Retail business is the most popular activity in Africa. However, the daily management of the transactions carried out by such shops can prove difficult for owners. Weebi, a Senegalese startup wants to ward off those difficulties.  

Weebi is a fintech solution launched in 2015, by an eponymous Senegalese startup. It is a multilingual tool that allows users (retail businesses mostly) to manage sales, supplies, payables, and receivables. 

The solution was launched because “we noticed that merchants needed tools to efficiently and transparently manage their cash register,” indicates Cheikh Sene, one of Weebi's co-founders.

“Weebi streamlines commercial exchanges. It helps manage the cash register and clients’ transactions securely and fairly. Weebi ends disputes involving clients’ transaction history,”  added Kande Diaby, another co-founder. 

The solution is delivered to users as a kit composed of a tablet computer and a printer. Using the dedicated tablet, Weebi’s paid users can create separate sheets for each of their clients. On the sheets, clients’ purchases can be listed and the type of transaction (paid in cash or on credit). 

Weebi also allows its users’ clients to load dedicated wallets that can be debited for each transaction made. In case of problems, the startup’s team is usually available to go on the ground to assist merchants.  For paying users, its subscription ranges from XOF99,900 and XOF149,000 for a computer tablet, an anti-theft device, a printer, and the bookkeeping app. 

The solution has won several awards since its launch. These include the Digital Innovation Award in January 2017 (Tigo / Reach for Change), the Digital Africa Challenge in 2017 (French Development Agency / BPIFrance), and the Arbre à Palabre hackathon in December 2017 in Abidjan (Société Générale). In the coming years, its developers intend to deploy it in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Gabon, Angola, and Ethiopia.

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

In Africa, rural areas are usually shunned by banks. Therefore, residents of those areas have to rely on alternative solutions. With Save, Rwandan startup Exuus wants to make those alternative solutions more efficient. 

Save is a fintech solution developed by Rwandan startup Exuus. It allows individuals to “save collectively” for financial empowerment.  

The solution was developed to facilitate an already existing process. “The lack of financial access for poor and vulnerable populations limits their access to a range of services and opportunities and, therefore, exacerbates their vulnerability to, in turn, end up in cycles of poverty. [...] To break this cycle, for decades now, low-income people both in urban and rural areas create savings groups. The savings circulates among members through different ways and return to members in credit or savings with interest giving them access to affordable capital to grow their small businesses and become financially resilient,”  explained Exuus founder, Steve Shema. 

Save makes the collective savings and loaning process smoother and more efficient.  Thanks to its mobile app (available for Android and iOS devices), web platform, and USSD code, the solution empowers members of each saving group. After paying dues, members can apply for loans to start or expand their businesses.  

The solution also helps members who belong to many saving groups to monitor their savings and pay their contributions without paying any transaction fee. In 2019, Exuus revealed that based on the feedback received for its fintech solution, it was planning to establish a presence in other East African countries. However, it said it was “tapping into a market of US$64 million in Rwanda and more than US$2 billion in annualized savings in East Africa.” At the time, the startup had already raised some US$575,000 for its operations. 

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of the population is unbanked or underbanked. To fill the gap left by mainstream financial institutions, startups are developing various tech solutions. 

Djamo is a fintech solution developed by Ivorian startup DJAMO Holding Ltd. It issues visa cards to its users, facilitating their online transactions.  

“Bank access is really difficult here [in Côte d’Ivoire]. We saw this difficulty as a huge opportunity. Our aim since inception has been to develop a mobile-first platform that could attract the masses. Our combined experience in the creation of consumer goods has been crucial in the launch of Djamo,” explained co-founder Hassan Bourgi.

By using its Android and iOS apps, Djamo clients can create an account and order a prepaid Visa card, which will be delivered within 48 hours. Users can load their Djamo Visa cards using mobile money or bank transfers. Then, they can easily make online purchases, benefiting from Djamo’s 3D secure technology. They can also easily block or unblock their cards (in the event of losing them or being stolen).  

From 2019 to 2021, the fintech had close to 90,000 users with some 50,000 transactions processed monthly. In February 2021, it was selected for Y Combinator’s accelerator program, becoming the first Ivorian startup to join the program. Its participation in the winter program entitled it to US$125,000 seed funding. Overall, since its creation, Djamo Holding has secured over US$450,000 to support its growth. 

