Although Africa’s economies may be lagging behind its more developed counterparts, it seems that the continent is not immune to the global fintech revolution. Africa started witnessing a substantial surge in fintech startups in 2015. The total funding from venture capitalists spiked by 51 percent to $195 million between 2016 and 2017, with fintech funding accounting for a third of the amount. That’s a significant amount given that total global funding for seed-stage companies, early-stage venture capitalist rounds, and VC rounds was $851 million, $7.137 billion, and $6.9 billion respectively.
Currently, there are well over 300 startups in operation all over the continent — 94 operate in South Africa, 74 in Nigeria, and 56 in Kenya. It’s not a surprise that these three countries are spearheading the fintech revolution in Africa as they are considered the top three investment destinations in Africa.
Regional comparisons in fintech adoption show that South Africa is in the lead with around 35 percent of fintech startups concentrated in the region. West Africa follows close behind with around 34 percent.
Africa’sfintech industry to a large extent owes its existence to the development of M-Pesa, a Kenyan-based mobile money transfer service that has given Kenyans the ability to access financial services away from banks. Currently, the platform supports over 25 million customers in over ten markets in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The number of M-Pesa users has grown by 32 percent from 17.12 million to 22.62 million as of June 2017. The massive success enjoyed by M-Pesa has influenced other FinTech companies to join the finance sector to develop financial solutions such as those offered by M-Pesa.
Fintech Implementation in Africa
Fintech companies in Africa are mostly focusing on two broad categories:
- payments and transfers;
- lending and finance.
Of the two categories, payments and transfers have recorded an influx of startup companies compared to the others. Reports show that a majority of these startups focus mainly on simplifying the process of sending and receiving money.
Some fintech companies in Africa that are taking major steps in revolutionising the finance sector in Africa include (aside from M-Pesa):
- Flutterwave has operations in over 36 countries and is partnered with 10 African banks. It provides payment technologies and infrastructure to Africa’s largest financial institutions. Today, Flutterwave has processed over $1.2 billion in payments. The primary goal of Flutterwave is to provide solutions for enterprises, entrepreneurs, and banks alike. It presents its customers with no special, annual, or upfront project fees. Instead, Flutterwave bridges the digital payments gap that exists between users and banks. Their Nigerian customers can execute money transfers directly into several bank accounts without any hassle.
- Pezesha, initially launched in Kenya, is a peer-to-business micro-lending marketplace made up of low-income borrowers. In Africa, formal credit services are hard to attain, and on top of that, they have incredibly high interest rates. Therefore, most Africans are unable to secure reliable credit facilities that they can safely payback. Users of Pezesha can acquire instant loans on their mobile phones via SMS provided that minimum criteria are met. Apart from low-income earners, Pezesha also extends its services to SMEs that make up 80 percent of Africa’s employment. It not only drives up the economies of the continent but ensures the continued existence of small businesses across the continent.
- Cellulant, a digital commerce and payments service provider, is well established and operational in 11 countries. The company works with over 90 banks. The Cellulant ecosystem has support for over 100 million customers. As of January last year, the company served roughly 12 percent of Africa’s mobile consumers who utilise the platform to make payments. This year, Cellulant raised $47.5 million from a collection of investors that included Satya Capital, TPG Growth, Endeavour Catalyst, and the Rise Fund.
- Tala, a mobile technology company that’s providing access to credit by putting mobile credit services into the hands of consumers, is operational in several countries in Africa and outside Africa. The company leverages an android app that collects data from each consumer, determines their credit score, and disburses a loan in <10 minutes. So far, the company has disbursed over a million dollars to individuals in East Africa and outside Africa.
- Numida, a digital financial services company situated in Uganda, won the Kampala Seedstar World Competition in 2017. The company boasts of a 99 percent repayment rate and has since disbursed about 190 loans to 135 Ugandan SMEs. Other than providing small unsecured loans to small businesses, the firm helps these businesses digitise their financial records through the Numida app. Through the Numida app, Numida can assess a client’s creditworthiness and then issues an appropriately sized unsecured loan.
Potential of using Fintech in Africa
Africa is an immense continent with different economies supporting a total population of about 1 billion individuals residing in 54 sovereign countries. Surprisingly, only about 17 percent of the entire African population is banked. With nearly 80 percent of the total population still unbanked (and up to 95 million unbanked adults in Sub-Saharan Africa alone), Africa offers a unique breeding ground for the development of the fintech industry. A significant underbanked population ensures that fintech will most likely be an enabler of financial inclusion.
