18 Oct

Investment: The digital bank – delivering on Africa’s potential

Digital transformation ranks alongside changing demographics, increasing customer expectations and industry consolidation as one of the major factors that will shape the future of African banking.

While cash is still dominant, the shift to digital banking increasingly is becoming the driving force across our continent. It is no secret that Africa’s high mobile phone penetration, expected to rise to 85% by 2020 (when there will be 498m smartphones in use), is enabling banks to connect with millions of new customers, while the breakneck pace of innovation from fintech start-ups shows little sign of slowing.

The high number of unbanked and underserved customers, together with still growing economies and rising demand for more sophisticated financial services, represents a significant opportunity for Africa’s banking industry to provide new and innovative ways to access financial services beyond the reach of traditional branch and ATM networks.

Digitalisation also has the potential to alleviate some of Africa’s greatest economic and structural challenges. Digital collections, such as payments for utilities, will contribute to combining enterprise with the passion and ingenuity of the individual.

If these anticipated benefits are to be fully realised, building the capacity of end users to adopt technology, as well as creating an enabling regulatory environment, will be as important as the solutions themselves.

Competitive advantage
This presents a number of challenges, including improving financial literacy, ensuring that regulation keeps pace with innovation and maintaining trust with every digital transaction, especially in the light of growing cybersecurity threats.

Nevertheless, the rapid uptake of mobile wallets indicates that African consumers more readily accept digital technologies than their Western counterparts, so they represent a key weapon in a bank’s armoury to maintain competitive advantage.

Digital transformation
Ecobank was in the vanguard of African banks to recognise the need to harness technology to unleash the full potential of our unparalleled pan-African platform. Utilising technology to automate internal processes, improve compliance and monitor performance, we are increasing efficiency and achieving considerable cost savings.

Read more: The digital bank – delivering on Africa’s potential

03 Oct

Fintech space – what you need to know from a legal perspective

The fast-growing fintech industry is best described as the use of technology in the financial sector to assist consumers and other parties involved in that space. Essentially, entrepreneurs use software and modern technology to “disrupt” the way that commerce is done in the financial sector.

A significant amount of fintech disruption has occurred in South Africa over the last few years, as devices such as smartphones have become increasingly accessible to the public. In fact, it has become such a fast-growing industry that UCT now offers a “fintech degree” which is a master’s in data science, specialising in financial technology. This is a significant sign that fintech is becoming increasingly important in the South African context.

Some successful South African start-ups in the fintech arena that are worth mentioning are SnapScan (a point-of-sale solution using cellular phones), Yoco (a point-of-sale solution using very simplified tech to allow credit/ debit card sales for vendors of any size) and Luno (a Bitcoin exchange and Bitcoin wallet service).

Due to the vast number of lucrative opportunities in the fintech industry, it has arguably become saturated with start-ups who are trying to enter it with similar or overlapping initiatives. The fintech gold rush is alive and well.

Another challenge within the fintech space is legal compliance. These initiatives are often regulated by legal principles that are not cognisant of the nuances of the latest developments in commerce. This means that the legislators are constantly playing catch-up and the pace is getting faster every day. This has resulted in the cost of legal advice being exceptionally expensive. Attorneys often have to liaise with regulatory bodies to get certainty as to where the regulatory framework around an initiative is heading, as the existing laws may be a few steps behind the latest developments.

Here are four tips for entrepreneurs or start-ups on how to overcome the legal challenges of entering the fintech market.

Read more: Entering the fintech space – what you need to know from a legal perspective

29 Sep

We are witnessing the birth of an African digital economy

“And this is just the beginning,” says Wari CEO.

To what extent is your platform an African solution to a uniquely African situation?

We started Wari in 2008, convinced that Africa has a very specific role to play in the global digital sector. This was because Africa’s economic structure and culture lends itself perfectly to an ‘uberisation’ of employment and the economy as a whole – where people are all entrepreneurs. Even while working within another structure, they’re also working on their own behalf.

The world of work in Africa seems to be fertile ground for developing new digital services and new features that are having such an impact around the globe. We designed a platform that would allow us to approach this economic structure with a truly African standpoint, setting up a full range of services that would meet people’s needs.