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

The young entrepreneur wants to contribute to financial inclusion and economic development in his country. His digital payment solution already boasts more than 70,000 users.

Jules Kader Kaboré (photo) is a Burkinabe programmer and co-founder of Sank Business, a money transfer company launched in January 2021. 

  His company developed Sank Pay, a mobile payment app enabling users to make fee-free deposits. Users can also secure loans and make withdrawals with fees amounting to about 1% of transactions. 

“At Sank Business, our goal is to lift Burkina Faso into the ranks of African countries that have fully-digitalized economies, by 2025,” Jules said in December 2021.  

Through Sank Business, the latter issues payment cards that have no expiration date and are renewable at will. Its cards enable people with no internet access to carry out cashless financial transactions.  

Jules Kader Kaboré launched Sank Business after a few years in the U.S. tech industry. In 2016, he worked as an intern web developer for Ignition 72, a Maryland-based internet marketing agency.  From September to December 2018, he became a math tutor at Laney College in California. 

A few months after his stint at Laney College, along with some Burkinabe students based in the USA, he developed Coucou-Africa, a solution that allows users to buy or sell goods in Africa and even get the latest information about the continent. 

Melchior Koba

Published in TECH STARS

Mobile money and digital payment solutions are gradually taking over the business world. To facilitate payment processing, entrepreneurs are developing efficient solutions. 

Paymee is a fintech solution developed by a Tunisian eponymous startup. It is a gateway allowing firms to collect card payments.  

According to Paymee founder Mawen Amamou (photo), the startup is already known for the simplicity and efficiency of its payment solutions. It now wants  “to become the market reference in Tunisia … addressing [..] client needs and simplifying their operations …,” he said in a recent release announcing the completion of a “six-figure round.” 

To integrate Paymee’s solution on their websites, firms just have to create a business account with the fintech startup and validate that account by submitting required documents. They can also use the startup’s application programming interface or plugins. No matter the integration method chosen, they can process their transactions in real-time. 

In May 2019, the Tunisian Ministry of the digital economy labeled Paymee, which was founded in 2017, as a “startup”. Currently, it claims over 15,000 agent accounts and more than 250 business accounts with some 100,000 transactions processed.  

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

The number of mobile financial service subscribers rose significantly in Africa over the past ten years. According to the GSM Association, it is estimated at some 200 million subscribers currently. With the arrival of new ambitious actors, the high fees, which used to hinder mobile financial services adoption, are dropping. 

Wave Mobile Money S.A. (Senegal) and Wave Côte d'Ivoire S.A. recently secured a €90 million financing package arranged by the International Financial Corporation ( IFC). The package includes a €25 million loan from the IFC, and a combined €41 million B loan - Ed.note: Repayable over 5 to 8 years with the possibility to pay a large portion of the loan in the last amortization year- from Symbiotics, Blue Orchard, responsAbility and Lendable. The remaining €24 million is a parallel loan -not exposed to currency fluctuation risks- from Finnfund and Norfund. 

The funds secured will serve for the development of Wave’s activities in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. According to an IFC release dated July 6, “in addition to helping to finance the companies' operations, IFC's support will help establish a mobile money environment where customers can transact more often thanks to a simple fee structure and lower transaction costs.”  

This will foster higher frequency of transactions, new payment methods, and growing overall value of payments processed by the users, particularly among lower-income customers,” the release adds. 

Wave's vision of making Africa the first cashless continent, by building affordable and user-centric solutions, matches IFC's ambitions of universal financial inclusion. [...] This investment by IFC and other lenders helps us offer a diversity of financial products, encouraging users to stay within the formal financial sector, deepening financial inclusion in the region,” indicated Coura Sene, Wave’s Mobile Money Regional Director for the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). 

For Aliou Maïga, IFC's Regional Director for West and Central Africa, the loans “will not only promote inclusive finance, but it will also significantly contribute to further advancing digital economy solutions in West Africa.”

Let’s note that in September 2021, Wave Mobile Money Holdings Inc. (parent company of Wave Mobile Money S.A. (Senegal) and Wave Côte d'Ivoire S.A.) raised US$200 million during a Series A round, becoming a unicorn company (valued at over US$1 billion). 

