Direct Pay Online Group (DPO) has mastered the fasted way of growth acquiring already exisiting companies with customers instead of going for the customers itself directly.
The firm today acquired Setcom (Pty) Ltd, which operates SID Instant EFT, the original and leading instant electronic funds transfer (EFT) solution in South Africa.
The acquisition is its fourth in Southern Africa after it acquired PayGate South Africa in September 2016, VCS Namibia and Botswana in March 2017, PayThru South Africa in June 2017, and VCS South Africa in August 2017
DPO says the deal will see Setcom complement comprehensive suite of payment solutions across the continent for all major cards, mobile money and e-wallets.
According to Offer Gat, the DPO Group Chairman:“We are excited to add South Africa’s leading Instant EFT solution to our suite of products, and look forward to working with Setcom’s innovative team, including the founder and instant EFT innovator David Liu.”
Setcom began its operations in 1999 and has been providing secure online card processing to hundreds of South African online merchants since then. In 2007, the company launched SID Instant EFT, a secure payment product that allows real-time funds transfer from a customer’s to a merchant’s bank account through an efficient and easy-to-use online platform.
SID has enabled merchants across South Africa to collect instant EFT payments via websites, email or invoices, and has become one of the most popular online payment methods in the country.
The acquisition of Setcom, and the subsequent incorporation of SID Instant EFT into the DPO product suite, will allow DPO to be the first Payment Service Provider (PSP) to offer merchants with a single solution for all their online payment needs, ensuring that through a single and simple integration, merchants will be able to accept payments through card, mobile money and EFT across the African continent.
Though DPO Group says it serves over 25,000 online merchants in Africa including over 50 airlines, thousands of hotels, restaurants, travel agents, tour operators and other players in the e-commerce sector, a majority of these have been acquired through acquisitions and not its fancy tech. If its products were superior, DPO wouldn’t need to buy out any competition. On the other hand, the acquisitions will give it the volumes it wants to turn profitable or go public.
DPO Group CEO, Eran Feinstein seems to expound on these acquisitions.
“Setcom has continuously innovated and achieved impressive results in the South African payment space,” he said. “We plan to expand and promote SID to all current and future merchants across our markets so that they may offer this payment option to their customers, further helping them to enhance their businesses.”
Kenya’s Pezesha.com a peer-to-peer micro-lending marketplace for Africa has been selected to participate at the upcoming Blackbox Connect 20 accelerator programme, a two-week residential programme for startup founders from across the globe.
Holding in Silicon Valley in November this year, Blackbox is an entrepreneur-first approach that aims to make entrepreneurs the core engine for global economic growth, and that they need someone in their corner as they build the future.
Blacbox helps talented startup founders emerge as stronger leaders to help them redefine what’s possible for themselves, their company, their community, and the world.
Pezesha, which has given more than 5,000 borrowers from a pool of more than 100 local lenders in just 10 months of operation, says it aims to use the two-week stay to connect with ”fellow talented founders from more than 40 countries to share ideas, networks and partnerships and build relationships with the pool of experienced venture capitalists, and subject matter experts as well as access to strategic resources to fuel Pezesha’s growth and global expansion.”
Blackbox says it’s rethinking the traditional accelerator model which largely focused on creating a pipeline for investors instead of working to create a strong foundation under the founder which elevates their long-term potential, expands their worldview, exposes them to new opportunities, and connects them to their own greatness.
Local smart commerce platform KOKO Networks is looking at expanding its platform to include wireless broadband, digital content distribution and payment of e-government services in its planned second phase of growth.
Speaking to TechMoran, KOKO’s Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Sagun Saxena, explained that the firm’s first business line, an ethanol cooking fuel solution branded SmartCook, is progressing well. The company has installed its “KOKOpoint” fuel dispensers in nearly a dozen different parts of Nairobi, and will continue to expand its presence gradually this year while it focuses on building up a large agent pipeline for city-wide launch next year. By the end of 2018, it expects to have a very dense network of KOKOpoints throughout Nariobi, serving mass-market consumers within 300 meters of their front-doors.