This idea has been the bedrock of Wari and the reason for its success: it meets a need that people have. We decided to launch our activity in Africa initially because the conditions were perfect for it, but our vision was to also offer services globally, to everyone in the whole world.

How would you describe the services you provide – banking or telecoms?
Basically, each of us has our own business: banks offer financial services, and operators offer telecoms services to their customers. Wari is somewhere between the two, with the role of aggregator – bringing together and organising information from various sources.

We created a standardised service platform, bringing everyone together into a single ecosystem where each player has their own place to set up. This means we can offer the advantages of a completely neutral platform that helps to create jobs.

Let’s take Senegal as an example – although of course we have a presence in more than 60 countries in Africa and beyond – we’ve already created more than 18,000 jobs in that country alone. We have more than 500,000 hotspots, either directly or through out partners.

Read more: “We are witnessing the birth of an African digital economy and this is just the beginning,” says Wari CEO 

19 Sep

Nigerian Tech Entrepreneur Is Building An African Digital Powerhouse

Over the last 15 years, Africa has seen significant mobile telecoms growth and now data is being viewed as the ‘new oil’ on the continent.

Founder of the Terragon Group, Elo Umeh, a 35-year-old Nigerian with a knack for mobile, digital innovation and creative solutions, has made overcoming data access and reach on Africa’s most pervasive device the mission of the company he founded 8 years ago. With a vast amount of experience in the mobile telecommunications industry having worked in different countries in Africa – Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire – Umeh has consulted widely for various organisations in the telecommunications and banking sectors, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on management of rural telephony initiatives, mobile payments in West Africa and the deployment of new products.

A keynote speaker at TMT Finance Africa which recently took place in London, Elo Umeh is the current co-chair of the Mobile Marketing Association in Nigeria. He talks to me about being a significant player in a fast-growing market.

What has fuelled your entrepreneurial drive?

My love for digital has come from the iPhone. As an undergraduate in Lagos people couldn’t communicate unless they queued along with 30 or 40 people for hours to use a public phone. The government held a monopoly on phone lines and provided relatively substandard service, so not much was happening from a commercial standpoint. The development of mobile communications was a real gamechanger and from the beginning it began to make a significant impact across the continent. I realized it was going to change everything.

Why create a technology business?

I saw the potential of reaching an untapped market, that struggled due to the lack of basic infrastructure, therefore, development of communications, transportation, power and could be bridged through the innovation that potentially was being heralded by the launch of the smartphone in 2007.

Read more: How Nigerian Tech Entrepreneur Elo Umeh Of Terragon Group Is Building An African Digital Powerhouse

29 Aug

eBay opens U.S. platform to Africa with MallforAfrica.com partnership


Americans can now buy African goods on eBay through the company’s partnership with MallforAfrica.com.

Starting this week, products from select vendors in six African countries are available on eBay’s U.S. shopping site. The collaboration starts in style, with opening merchandise categories of fashion, art, jewelry, and clothing.

For the new program, MallforAfrica selects the sellers and handles payments on its proprietary platform. DHL is the shipping partner. Online shoppers can browse the entire collection on eBay’s Mall for Africa Store.

The new online channel expands an existing relationship between the two e-commerce companies. In  2016, they launched the eBay Powered by MallforAfrica platform allowing U.S. vendors to sell in Africa.

“A year ago our focus was about how we could work with a partner to overcome shipping, payment, and trade barriers to offer eBay’s selection in Africa,” Sylvie de Wever, eBay’s General Manager of Latin America and US exports, told TechCrunch.

“If you think about our purpose, which is connecting millions of buyers and sellers around the world and creating economic opportunity, it makes sense to open up the American market to sellers in Africa,” she said.

To start, the program taps goods from merchants in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, and Burundi, according to de Wever. “We’ll be adding more sellers and more countries,” she said.

On the selection of African vendors, “The main criteria are that the products be made in Africa and quality―making sure it’s a quality product that we can ship within the categories selected,” said MallforAfrica CEO Chris Folayan.

