When I started my ‘’African journey’’ three years ago I was soon told by industry leaders that the first mistake made by new entrants was to perceive Africa as a single country. With over 50 countries, more than 1000 different languages, a population of 1.2 billion and over 30 million km² in territory size I soon realised the enormous misconception investors, developers and contractors looking to capitalise on the ‘’African growth story’’ could fall into.
That said, I believe there is one particular sector where this misconception wouldn’t be completely out of place if regulatory frameworks aren’t taken into account: Fintech.
The entire African continent represents a huge blank canvas for Fintech and a much greater potential in relation to other emerging economies. This is because its current infrastructure falls far too short of its population needs, therefore new methods of managing money must be developed. According to recent data published by the World Bank at the end of 2014, mobile broadband accounted for just 17% of the 884 million total mobile subscriptions in Africa; by the close of 2020, that figure is expected to have risen to 76% of total subscriptions, which will have grown to 1.32bn.
In Africa, a continent in which 80% of people do not have a bank account, mobile payments and mobile money transfers are widespread. Local disruptors have a unique opportunity to create technologies able to address and adapt to a previously unseen scenario. On top of that, the weight of history is against already established banking institutions such as Standard Bank, BNP Paribas and Barclays. All evidence of industrial innovation suggests new comers or disruptors are the real game changers.
Its no secret the largest banks present in the continent are already picking potential winners in order to hedge themselves against future changes. That said, project origination in Africa is still and will remain for the long run one of its main challenges. Fintech is primed for success in Africa – it is a blank canvas, allowing the inventive and the original to develop new technologies that will not only help to advance economic development but improve and simplify people’s daily lives.
Some of us might have already heard of successes such as M-Pesa, Dahabshiil and M-Kopa but to add more colour to the discussion let’s look at some of the most exciting start-ups promising to revolutionise the African Fintech space.
Nomanini South Africa
A South African-based enterprise payments platform provider that enables transactions in the cash-based informal retail sector. With an end-to-end solution designed for informal market environments, enterprise prepaid distributors are able to bolster their distribution channels, add to their portfolio of transaction services, increase their access to informal market consumers and efficiently monitor micro-payments and services via a scalable cloud-based platform.
Peach Payments provides payment solutions to online and mobile businesses enabling them to easily accept payments from consumers across the globe and especially from those in the emerging markets. Our specific focus is on Africa and the BRIC countries where the local infrastructure requires a unique and tailored approach to online payments.
Lendico offer users an innovative and attractive financial marketplace. Participants in this marketplace consist of borrowers seeking finance and lenders who are seeking returns. By bringing the two together on our unique platform, both sides are able to avoid the high cost structure found in the banking industry. This means that borrowers get better rates and investors get better returns. Lendico is truly the digital alternative to banks.
WIZZIT’s business is the result of seven years of endeavour which includes three year’s years’ research into the mass retail banking market around the world, with a focus on opening a bank account and finding a secure and efficient payment mechanism for the un-banked people of the world. The founding partners, being WIZZIT’s management team together with the broad-based black economic empowerment shareholders, have funded all the research, planning and development, computer systems and costs in establishing and starting the business.
Zoona is an African Start-up that offers Emerging Entrepreneurs an opportunity to provide money transfer and other payment services to low-income consumers, while earning commissions and creating employment. We provide a mobile money platform, working capital financing, business management tools and entrepreneurial support focused on helping businesses grow and increasing financial inclusion in Africa.