Muriel Edjo

Published in Finance
vendredi, 01 juillet 2022 14:48

Côte d’Ivoire : Julaya centralizes payments

In the Ivorian language Bambara, Julaya means “trade”. It is now the name of a startup that facilitates payments. Currently, it claims hundreds of users in some regions.

Julaya is a digital platform developed by Franco-Ivorian startup Julaya SAS, founded in 2018, by Charles Talbot and Mathias Léopoldie. It allows users to make payments to mobile money and bank accounts right from one single platform. 

The platform “allows our clients to facilitate their accounting. They, therefore, improve their operating efficiency by automating staff, daily expenditure, and supplier payments. Our solution is plug-and-play with no tech skill requirement. It can thus be used by financial departments, which are still poorly digitalized,”  explains co-founderMathias Léopoldie.

Through its Android app, payments can be sent in record time. However, users will have to create a Julaya account and load it via partner banks, telecom operators, and fintech to access the feature. In Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, Julaya accounts can be loaded via at least 10 banks. 

According to Julaya SAS, over 300 directors of financial affairs and managing directors use the solution daily. In addition, the solution has processed more than 100,000 payments and salaries, helping save more than 300 hours of waiting time. The startup claims to have customer service available every hour of the day. 

Currently, its fees vary between 0 and 2 percent per transaction depending on the transaction type. Since its creation, the startup has completed several funding rounds totaling US$2.7 million, from angel investors and venture capitals like Orange Ventures, to support growth.

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

Thanks to digitalization, it has become easy for African entrepreneurs to create solutions for major challenges. In Uganda and Kenya, a fintech startup is helping address the low credit access problem. 

Tugende is a Ugandan startup that allows informal entrepreneurs, and small and medium-sized enterprise owners notably, access to credit. Doing so, the startup founded in 2013 by Michael Wilkerson helps them grow their businesses, build their credit profile and set up income-generating activities. 

“90% of businesses in Africa are MSMEs yet they receive less than 20% of total available credit. Tugende began by filling this credit gap for motorcycle taxis in Uganda, helping these self-employed entrepreneurs own instead of renting their key productive assets in 24 months or less,” the startup explains.  

Its services are accessible through its Android app. To request a loan from Tugende, users must be registered and have an account with the startup. If those conditions are met, they can submit a loan request and let Tugende carry out a background check by interviewing two of their relatives. After that step, they are required to deposit at least USh100 (about US$0.027) in the account opened with Tugende. 

The startup’s decision to grant loans is based on background checks and a big data and artificial intelligence system that predicts how beneficiaries will likely use the credits awarded. 

Currently, Tugende claims 52,000 users financed, over 29,000 active clients, and 800 full-time jobs created. In May 2022, it won the financial inclusion awards during the sixth edition of the African Banker Awards. Since its creation, the startup has completed several funding rounds totaling US$51.1 million. Apart from Uganda, it is also active in Kenya. 

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

Since the launch of its activities over a year ago, the fintech is highly praised by users. However, its partners’ discontent is growing because they fear its operating model could have a negative impact on financial inclusion and job creation in the long term. 

 On June 24, 2022, in Côte d’Ivoire, telecom operators and U.S Fintech Wave carried out a consultation meeting to elaborate a fee grid that would be beneficial for electronic money users, service providers, and electronic money issuers. According to the national union of mobile money agents Synamcil, no effective resolution came out of the meeting instructed by the Minister of Employment and Social Protection.

Ivorian mobile money agents will therefore have to wait a bit longer for a clear answer to their request for the improvement of their incomes, which is dwindling since April 2021 when Wave officially entered the local market with greatly reduced fees. 

Meanwhile, hoping for an ultimate solution to the situation, the case will be transmitted to the Prime Minister, with minutes of the various meetings initiated by the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection. For the time being, mobile money agents will only have to continue operations as usual hoping their job would not become unprofitable in the long term. 

An annoying business model 

Since June 1, 2022, the Ivorian mobile money market is shaken by fintech Wave’s decision to introduce a new price grid that reduces the commission paid to mobile money agents. According to Felix Coulibaly, secretary-general of Synamcil, the commissions were reduced by about 40 percent going from XOF2,400 to XOF1,350 for some transactions and XOF4,600 to 2,675 for others. 