To ensure both, MallforAfrica created a new association, the Africa Made Product Standards(AMPS), to verify made in Africa status and merchandise standards. Initial vendors include African art and craft site Qeturahand accessory brand Eclectic Chique.

Both MallforAfrica’s Folayan and eBay’s de Wever underscored the partnership to sell select African products on eBay is not charity. “This is very much about expanding the reach of African sellers, enabling their platforms, and allowing them to earn and compete globally,” said de Wever.

Folayan sees value for the continent in connecting African sellers to the global digital market. “We’re going to help Africans get on the e-commerce roadmap and make sure people see there are amazing products coming out of Africa,” he said.

“The end result is not just artisans getting known, it’s about giving them a platform expand their businesses, to make money, to send their kids to school, to impact their families,” he added.

MallforAfrica was founded in 2011 to solve challenges global consumer goods companies face when entering African markets. With a unique payment and delivery system, it serves as a digital broker and logistics manager between U.S. retailers and African consumers. The venture has backing from UK private equity firm Helios Investment Partners and alliances with companies such as clothier Hawes and Curtis and department store Macy’s.

While digital sales revenue in Africa is expected to exceed $75 billion by 2025, there’s no reliable estimate of the potential marketplace for online African goods in the U.S., according to Chris Folayan.

Still, he’s optimistic. “We know this will be a pretty big market,” he said, noting demand at two levels. “There’s this wave of interest in African centric designs in mainstream fashion. You’ve seen brands such as Chanel and Dolce Gabbana elevate that. Then you have Africans in the U.S. who want to reconnect with their heritage.”

In addition to being one of the most educated demographics in America, Africans have become one of the fastest growing immigrant populations, according to data from Pew and the U.S. Census Bureau.

eBay’s new partnership has another interesting tech angle: the ability of e-commerce to leapfrog government trade policy.

The last major legislation expanding trade between the U.S. and Africa dates back to 2000. E-commerce partnerships don’t wait for congressional approval.

“We’ve seen people all over the world want to trade, regardless of regulation” said eBay’s Sylvie de Wever.


via techcrunch 

22 Aug

Nigeria: State Positioned for International Oil, Gas Dominance Despite Challenges

international oil

By embracing a digital revolution in its oil and gas facilities, Nigeria could propel itself from the shadows of persistent underperformance to become a global energy powerhouse. This will be a catalyst for industrialisation and growth in many other economic sectors too.

Digitalisation in the energy sector involves the better use of data to manage and control multiple operations. It drives efficiencies in energy management and automation systems. Importantly, workers in a digital industrial environment enjoy a massive increase in skills and productivity.

Digital development is not confined to new oil and gas facilities. Existing oil and gas infrastructure, from pipeline to refinery, can easily be upgraded to digital automation. This means that Nigeria’s ageing oil refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri, and Kaduna can be optimised with digitalisation.

These facilities were built as early as 1978 but could be made far more efficient and productive, thereby significantly reducing Nigeria’s dependency on imported petroleum products. The benefits of this investment would be measured in billions of dollars.

Effective integration of digital technologies could reduce capital expenditure in the oil and gas sector by up to 20 per cent, cut upstream operating costs by up to five per cent and downstream costs by up to 2.5 per cent.

Nigeria’s best approach will be a combination of local skills and knowledge, and the expertise and experience of a proven international partner able to deliver digital technologies and automation, together with traditional instrumentation and controls, across the entire energy value chain. This further supports backward integration of skills and technical competence in Nigeria’s limited skilled workforce.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report suggests that by end-2019 Nigeria could assume the status of the largest producer of refined petroleum products in Africa. The projection sees Nigerian exports exceed 300,000 bpd by 2019 – up 350 per cent from 2016 production of 65,000 bpd.

In this scenario, Nigeria becomes an international trading hub similar to Australia, Russia, Europe, and the U.S. Gulf Coast, while the entire West Africa region becomes energy self-sufficient by 2019, thus eliminating the need to source refined oil products from the U.S. and Europe.