Innovation takes time and is often a collection of economies and nations that have the financial capability to invest, research, and develop on a broader scale. African nations, not having the same capabilities as developed nations, are provided with a unique opportunity that they can leverage. They can ‘jump’ inferior and redundant stages of technology advancement and go straight to adopting innovations. For example, currently, millions of Africans are in possession of mobile phone devices without ever going through the hassle of owning a landline at all. A phase that already-developed nations could not have skipped.
Technology is a crucial driver of businesses and entrepreneurship today. Due to this, financial procedures have been developing extremely fast, and there is an immense transformation in many aspects of financial processes. The Internet penetration rate in Africa recently stood at around 35.2 percent while the mobile penetration rate in the continent stands at 44 percent. Out of these two, Kenya emerges as the strongest African country, as it has an internet penetration rate of 85 percent and a mobile penetration rate of 95.1 percent.
According to GSMA, mobile money accounts in Africa have surpassed traditional bank accounts. Mobile money accounts have been on the rise, with statistics showing a steady growth in numbers from 0.2 million to 277 million between 2007 and 2016. The number of active bank accounts in Africa was 178 million as of December 2015. This huge difference in numbers indicates the potential that Africa offers to fintech startups focused on providing payment solutions. Technology innovation coupled with increasing Internet and mobile penetration rates have made the growth of African fintech companies a possibility. Subsequently, this has substantially increased investor interest in the sector even further.
Africa Welcoming Innovation
The fintech revolution in Africa is not a PR stunt. Fintech companies are attracting a previously unbanked population while at the same time retaining already existing traditional bank customers. Digitisation is helping financial institutions deliver digital financial products and services to a greater number of customers across the continent.
Increased dependence on these innovative fintech companies is projected to reduce demand for bank services. Subsequently, this could lead to bank branches shut down, with only a few remaining as destinations for problem resolution, advice, etc. For example, Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile payment services have made it possible for P2P mobile payments to be made both locally and internationally.
These startups are redefining the industry’s perception of what it means to be called a bank. Not only do they offer bank-like services, but they also avail loans, process financial transactions, and innovate much faster than banks.
Africa is hopping onto the fintech bandwagon, learning from the experiences of developed economies such as Asia, America, and Europe, and even leapfrogging past unnecessary steps, straight to modern innovation.
This guest post was contributed by Paweł Tomczyk, founder of the blockchain-focused content marketing agency Cyberius.
5 Reasons Why Online Casinos Should Adopt Cryptocurrencies
Online casinos are at the forefront of technological innovation in the gambling industry, while cryptocurrencies are arguably the most innovative payment solution on the Internet.
In this article, we will discuss the top five reasons why online casinos should consider adopting cryptocurrencies as a payment method.
Access to More Markets
Online casinos heavily rely on online payment platforms such as PayPal and Stripe. Despite the fact that online casinos are available in all areas with Internet connectivity, not all Internet users are able to use these platforms.
Payment platforms such as PayPal and Stripe are not available in all jurisdictions. Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Ghana, for example, are not supported by PayPal. What’s more, some countries have low debit card and credit card penetration, making it difficult for customers from such markets to use online casinos.
Cryptocurrency payments are available worldwide and present an important use case for internet casinos that want to reach an entirely new market of prospective bettors who are unaccounted for by payment platforms. By supporting cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, online casinos stand a chance of reaching new users from markets without popular online payment platform support or penetration.
Access to a New Community of Bettors
The cryptocurrency community has grown exponentially over the last few years with big businesses built around the cryptocurrency ecosystem and its users.
With a total cryptocurrency market capitalisation of $266 billion, online casinos that support cryptocurrencies could reach a new community of bettors who prefer to use digital currencies over other payment methods.
The cryptocurrency community is riding a huge wave of momentum. Many companies that have strategically placed themselves in the ecosystem have seen exponential growth as a result. Online casinos that add cryptocurrency payments could also benefit from the momentum of a rapidly growing online economy.
Online gambling providers are generating healthy profits according to market statistics and predictions. However, these platforms could increase profits further if less of their revenue was lost to payment platform fees.
Bank cards and online payment platforms charge a percentage for all transactions. Fees for cryptocurrency transactions, however, are usually far less and are generally paid by the user. By adding cryptocurrencies, online casinos could accept payments faster and incur lower on fees.
