[Africa Tech Week] Mobile money is driving financial inclusion in Africa
Africa has been described as a global leader in mobile money. During the UNCTAD’s Africa eCommerce Week held in Nairobi this week, speakers noted that sending and receiving money by mobile phone – pioneered since 2007 by Kenya’s Safaricom with its M-Pesa platform – can include more people into the economy in Africa and be the base of more sophisticated forms of e-commerce. The speakers noted that mobile money holds key to financial inclusion in Africa, experts say
This came just a few weeks after two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and mobile money providers, Orange Group and MTN Group have announced a joint venture, Mowali (mobile wallet interoperability), to enable interoperable payments across the continent. In Nigeria, the value of mobile money transactions rose to N1.22 trillion between January and September this year, according to the New Telegraph.
This week, Emergent Technology Holdings LP, a global financial technology company acquired Interpay Africa, a payments processor based in Ghana. The acquisition extends the operations of EmTech's digital payments business, Emergent Payments®, a local payments provider in 70 emerging markets. Still, in Ghana, we highlighted how Esoko, a Ghanaian technology firm is empowering farmers to get better prices for their products one text message at a time, connecting them directly with the traders.
In Tunisia, Temenos, the banking software company, announced that Banque de l'Habitat (BH) has signed for T24 Core Banking, Payments, Channels, Analytics, Financial Crime Mitigation and Enterprise Risk Management. Last month, the company also partnered with Curo Fund Services, South Africa’s largest third-party administrator Curo provides investment operations and fund accounting services to life companies, asset managers and multi-managers, and has assets under administration of more than $150bn. It also announced the launch of its South African "Bank of the Future" Think-Tank. Still, in Tunisia, eight pilots successfully passed their drone flight training in Tunisia following a two-week intensive training period organized by the Ministry of Agriculture of Tunisia, the African Development Bank and Busan Techno Park.
African startups were also in the news this week. The South African government launched a $140 million fund to help small business start-ups that are geared towards creating employment opportunities and contribute towards the growth and development of the economy. This was not the first time South African startups were getting support, last month, Naspers has set up a R1.4bn ($96m) Naspers Foundry fund to invest into South African technology startups. The money will fund and support startups seeking to address big societal needs. Uganda’s startup M-SCAN, that develops portable mobile ultrasound devices (Ultrasonic probes), was crowned as Sub-Saharan Africa’s Most Promising Startup at TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018, held in Lagos. In Ghana, AgroCenta was selected to be the recipient of $250,000 GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Grant, funded by UK DFID, Australian AID, and the GSMA and its members. The company joins 10 other start-ups entering the GSMA’s Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund Portfolio third cohort. In Kenya, Sanitary products vending startup YZ-ME International won a 1 million shillings capital injection from Sinapis Organisation. The startup won the capital during the Sinapis business pitching competition held in Nairobi this month. Utopixar, a Tunisian startup set to deliver a social collaboration tool for communities and organisations to facilitate participative decision-making and value transfer also received up to $100,000 from UNICEF to improve the lives of the country’s most vulnerable children.
Africa also continues to record massive growth in e-commerce. Kenyan Retailer Tusker Mattresses, registered its footprint in the cyberspace with the launch of a dedicated online store. This came just a few days after a new report by UNCTAD, the United Nations body that oversees trade for development revealed that Africa had 21 million online shoppers in 2017.
This week, Yahsat, a global satellite operator based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and wholly owned by Mubadala Investment Company, and Hughes Network Systems (HUGHES), a subsidiary of EchoStar Corporation have announced an agreement to provide commercial Ka-band satellite broadband services across Africa, the Middle East and southwest Asia. The company has also previously partnered with Hughes Network Systems (HUGHES), to provide commercial Ka-band satellite broadband services across Africa, the Middle East and southwest Asia. In West Africa, the company has also launched a satellite broadband service. We have also previously published news of a signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore the possibility of new joint opportunities with existing partner, IEC Telecom Group (IEC Telecom) in Africa.
MTN South Africa was also in the news this week. The company announced that it is implementing the first phase new data regulations as required by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). It also made several new executive appointments, including the position of Chief Technology & Information Officer and Executive for Corporate Services & Sustainability. This came a few weeks after it also unveiled a new music streaming service in the country. In Nigeria, the company asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to further adjourn the hearing in the suit it filed to challenge the $8,134,312,397.63 being demanded from it by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The $1.8bn demand by the CBN followed alleged forex remittances infraction by MTN.
In Senegal, The World Bank Board of Directors approved a $180 million International Development Association (IDA) credit to support Senegal’s efforts to enhance the policy and institutional framework of the energy and the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sectors and to build a sustainable digital economy. At the same time, The World Bank's Board of Directors approved a $ 50 million project to increase the availability of agricultural technologies in Angola and Lesotho.
Other highlights of the week include Liquid Telecom South Africa, announcing that it will be a multi-billion Rand 4G network in South Africa, Pernod Ricard, the world's second largest wine and spirits’ company present in 13 African countries, and Jumia, announcing the strengthening of their partnership and Ethiopia launching an online investment guide.