Despite dwindling crude oil sales to the West, West African demand for Nigeria’s crude oil is set to rise dramatically. The region annually consumes 22 billion litres of petrol, and Nigeria’s domestic market accounts for 17 billion of those litres, yet the country still imports around 80 per cent of this energy.

With 37.2 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, Nigeria could easily meet this demand locally through modernisation and continued exploration. The country’s refining capabilities are currently underperforming and notoriously inefficient, due to lack of maintenance and underinvestment in technology.

Nigeria also struggles with ongoing vandalism of its oil and gas infrastructure. Pipeline insecurity has a devastating effect on oil production, with a staggering financial impact. Technology is a significant part of the solution to this challenge, as it enables real-time monitoring of infrastructure and quicker incident responses.

Port Harcourt refinery, for example, has capacity for 150,000 bpd of oil production but has been running at just 10 per cent capacity for the past three years. This is mainly due to its reliance on 1980s technology now regarded as obsolete in the global oil and gas sector.

The consequence is lack of preventative and reactive maintenance, inaccurate forecasts and allocations, and soaring energy costs. To boost productivity and returns, Nigeria’s energy operators should rapidly adopt and integrate digital technology that improves efficiencies and up skills staff.

Instead of being a threat to the workforce, digital technology redefines the role of the worker, and it has the potential to bridge the blue and white-collar worker, to create what is termed the ‘grey-collar’ worker. Humans and machines are therefore not competing for jobs, but working together to create a new type of talent, which is a vital component to sustained sector growth and maturity.

In the near future, Nigeria’s oil and gas operations will have real-time access to data at the click of a button, from any location on earth. This essentially connects a team of global experts collaborating in real-time to drive improvements in exploration and extraction, health & safety, pipeline security, distribution, refining and transportation of the finished products.

And with a potential $300billion added to the African economy by 2026 through the adoption of digitalisation, Africa’s largest economy will receive a significant portion of that figure to advance its burgeoning oil and gas market.

This in turn addresses the triple threat of unemployment, inequality and poverty – paving the way for a society where business success leads to socio-economic advancement, such as new business development and job creation, and essential new infrastructure projects that include schools, hospitals, transportation networks and housing.

To make this a reality, the Federal Government of Nigeria should include a robust digitalisation policy and supporting legislation in connection to its Economic and Recovery Growth Plan 2017-2020 (ERGP), which sets out the medium-term structural reforms to restore economic growth, invest in people and build a globally competitive economy.

One of its key priorities is to ensure power and petroleum product efficiency, which can only be achieved through a digital transition in the oil and gas sector.

Oil and gas operators in Nigeria should be early adopters of technology, their employees should be proactively trained in the application of the new technology, and the industry should be supported by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) with proven global experience across the entire upstream, mid-stream and downstream value chain.

Tifase is the Chief Executive Officer, Siemens Nigeria, and a key player in the country’s push for investment and growth in the oil and gas sector

Source from allAfrica

11 Aug

The role of mobile financial services in achieving financial inclusion in Africa

mobile banking

Africa is at the forefront of mobile banking. It is also one of the continents with the lowest levels of financial inclusion. Because of the penetration of the mobile phone in the telecommunications sector, mobile banking has taken off successfully in some parts of Africa, especially in eastern and southern African regions.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 36 countries out of 54 have mobile banking services. These include for example, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

With roughly 2.5 billion people globally in lower- to middle-income countries who have no access to banking services, the potential is clear. According to a 2016 GSMA study, more than half a billion people across Africa are now subscribed to mobile services, adding more than US$150bn in economic value to the African economy.

Over the last decade, Africa has witnessed high mobile telephony penetration and high uptake of mobile financial services in a number of countries. Mobile telephony has reduced geographical constraints, transaction costs as well as assisting commercial banks to have a cost efficient expansion strategy. A number of factors such as mobile phone penetration, financial and conventional infrastructure development, population density, regulation, and the appetite of private players to pursue the opportunity, tend to drive variation in mobile financial services.