KOKO says the response to SmartCook’s “Soft Launch” earlier this year has been tremendous, with users appreciating the cleanliness, safety and bite-size affordability of the modern cooking solution.
Saxena tells TechMoran that distribution of SmartCook fuel via these automated fuel dispensers is working safely and efficiently, and the firm is very pleased with the feedback from customers and Agents alike.
And although KOKO is focused on scaling up access to the SmartCook solution via its network of KOKOpoints in the short term, back in its labs, its team is working on some exciting opportunities to expand the platform.
“Our team is working closely with several companies on expanding the KOKO platform to include e-commerce, wireless broadband connectivity, digital content distribution, fintech and e-government services,” Saxena explains.
Since its public unveiling in April 2017, KOKO has moved to establish a basic presence in Nairobi and is preparing for significant expansion across the city and in other large urban African markets in 2018.
“The experience we’ve gained so far in Nairobi is feeding continuous improvement of our technology and operating processes, resulting in valuable safety, performance and efficiency gains,” Saxena said. “Major new software features have been released for KOKO’s customers, shopkeepers and partners. For example, the new myKOKO android app enables customers to easily earn cash for convincing friends and family members to join SmartCook.
During its April launch, Saxena says major oil marketing companies showed a lot of interest in the firm and are now positioning themselves to use KOKO’s technology to supply ethanol cooking fuel to KOKOpoints near their petrol stations. KOKO is currently running a process to cement an oil industry partnership that will help accelerate KOKO’s network buildout as it continues to expand production capacity of its consumer and fuel dispenser hardware to support next year’s city-wide launch.
The firm is also working closely with relevant bodies to strengthen the certification standards and regulatory environment for the nascent ethanol-based cooking industry that it is leading, to ensure that this innovative new energy industry segment develops to its full potential.
Yes, it’s a cliché, but nevertheless… watch this space!
Wala is a digital banking platform for Africa making banking FREE for everyone and completely changes the way consumer’s access, engage with, and use financial products and services.
From accounts, to payments, to insurance, Wala aims to make personal finance easier or more affordable for all. It’s philosophy is different. By working in partnership with banks and other financial services providers, Wala can offer zero-fee and below market rate products to mass market consumers. The Wala platform sits in between banks and customers eliminating many costs thereby creating a more efficient system for everyone. Building a savings culture is imperative! Wala’s number one priority is to protect customers and ensure they get zero-fee banking and affordable financial products so they can get on the path towards financial stability.
What inspired you to launch Wala? Is Wala a result of your work in Uganda?
My work in Uganda absolutely influenced me to start Wala. I was spending time in Kitgum, Uganda where I had launched a mobile cash transfer solution for subsistence farmers in one of the most underserved areas of the country. We were doing some really incredible and impactful work, but I was conflicted. The women we were providing cash transfers to would receive mobile payments, go to an agent and pay a fee to cash out, and then place that money in cash boxes in their huts. They had no safe place to guard it, to grow it, or create more value from it. Whether a subsistence farmer living in rural Uganda or an Uber driver in Johanessburg, South Africa the problems remain the same- financial services are extremely costly and generally inaccessible due to reasons of inefficiency and distribution. It was my time in Uganda that I realized banking was the problem, but also the answer. And from here, Wala was born!
What have you done before Wala?
Prior to Wala I founded two companies and devoted my time to socially innovative initiatives in areas including microfinance, economic development, and women’s empowerment. My previous work ranges from cash transfer solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa to the development of an investment fund for underserved markets. I received my Masters of Public Policy from the University of Chicago’s Irving B. Harris School with a concentration in Development and Behavioral Economics. It was there that I began learning how small scale improvements could make lasting impacts through methods of financial innovation.
How does it work?
Once a user registers and download the app they can digitally register for a current account. At minimum, a user needs an ID book to register. Users can then open savings accounts. From here, users can deposit and withdraw money through partner ATMs and agents, receive direct deposits and inbound payments, send p2p payments to friends and family in the Wala network, buy airtime and pay bills, and login to check balance, move money between accounts, get insights into spending habits and history.
