uKheshe, a South African micro transaction platform that allows card holders to pay and get paid, has announced the completion of its first seed investment round from Fitech Ventures and the Ocean on 76 Group.
Ukeshe was under incubation as a CSI initiative within software development house Jini.Guru.
In a statement, Clayton Hayward, co-founder of uKheshe said: “Having access to a transaction account is the first step towards broader financial inclusion. Since launching, we have seen, through tremendous uptake, that these services are not only needed but will significantly impact the overall financial inclusion of unbanked and underbanked South Africans.”
With this initial funding, Hayward says that the next funding round for uKheshe will be series A, but the timing of this investment is yet to be determined.
uKheshe allows users to pay and get paid by scanning an uKheshe QR code to send or recieve money to the cardholder from anywhere at any time. The cardholder can then draw cash or check balances. Users can also withdraw money at Pick n Pay stores nationwide or pay for goods directly via USSD or the app.
uKheshe card holders do not need a bank account as once one activates their uKheshe QR code with their cell phone number, they are ready to accept payments and pay for goods. uKheshe QR cards are free and can be ordered online for users to distribute to those who need help. Users can even hand out prepaid uKheshe cards.
The uKheshe Card features a QR code that is linked to the user’s cell phone number and will enable them to receive payments from anyone scanning the code with the uKheshe app. The owner of an uKheshe QR card does not need a smartphone or a bank account. All they do is dial 12082274# and follow the USSD prompts to view their balance or withdraw the money. Money can be withdrawn at Pick n Pay till points nationwide.
The uKheshe Life Benefits card also let’s users access health and accidental insurance cover. Recently, the firm launched the uKheshe API to allow organisations to incorporate uKheshe into POS and eCommerce applications.
Seed investor, Chris Lister-James from Fitech Ventures says that while it is difficult to accurately value early-stage fintechs, uKheshe’s current trajectory has justified the initial valuation of R100m: “The market opportunity is enormous and we are excited about our investment and the role we will play in providing sustainable financial services. Having invested in several early-stage fintech start-ups, we have some great complementary companies and look forward to playing both a financial and strategic role in the growth of uKheshe.”
According to Lister-James, while most countries in Africa remain largely cash-based, with majority low-income earners, who are wary of banking fees and distrust financial service providers, there is immense opportunity: “The significant cell phone penetration enables fintechs, such as uKheshe, to develop convenient, cost-effective, digital financial services solutions that can circumvent the existing financial services providers. We view this disruption as not only positive, but necessary.”
lister-James says that the uKheshe investment will typically extend between three to five years, which given the nature of the rapidly changing environment, is a realistic timeframe.
Digital migration is a reality and Prins Mhlanga, CEO, Ocean on 76 Group, another uKheshe seed investor, says that services like this will significantly improve financial inclusion as it offers an easy-to-use, affordable alternative: “Usage and the subsequent sustainability of the platform will ensure that as the world continues to embrace digital transformation, the majority won’t be left behind.”