When Wave reduced the commissions we used to collect, it also introduced a new system called ‘revenue sharing’. We rejected that system because we believed it was not transparent since we had no visibility on the inner workings,” he explained. 

Despite the agents’ opposition, Wave insisted on implementing its new price grid, leading some agents to go on strike from June 2 to 4, 2022. The grid was finally canceled during a meeting with unions operating in the electronic money segment, telecom operators, Wave, and the Ministry of Employment on June 17. 

Agents then unilaterally decided to impose a XOF100 fee on deposits and withdrawals. The aim, according to Felix Coulibaly, was to allow agents to “make ends meet… let them earn enough to cover operating charges until the Minister of Employment helps find a solution” to the problem. 

For the secretary-general, the 1% model touted by Wave is not that realistic and could have a negative impact on the market. “The three telecom operators used to pay us commissions for every transaction… Since April 1, Orange has decided to copy Wave’s operating model by paying us commissions for cumulated daily transitions. What we are holding against Wave is its model, which changed the market and reduced our commissions. Its Wave’s arrival in the market that caused all those problems. They [Wave executives] have always claimed that their model is tested and proven and that reshaping it would destroy it. They did not bring only problems to the market. In fact, thanks to them, the population is now aware that it is possible to collect just 1% fee on electronic transactions. Even we, agents, were not aware of such a possibility. It is now up to them to prove to the Ivorian state that they have a sustainable model,” he indicated. 

Threat to financial inclusion 

The Ivorian mobile money market was relatively peaceful before Wave’s arrival. Transaction fees were about 2 to 3 percent. Every operator had a well-defined grid. Everything was fine until Wave entered the market. When it introduced a new model to the market, it disrupted everything,” says Sidibe Aboubacar, chairman of the  Ivorian independent mobile money vendors’ union Amimomoci.

He explained that in October 2020, when Wave first started operations in Côte d’Ivoire with its 1% fee model, users were enthusiastic because the other operators’ fees were averaging 1 to 1.8 percent. While users were praising the model, it was destroying vendors’ income, he added. For four to five months, telecom operators maintained their commission level, they finally took measures since they were losing market share. MTN and Moov reduced their commissions while Orange completely changed its business model.

Apart from the reduced commissions that affect mobile money agents’ income, the other grievance Sidibe Aboubacar nurses against Wave is its propensity to make agents pay for the weaknesses of its economic model.  “When Wave says fee-free deposits and withdrawals, some users deposit money in their account in Abidjan and go withdraw it [the same day] in Yamoussoukro. In that case, Wave will not pay commission to the two agents involved here because the transaction did not generate commissions. It sometimes even claims that the mobile money agents are complicit with the clients that act in that manner. We deem this treatment unfair,” he confided. 

Mobile money fears job losses due to some outlets becoming unprofitable and therefore shutting down if the government does not find a sustainable solution for the fee problem. Failure to find a solution will also affect financial inclusion. The population could also be forced to go miles and spent transport fees just to carry out financial transactions they can currently perform in their immediate neighborhood.  

Muriel Edjo

Published in Finance

In Nigeria, a new trend is developing with the booming e-commerce market. That trend in social commerce encourages social interactions and good bargains. 

Fintech platform PocketApp recently secured an Approval in Principle (AIP) from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to become a mobile money operator. The approval was announced, Monday (June 27), by Piggytech Global Limited. It is the first step before the obtention of a mobile money license.  

For the last 18 months, we have been focused on building the core infrastructure that will enable us to secure social commerce and payments at scale. We believe that social commerce will thrive better in a more trusted environment. So we added escrow to our payment infrastructure, protecting buyers and sellers and many other features, ensuring a smooth shopping experience on the app,” said PocketApp COO Patricia Adoga.  

PocketApp was launched, in 2021, as Abeg App. It was then specialized in money transfer but, over the months, it shifted to connect buyers and sellers in Nigeria. To date, it has two million users. It intends to add new features and target the whole African market.  

Thanks to the mobile money license, PocketApp will be able to create and manage mobile money portfolios, issue electronic money, and payment cards as well as every other service authorized by the CBN. 

According to Research&Markets, Nigeria’s social commerce industry would grow by 82.4% annually to reach US$1,003.8 million by end 2022 and US$23,817.4 million by 2028. 

Muriel Edjo

Published in Finance
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