In the future, users will receive debit cards/prepaid cards to transact directly with merchants, get access to insurance, international payments, loans, and credit all through the Wala mobile platform!
Do you think South Africa is the right market for Wala? Why did you decide to launch in South Africa first?
While consumers throughout every African country need better banking and financial services, we strongly believe that South Africa is the best country for Wala to launch in given the customer base and financial industry.
The most important part of Wala is creating what I like to call a “consumer-driven” financial solution. Everything we do is for consumers and our goal is to provide zero-fee accounts to all Africans so financial empowerment becomes a reality. Over the last 10 months, we have seen a huge increase in our customer base specifically in South Africa. We have almost 1M South Africans who have signed up for a Wala financial community via Facebook and given how quickly that number is growing we want to focus our energy here.
Additionally, South Africa is the financial hub of Africa. Most banks are headquartered in Johannesburg, industry experts reside throughout the country, and the banking infrastructure is developed and very advanced. We need to make sure we are not only close to our partners, but also valuable resources that will help us grow.
What is Wala’s business model?
The beauty of the Wala business model is that we make money when our customers save more money! We work in partnership with banks and other financial services providers to offer free or below market rate products. The Wala platform sits in between banks and customers eliminating many costs thereby creating a more efficient system for everyone.
We don’t generate revenue by charging fees on transactions or cross-selling products. Instead, our partners pay us for bringing assets into their banking system. We built our model this way so that we always stay in line with the needs and financial stability of our users. If they improve their financial lives, Wala succeeds.
Do you have any investors?
Wala is currently backed by angel investors that recognized a massive opportunity to innovate the banking industry throughout emerging markets while also solving a global problem impacting billions of people.
Do you have bank partners?
We are working closely with a number of banks and financial services provider so we can provide zero-fee banking and below market rate financial products to our users.
How is Wala helping to improve users savings culture?
The Wala philosophy is different from most financial companies. Rather than focusing on lending we focus explicitly on savings. There is no shortage of companies that are willing to offer consumers loans and that’s because they can do so at high interest rates that end up costing people an arm and a leg. Loan businesses are very profitable as long as they are run properly and loan businesses that target the poor or people with bad credit can even be predatory, making it worse for the consumer long-term.
Of course there are banks and companies that do provide good loans but we believe financial health starts with something more basic: a bank account. A bank account allows you to safely store your income, grow your savings, and even hold your loan money. Having an account helps you build a financial history, which will allow you get loans at lower interest rates in the future. With Wala, consumers can easily send payments to their community, pay bills, and access other great financial tools. But again, it all starts with a bank account!
Any plans to launch in new markets?
Of course! We plan to expand throughout Africa in the coming years to markets including Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Egypt, and many more. Wherever customers are in need of better banking, Wala will be there.
Which services compete with Wala and how is Wala unique from them? How different is Wala from a basic debit card or mobile money account?
Wala is the only company that can provide ZERO-FEE banking. From traditional banking to mobile wallets and payments to loans, most financial products in Africa are transactional-based meaning they charge consumers for any type of transaction. If you use mobile payments with a telecom provider you will incur fees to send money, receive money, hold money, withdrawal money, etc. But with Wala, we cover all fees for you and make the experience convenient through a digital only tool so that you don’t have to deal with the additional financial stress. No more hidden fees. No more long queues. Just Wala.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Change in any form is extremely difficult to accomplish and we are pushing boundaries on multiple fronts- banking, technology, policy. Everyday we have a new challenge, but we have an incredible team driving forward every step of the way.
As a financial company, most startup founders would agree with me when I say the greatest challenges are:
Acquisition- It takes time to build trust when you are dealing with people’s money. Fintech isn’t like building another social media app, it’s creating solutions for the most important asset in people’s lives- money.
Policy- Many regulators are risk averse and implement policy for a reason making it often times difficult to navigate complex systems. It can take a long time to build relationships with regulators and to get them on your side and in the startup world time is our most precious commodity.
Fundraising- Even if you have the greatest idea, solution, product, customers, etc. investors always want more especially when you are in underserved markets so you need to figure out how to stay lean and continue to build and grow with limited capital.
