Business management

How ACF provides a unique financial model for UK start-ups

Assadaqaat Community Finance is a not-for-profit organisation based in Cardiff.

NatWest supports Assadaqaat Community Finance (ACF) to enable more women from Black and Minority Ethnic communities to consider entrepreneurship and self-employment as a viable option to bring their business ideas to reality.

In turn ACF has developed a unique and innovative financial model to provide a secure platform for benefactors to connect and support the start-ups through generous donations, known as ‘Assadaqaat’ and aims to transform the ‘beneficiaries of today’ into the ‘benefactors of tomorrow’.

We spoke to Akmal to discuss how this works.

What does your business, Assadaqaat Community Finance (ACF) do?

“We look at enterprise as a vehicle to financial empowerment. I found that a majority of mainstream financial institutions are not interested in this market sector due to the risk involved in dealing with the individuals from less privileged section of our society.

“We help people who are struggling day to day, doing multiple part-time jobs, and are keen to use their talents, skills and ideas to increase their household income; however, they do not know where to go, or where to get support to start their micro, small or medium enterprises/businesses. Access to information is a big barrier”.

Where did the idea for ACF come from?

“I worked in a global organisation in the corporate sector and during my travels, I noticed that our cities are generally split into two very distinct areas.  One part of the city is an affluent part, and the other part of the city is much less affluent. I used to wonder how this divide could be reduced or even eliminated. 

“Another area that influenced me was my lived experience in starting my own business after leaving my job. I learned about the various challenges I had to go through to start my own business and I often wondered about the many people who are struggling every day to get help to start their businesses. 

“I realised that access to finance was the biggest challenge for our communities. People were not very keen on interest-based finance especially at the micro, small and medium enterprise level. So, I began to explore how to remove the cost of finance from the equation.”

What was your big idea to address those issues?

“The answer I found were in the financial instruments used in Islamic finance where interest is prohibited.  

I looked specifically at Assadaqaat. It's an Arabic word for benevolence, philanthropy, generosity, and empathy. It’s about helping others and sharing prosperity. It is also a debt-free proposition.

“Although there are many benefactors who donate for cultural, societal, or religious reasons; there are many who donate in an ethical way to support social justice and fairness in our society.  So, we have used the principle of Assadaqaat to create a secure platform that connects ‘the haves’ of our society with ‘the ‘have-nots’. 

“This financial initiative will provide the training, advice, mentoring, and interest- free finance to nurture and empower individuals, families and groups to cultivate economic opportunities for strong and inclusive growth.”

We aim to transform the ‘beneficiaries of today’ into the ‘benefactors of tomorrow

Akmal Hanuk
Founder of ACF

What is the future for ACF?

“From my point of view, ACF is a global proposition. Supporting our communities financially and by delivering social and economic measurable impacts is the hallmark of our ACF financial model. We call it the ‘The ACF Cycle of Prosperity’.  We have developed a cutting-edge platform, with our own algorithms, around the principles of financing with ‘no interest and no debt’. 

“The social justice and fairness required to overcome the socio-economic inequalities in all our communities are inherent in our financial model. We are therefore expanding; we started in Wales but we have now plans for other parts of UK and beyond. 

“We’ve also had international opportunities. We’ve delivered women’s entrepreneurship programmes in Ghana, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. These programmes have been supported by Cardiff University Business School, and the Welsh Government. We are hoping that more public, private and corporate organisations; as well as philanthropists, high net worth individuals, trusts and foundations will support us to scale up the programme nationally and internationally.”  

Talking to Akmal, the entrepreneur, what's your one tip for anybody who's in that place where they want to start a business to help their community?

“Just go for it! There is help and support available from organisations like ACF and NatWest who are committed to supporting our communities – empowering them with the skills, training, advice, mentoring and finance required to start, sustain and grow their businesses.” 

Untapped potential

Blessing Mutamba, Natwest Business Inclusion Manager said: “Collaborating with ACF has helped us to build trust in communities we work with. More importantly, ACF has provided valuable insight and guidance around how cultural and religious factors influence the ways EMBs may want to interact with financial services providers. 

“Within our overall strategy, ensuring positive interactions with our EMB communities is one of our main objectives so this partnership forms an integral part of how we embrace untapped potential”.

Visit the Global Entrepreneurship Week page to find out more and to see how NatWest could help your business grow visit our Entrepreneur Hub 

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