Currently, small merchants pay between two to four percent per credit card transaction, which often involves additional “hidden fees.” Cryptocurrency transaction fees are comparatively low and do not include hidden fees.
No Chargeback Fraud
Chargeback fraud, also known as friendly fraud, occurs when a consumer makes an online purchase with their credit card and then demands a chargeback from the issuing bank after receiving the purchased goods or services.
Cryptocurrencies offer online merchants protection from chargeback fraud. Unlike credit card payments where transactions can be disputed even after they have been charged, cryptocurrency transactions are final.
For online gambling providers who accept exclusively cryptocurrency payments, chargeback fraud is a thing of the past.
Cryptocurrencies have one of the biggest communities online, full of passionate people who are always happy to propagate positive news, such as the addition of cryptocurrency as a payment method at an online casino store. Additionally, online platforms that accept cryptocurrency as a means of payment also receive extra coverage from cryptocurrency media.
This additional publicity comes in handy for online casinos due to the saturated nature of the industry, which requires platforms to leverage every opportunity that puts them ahead of the competition.
Is Nigeria Likely to Formalise Remittances and Become the Third-Largest Inbound Market Worldwide?
Nigeria is the sixth-largest recipient of remittances in the world with an estimated volume of nearly $25 billion a year. This estimate for remittances flow doesn’t account for the informal market, that even if it is shrinking, as most analysts believe, it adds approximately $10 to $15 billion a year to the formal number. That places remittances for Nigeria at around $40 billion. If this were to be true, then it would squarely place the country as having the third-largest volume of remittances in the entire world, ahead of the Philippines and Mexico with highly formal markets.
In a blog post published by remittance expert Hugo Cuevas-Mohr, he discussed the volume of remittances to Nigeria and the importance of achieving more accurate figures and the success in formalising the remittance market in Nigeria. These are also key topics that will be extensively examined at IMTC AFRICA 2019, a conference that will take place in Lagos on September 24-26 at the EKO Hotel. IMTC is the leading gathering for international money transfer, cross-border payment, and Fintech companies around the world and has chosen Nigeria as the site of its biannual African event to help in the innovation, formalisation, and transparency of remittances in the country.
Why Formalisation is Necessary
Parallel markets, or informal markets, are notorious for skewing a country’s volume, revenue, and wealth statistics; in an age where data is glorified, it is clear to see why this is such a problem. Countries are valued and respected based on their stats, and if Nigeria’s stats are not reflecting the true volume of remittances, then their significance is being missed.
The Nigerian Naira is traded at different rates on the parallel market than on the official market. For instance, as of August 6, the Central Bank of Nigeria valued 1 USD at 306 NGN (Niara), whereas the parallel markets revealed that 1 USD was actually trading at 360 NGN. Such a large discrepancy in the exchange rate reveals just a portion of the issues taking place. If the parallel market exchange rates are correct, then it is extremely unlikely that Nigeria will be successful in curbing the informal market.
Nigeria’s parallel markets have been prevalent for some time now, but the issue became serious in 2016 when the Central Bank of Nigeria, to curb the informal market, limited the number of legal money transfers to only three International MTOs: Western Union, MoneyGram, and Ria. This subsequently forced all other MTOs to call upon CBN to allow more MTOs to be licensed, jumping to more than 60 in three years. Has the strategy from CBN been successful?
Mr. Cuevas-Mohr states in his blog: “The remittance market in terms of companies abroad serving the Nigerian Diaspora is growing now at a fast pace as remittance volumes to the country increase, partly due to organic growth and partly due to more funds being channeled through official channels.”
Leon Isaacs, IMTC AFRICA 2019 Co-Chair, and an expert in remittances will discuss extensively at the conference the findings that his surveys and data gathering work is revealing. Other topics to be discussed at this trendsetting event will be the impact of Payment Service Banks and Fintechs on remittances, the role of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the importance of strong compliance and risk management and the importance of MTO partnerships with local banks and Fintechs to help to formalise remittances.
Nigeria And the Mobile Industry
Another pressing topic at the conference is that of the mobile industry. In a recent development, the Nigerian government is allowing mobile companies to directly offer financial services. Previously, mobile companies were required to form rigid agreements with banks to offer financial services in the country. These new companies will be known as Payment Service Banks (PSBs), similar to how India enables mobile companies to offer such services.