Bitcoin is gradually finding its way into stores in Africa. This is a further signal that Bitcoin is the currency of the future because the more stores accept it as a mode of payment, the more Africans will be interested in investing in the cryptocurrency that is worth more than $4,000.
One of the businesses embracing Bitcoin is South Africa’s retail giant, Pick n Pay as it has announced that shoppers will for a “limited time” be able to pay for their groceries using bitcoin at a Pick n Pay retail store in Cape Town.
In a statement, the Cape Town-based specialist software payments development house Electrum, said customers at Pick n Pay’s campus store are now able to use the bitcoin cryptocurrency to purchase groceries and services.
Electrum MD Dave Glass says, “We’ve worked closely with PnP for several years as a key technology provider. Our mission is to support innovative enterprises like Pick n Pay, and together we use the advanced Electrum software-as-a-service technology to move quickly on new opportunities, whilst at the same time delivering the best possible shopping experience“.
Jason Peisl, IS Executive at Pick n Pay, explains, “At Pick n Pay one of our key values is to embrace change and encourage innovation and leadership. To deliver on that promise we are constantly working with our technology partners to find ways in which we can deliver valuable, innovative services to our customers. Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin are still relatively new payment concepts, yet we have been able to effectively demonstrate how we are able to accept such alternative payments.“
Google has launched a new digital payment app named Google Tez for the Indian market. The app supports English and seven Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu. It is available for both Android and iOS platforms.
Google Tez links user’s bank account to Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. You can use to perform transactions including money transfers, receive payments and pay for purchases.
Google revealed that Tez was made for India due to its growing tech hub.
The banks that Tez supports include Axis, HDFC Bank, ICICI and State Bank of India and others that support UPI. Online payment partners include large food chains like Dominos, transport services like RedBus, and Jet Airways according to the information on the website.
It is noteworthy to add that Tez is not a mobile wallet where users can store money in the app. It needs to be topped up to be used.
This launch will put Tex in direct competition with Paytm, India’s largest mobile wallet company. It launched 7 years ago and has Alibaba and Softbank has invested in the business.
Meanwhile, Google plans to introduce a mobile wallet option in the next year.
South African food delivery startup UCOOK, a fast-growing e-food delivery service in Cape Town that provides fresh, gourmet food kits directly to a user’s door, has partnered messaging app WeChat to allow users to order food from UCOOK and make payments using WeChat.
This partnership is facilitated by WeChat wallet. The Wallet allows WeChat users a variety of safe and secure transactions or purchases using their mobile phones.
Customers can top up their wallets with cash. With this cash, new and existing UCOOK customers buying through the UCOOK official account on WeChat can pay for their order and will also receive 50 percent off their first box.
Since 2016, WeChat has worked with various South African companies, such as OrderIn, picup and FitKey, and also launched a fund for African tech startups.
Fenix International, a venture-backed pay-to-own home solar system technology and and financial services firm has raised funds from MTN, the Swedish Embassy in Zambia and USAID to launch pay-to-own solar home systems in Zambia.
The funding together with MTN’s distribution networks will help the firm reach unbanked and off-grid customers then later connect them to smart phones, financial services among others.
According to Lyndsay Handler, CEO of Fenix International, “Over 90 per cent of rural Zambians lack access to electricity and have no options other than dangerous candles and kerosene lanterns to light their homes. This is the harsh reality of the situation which we are working to change. Our solar home systems not only provide light and energy, but our unique Fenix credit score makes upgrades and additional life-changing products accessible to committed customers as their needs and incomes grow. Ten years from now, we hope to eliminate the use of candles and be an important part of our customers’ lives across Zambia.”
Though the amount MTN is committing has not been made public but might be in millions of dollars if its distribution network is valued. The Swedish Embassy is committing nearly $3m (SEK 24,750,000) to Fenix in Zambia between now and 2020 while USAID will contribute an additional $750,000 Fenix.