In most African countries, mobile phone banking is taking services to remote areas where conventional banks have been physically absent or too expensive to use. Subscribers can now open accounts, check their balances, pay their bills, transfer money, and buy basic everyday items, all using their mobile phones. Mobile banking is 19% and 54% cheaper compared with traditional banks and informal options respectively. It is also technologically the safest, quickest and cheapest method of transferring money, and for conducting both personal and business transactions.

According to data, there were 557 million unique mobile subscribers across Africa at the end of 2015, equivalent to 46% of the continent’s population, making Africa the second-largest – but least-penetrated – mobile market in the world. Africa’s three largest markets – EgyptNigeria and South Africa – together accounted for around a third of the total subscriber base.

This has made financial services accessible to more people than the traditional banking industry ever had. In addition, many other African countries also experienced robust mobile penetration and the number of unique mobile subscribers is forecast to reach 725 million by 2020, accounting for 54% of the expected population by this point.

The regulatory environment is key to the adoption and spread of mobile banking in Africa and other regions globally. The industry needs to be regulated appropriately, balancing the need for deeper financial inclusion and the KYC imperatives, with anti-money-laundering considerations – especially on cross-border remittances.

In many African countries, banks and mobile network operators are also competing to tap the market of the unbanked population. This is leading to the expansion of financial services to mobile subscribers by providing mobile financial services to the unbanked. Thus, a necessary condition for mobile banking to expand is for regulators, especially central banks, to put in place supportive regulatory regimes. With the increased access to mobile banking and financial services comes the ability to do business in sectors such as the agricultural industry, which accounts for 25% of GDP. Mobile banking allows countries to immediately bring financial services to the masses in a cheap, accessible way – lowering costs for the financial institutions as well as for those who use the services. In the coming years, mobile money, electronic payments and new banking technologies will continue their significant contribution to sustainable economic development in Africa.


Source from HowWeMadeItInAfrica

08 Aug

Earthport partners with Access Bank in Africa

Cross-border payment network Earthport partners with Access Bank

Cross-border payment network Earthport announced on Monday that it partnered with Access Bank, one of Africa’s foremost financial institutions, to provide delivery of cross-border payment services into Nigeria.

The AIM-traded firm described Access Bank as one of Nigeria’s ‘leading financial institutions’, and had a strong focus on servicing the Nigerian diaspora.

“It is with great pleasure that Access Bank is partnering with Earthport, a reputable global payment network, to meet the needs of our customers who require a sound and reliable international payment platform,” said Access Bank Nigeria executive director Victor Etuokwu.

“As a top player in the remittance industry in Nigeria, our wide branch network and large customer base will be invaluable to this partnership and we are confident that this relationship will be a mutually beneficial one to both parties.

“This alliance also supports the bank’s vision of being ‘the world’s most respected African bank’ and our mantra of speed, service and services.”

Earthport said the new payment channel had been created in direct response to the need for more effective servicing of remittances and low-value payments sourced from outside the country, which now totalled an estimated $19bn per year, representing 4.7% of the country’s GDP.

The partnership was part of Earthport’s longer term strategy of expansion into the African continent.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Access Bank to extend our global payment network into Nigeria, which is undergoing a rapid transformation,” said Earthport CEO Hank Uberoi.

“With this comes a growing demand for efficient cross-border payment services, which Earthport will deliver to this important market, together with innovative solutions for financial inclusion.

“This is also a significant step in the expansion of Earthport’s global footprint.”

via digitallook

08 Aug

Senegal start-up trains young coders

Senegal starts training young coders
Senegal’s tech scene has been slow to get off the ground due to a lack of qualified coders. But a locally-run company is trying to change that, while also helping young people find jobs.
Local tech start-ups are tackling day-to-day conveniences in the capital, Dakar. Firefly, a digital advertising company, places TV screens in public buses, but has struggled to find qualified web and mobile app developers in Senegal.

“They are trained in technologies we do not work with,” explains Mafal Lo, the co-founder of Firefly. “For example, all engineering schools in Dakar work in Java. We work mostly with PHP and Python, with new front-end technologies like Bootstrap. These are not things they learn in school.”

Until recently, that is.

At Volkeno, students learn web development, digital marketing or graphic design. At the end of the one-month training programme, they will spend two months interning with a local company.

