorful private buses that look like elongated Range Rovers decorated by a troupe of psychedelic clowns. They get cramped and there are no windows, and therefore no air conditioning, leaving the occupants to bake in the tropical heat.
The Philippines is a beautiful county and the Filipinos are my kind of people — warm and down to earth. Nevertheless, I would not choose to be in Manila without reason.
I am here because most Filipinos, and their small businesses, are entirely disconnected from the global financial system. One of the leaders of the micro finance movement, Muhammad Yunus, argues that credit is a human right. The language of rights might overstate the issue but he has a point. In the developed world, unsecured credit become byword for ill-disciplined spendthrifts egged on by a rapacious banking system that preys on the unfortunate (not entirely untrue). But credit is the lubricant for a well functioning economic system that enables trade and helps people to manage their lives.
Barter did not govern retail trade prior to the advent of money. Before money there was credit.
There is an oversupply of credit in the developed world (and like the oversupply of sugar, it can cause problems) but its different here in the developing world. In the Philippines the SME market employs 65% of the workforce, nonetheless only 39% of them can access to banks loans. This means a significant part of the economy leads a hand to mouth existence with little resilience to external shocks.
Oh God … the cab dropped me off at the wrong building and I’m late for a very important meeting. There is a reason everyone in Manila tells me to use Uber.
Back to the topic …
The Philippines is a data poor country. There is no national ID system, the credit bureau only covers but 14% of the population and neither private nor government sources are available to facilitate lending. There are some organisations that can be real game changers if they can be convinced to make their data available.
DemystData just received legal approval from one of these organisations to move ahead on a project to develop their sources for distribution. This means we can make a real difference in this market.
I haven’t felt this excited for a long time …
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