The launch in Zambia represents the first step in Fenix’s expansion across Africa with their flagship product, ReadyPay Power, which provides off-grid customers access to ultra-affordable solar power and already popular in Uganda. Approximately 15 million Zambians live without access to the electrical grid, representing 80 per cent of the total population and 95 percent of rural residents. Fenix will extend its own proven model for making solar power accessible and affordable, which has doubled the company’s Ugandan customer base in just 12 months. With backing from the Swedish Embassy and USAID, Fenix expects to reach 850,000 rural Zambians by 2020.
ReadyPay Power is an expandable solar home system designed to provide power to households and small businesses that the grid has failed to reach. Customers make instalments of as little as $0.20 per day via MTN Mobile Money until they have paid in full. Fenix uses these continuous micro-payments to generate a credit score, enabling customers to access additional system upgrades or financial services.
“The transformative relationship between MTN Mobile Money and off-grid energy has been an exceptional revelation. MTN Mobile Money now sits at the heart of many households, who use these simple and secure services daily to light up their lives. For us, this is all part of the mission to create mobile solutions which make a difference,” said Wane Ngambi, Head of Mobile Financial Services, MTN Zambia.
Funding from the Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka is provided as part of the Power Africa: Beyond the Grid Fund Zambia (BGFZ) initiative. This is managed by REEEP (the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership). BGFZ aims to bring basic clean energy access to 1 million Zambians and accelerate private sector growth in clean energy generation and distribution in the country. USAID’s additional $750,000 support is provided as part of its Scaling Off-Grid Energy: Grand Challenge for Development, which aims to create up to 20 million new connections in off-grid communities across Africa.
Diamond Trust Bank Kenya (DTB) has partnered Mastercard to roll-out the DTB Masterpass QR app in Kenya, a mobile payment solution that will enable millions of businesses to accept fast and secure digital payments from consumers just months after Kopo Kopo announced a similar deal.
Mastercard aims to impact over 250,000 micro, small and medium enterprises across eleven markets in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years. Kopo Kopo will be working with DTB to ensure the solution reaches their full network, meeting the needs of merchants working across various sectors in the country.
Unlike Lipa Na M-Pesa, Masterpass QR allows customers to just scan and pay instantly as if they had their credit or debit cards. The firms are signing up merchants for acceptance then focus on getting as many consumers as possible to fight cash, slow Lipa Na M-Pesa and cards. Masterpass QR enables them to accept digital payments anywhere, anytime.
Users of the DTB mobile banking platform will be able to safely pay for in-store purchases by scanning a Quick Response (QR) code displayed at checkout on their smartphones, or by entering a merchant identifier into their feature phones. Consumers don’t need to carry cash or their physical bank cards – rather they can pay immediately using the DTB Masterpass QRapp on their mobile device anywhere that Masterpass QR is accepted.
Currently Masterpass QR is being introduced at key Kopo Kopo merchants in Nairobi, but there are plans to ensure the solution is accessible across the country. Additionally, the interoperable solution can be used in markets outside of Kenya, and Mastercard has started to introduce the solution in multiple markets across the continent.
“The mobile solution will not only eliminate the merchants’ reliance on costly point of sale devices, it will also remove the dangers and logistical issues of handling cash on daily sales. Kenyan merchants who previously didn’t have access to electronic payment tools can now be financially included ensuring they are able to track and monitor the businesses cash flow immediately,” says Nasim Devji, Group CEO and Managing Director at DTB.
Devji adds that DTB customers will be able to use their mobile banking app to access Masterpass QR, and conduct their day-to-day banking needs directly on their device.
The roll-out of the solution forms an important part of the Mastercard commitment to impact over 150,000 MSMEs in Kenya this year and additionally supports the company’s global goal of connecting 40 million micro and small merchants to the formal financial economy, helping them to move beyond cash by the end of 2020.
“We’re passionate about giving small businesses the tools they need to grow and prosper, and we see the mobile device as a way to financially enable millions of merchants in Africa. The use of mobile solutions is not expected to decline in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially if you consider that by 2022 there will be over 1 billion mobile subscribers in the region according to recent research,” said Ken Kinyua, CEO of Kopo Kopo.