[Interview] Esinam Yevu, Co-Founder, PayBox, Ghana
Esinam Yevu is Co-Founder and Communications Lead at Ghanaian fintech startup, PayBox.
Please introduce PayBox as a startup and explain what it does.
PayBox was founded in 2019 and operates within the financial services and technology industries simultaneously - what has come to be known as the Fintech space. As such, we provide SMEs with digital business tools and a cross-border payment solution to enable growth. One of our goals is to encourage more SMEs to do business within the digital space and this goal is all the more important now that we find ourselves in a COVID-era, where businesses need to rethink how to sustain as well as scale beyond offline interactions. By establishing a model where SMEs receive business growth support and access tools that help them structure their business and connect with a wider market, we anticipate this will contribute to building a stronger private sector ecosystem in the long-run.
How has been the market response to this service?
We recently completed the MEST Express Program and received useful feedback regarding our service offerings and how to capture the market. Our team was shortlisted for the final investor pitch showcase, for which we are preparing. As a company, we are still in the business development stage. So far, our engagement has only covered the developer segment of our target market through our CodePlay Hackathon initiative. As we tie the loose ends of our setup phase, we are excited about transitioning to help digital-savvy SMEs grow and assess their response to our service offerings.
What are the ambitions of PayBox, this year and in the longterm?
In 2021 we are looking at establishing partnerships with payments-focused and SME-oriented institutions to ground our efforts. Moreover, Q2 marks our kick-off with initiating SME interaction and fostering a strong relationship with various developer communities across Ghana. Based on research (Deloitte, 2013), the Fintech market in Ghana and across Africa is vast, standing at around $60 billion. Our vision is to grow our clientele base using a grassroots approach. This is what distinguishes us from other Fintechs. We emphasise the need to focus on reaching all parts of Africa, creating as many digital jobs as possible, without leaving any SME behind.
How, if at all, has the ongoing pandemic affected your business and business on the continent in general?
The first part of that question is easy to answer. Here at PayBox, COVID-19 impressed on us the need to move to market quickly. Practically, there is no better time than now for SMEs in Ghana and across Africa to digitize. In addition, COVID-19 gave us the needed perspective to restructure our customer acquisition strategy. An era where potential clients work remotely means we had to engage them innovatively. With the right customer segmentation and user personas, we have been able to align on how to target our primary customers.
As for the second part, the pandemic has revealed the cracks within Africa’s digital ecosystem. Current areas for improvement include internet coverage and cost, governments’ digitization agenda and digital literacy. The lapses in these areas have been greatly exposed by COVID-19 and how it affects the business landscape, revenue and GDP.
The current global trend is work-from-home. Would you say this is a positive turn?
We have seen the benefits of remote work or Work from Home (WFH), including cutting commute costs and stress, as well as offering greater flexibility. However, it is important to also consider that as humans we crave and need in-person social interaction. This contributes to creating team bonds and helping us tangibly identify as part of a larger goal. These are the kinds of organizational pillars we are seeing get lost as we have transitioned to digital collaboration. Adopting a balance between both is the wholesome direction we should pursue.
As you have observed, what is the approach of African investors towards startups?
From our experience, local Venture Capitalists are more inclined towards short term ROI. Our engagement with local investors has shown they prefer to partner with startups already in the market churning profit. Reflecting on recent tech publications, a trend that is visible is that a majority of investment funding is coming from foreign investors.
What is the latest news from PayBox?
We have launched the PayBox CodePlay Hackathon. This offers developers across the length and breadth of Ghana the opportunity to contribute their expertise to improving our cross-border payment API. Hackathon participants get the chance to win up to $1000 in cash prizes and also potential job match opportunities.