The classes are free. Volkeno is supported by companies like Firefly in exchange for hiring interns. At least 15 of those interns have landed full-time contracts.

CEO Abdoul Khadre Diallo initially set up Volkeno to provide tech services to local entrepreneurs. The training programme was launched later when he realised none of his interns were sufficiently qualified.

“Here, young people are not encouraged to be interested in these skills. Most schools remain too classical. The training is too classical. You see schools where in five years, there is no decent practical training, in my opinion,” says IT professor Babacar Fall who taught the workshop in St. Louis.

There are efforts to change that. At a coding workshop in the northern city of St. Louis, high school students are introduced to coding and web development.

The Next Einstein Forum’s Africa Science Week is held in 13 African countries to promote interest in STEM fields, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“For me, the problem lies in the content of university courses,” Fall says. “Because you can start by teaching HTML, but then you evolve and teach HTML5. For me, we must simply update everything.”

Volkeno has registered more than 40 functioning start-ups in Dakar, all of which operate through websites and mobile applications.

“If you are trained in technology, you can find work after you graduate,” explains Fatim Sarah Kaita, a digital marketing trainee at Volkeno. “Because it is very difficult to find internships and everything here, and your relations play a big role. But for example, if you learn programming you can set up your own project, create an application. If you know digital marketing, you can do all the promotion yourself, so it is important to get training.”

The founder of Senegal’s next big start-up may be sitting right here in this room. – VOA

Source from HowWeMadeItInAfrica

08 Aug

Safaricom Sees Amazon as Model for Kenya E-Commerce Platform

Safaricom Ltd. of Kenya plans to introduce an e-commerce platform

Safaricom Ltd. of Kenya plans to introduce an e-commerce platform within eight months targeting formal retail and informal online trading in East Africa’s biggest economy, directors at the company said.

Known as Masoko, Swahili for markets, it will offer products ranging from electronics to beverages and cosmetics, and provide a tool for people currently buying and selling goods on social-media platforms such as Facebook, Director of Enterprise Business Rita Okuthe said in an interview. The portal is currently undergoing in-house testing, Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore said.

“This offering will not be holding inventory and neither will it be an anyone-can-sell arena,” Collymore said in an interview in the capital, Nairobi. “Safaricom is carefully screening all the merchants before giving them access to the platform.” Okuthe said the goal was to become “a little bit more” than an African equivalent of Amazon.com Inc.’sMarketplace.

Safaricom is looking for ways to build on the success of M-Pesa, its mobile-phone money transfer service that dominates the Kenyan economy and is used by subscribers to pay for everything from utility bills to groceries and gasoline. The company accounts for 75 percent of the country’s 40.6 million Internet users, while M-Pesa handled 432.5 billion shillings ($4.2 billion) of mobile commerce transactions in the first quarter, more than half the total 627.5 billion shillings ($6.04 billion), according to data published by the industry regulator.

Logistics Hurdles

Safaricom, based in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is mulling partnerships with logistics companies and could use global positioning systems to make deliveries in the absence of a national addressing system, Okuthe said. It’s aiming to cut delivery times from the current 72-96 hours, she said.

The platform could potentially be used by services including Africa Internet Group’s Jumia, Kilimall International and OLX, a unit of Johannesburg-listed Naspers Ltd. in the first phase of operations, according to Okuthe.

“If you look at Facebook and Instagram, there’s a lot of online/offline selling that happens and one of the reasons why they’re popular in Kenya is because small-scale, middle-scale merchants use it as a sales tool,” Okuthe said. “What we are going to be doing is formalizing that. At least five in 10 Kenyans have bought something they first saw online.”

The company will work with manufacturers and farmers looking for direct market access and reduce supply-chain inefficiencies including transportation costs and poor infrastructure, Okuthe said.

M-Pesa will be among a number of payment methods including other online wallet services and cards by Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. Safaricom plans to roll out Masoko by the end of March, and later expand the platform beyond Kenya, Okuthe said, without specifying what other markets the company is considering.

“We have some very big ambitions in terms of how big we want to scale and wherever we want to go,” Okuthe said.

Via Bloomberg