This is massive news for the world of remittances as PSBs can give their unbanked customers, and generally to all low-income residents, the opportunity to manage mobile money as the digital ecosystem grows. It can also impact the government’s financial inclusion initiatives. The impact of the PSBs in the remittance market is hard to predict but everybody will be watching. Mr. Cuevas-Mohr said: “It will take time to see the impact to the market of Telcos being allowed finally to offer themselves financial services, and remittances.”
As many MTOs participating at the IMTC AFRICA 2019 conference in Lagos have expressed, the event comes at the best time for the industry in Africa. Filled with a compliance course, an innovation forum, panel discussions, keynote speakers, roundtables, and ample time to network with industry leaders, the event will be a gathering of the Who-is-Who in the field of African remittances.
The article was contributed by David Cullinan.
South Africans Can Now Invest in Crypto-Asset Bundles
South Africans can now invest in crypto-asset bundles thanks to Revix, a digital asset management platform incorporated in the UK. Revix aims to expose investors to 80 percent of the cryptocurrency market through bundles.
Bitcoin Africa talked to Revix’s co-founder Sean Sanders to better understand this new digital asset investment option.
Passive Crypto Investment Through Bundles
Bundles are cryptocurrency portfolios that expose an investor to a diversified number of cryptoassets at a low cost while reducing risk. These bundles are comprised of the top cryptocurrencies that are rebalanced each month to keep investments up-to-date with the changing market.
“The name Revix stands for ‘revolutionary index’ and we plan to shake up the cryptocurrency space by providing a secure and smarter way to invest in digital currencies. We are looking to broaden the appeal of cryptocurrencies by making the investment experience seamless. We target investors who are interested in crypto, but do not have the time or inclination to research every opportunity, work out the technicalities of investing, or properly understand the challenges of holding their assets,” said Sanders.
Revix uses diversification because it is difficult to forecast which cryptocurrencies will gain traction and which will not. By holding a diversified basket of assets, the investors’ risk declines while returns can increase.
Revix offers the following bundles:
- Top ten bundle: this bundle contains the top ten cryptocurrencies.
- Payment bundle: this bundle includes the top five largest cryptocurrencies focused on payments.
- Platform bundle: this bundle holds the five biggest platform-focused cryptocurrencies.
- Privacy bundle: this bundle comprises of the three largest privacy cryptocurrencies.
Sean Sanders and Louis Buys founded Revix in 2018 and held a launch on April 2019. The co-founders also raised R10 million during the first round of funding from Sabvest, an investment group listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).
How Bundles Work
To get started on Revix, register and deposit funds in your preferred currency. Investors can begin with as little as R500. Once you have deposited funds, you can now choose a bundle and invest in it.
According to Sanders, Revix leverages proprietary technology to link investors to crypto exchanges with a smart price routing algorithm that looks for the best available price for investors.
“By connecting with global, liquid markets and using technology, we can get better prices than what has otherwise been available to local investors. Major factors for local investors are the currency devaluation and geopolitical risk hedges that cryptocurrencies offer. With a rand depreciating over the long term, moving into an asset class that is peer-to-peer, borderless, and uncorrelated to South African specific risks is attractive,” he told Bitcoin Africa.
Revix charges a one percent transaction fee when purchasing or selling a bundle. The platform also ensures that all fees incurred are displayed to the user. Investors’ funds are secured in cold storage across multiple-vaulted locations.
Why Invest in Crypto?
Sanders believes that investing in cryptoassets offers South Africans an opportunity to “see the birth and application” of blockchain technology.
“The world of cryptocurrencies is not coming, it is already here, and we have already seen this asset class increase by multiples compared to all other asset classes out there. I mean, cryptocurrencies are the top-performing asset class of the last decade which should not be overlooked,” Sanders asserted.
Rather than waiting to see how the technology pans out, Sanders advocates taking advantage of the opportunity at the present. However, he advises against investing your life savings in cryptocurrencies. All you need to experience crypto and the blockchain is a small portion of your wealth, he said.
Why South Africa?
Revix is offering its investment products in South Africa because the country enables businesses to build online platforms at low costs and the regulatory environment supports enterprises in the crypto scene.
Furthermore, South Africa has a pool of professionals with technical skills in the blockchain and computer science fields. This factor is attractive to companies in the blockchain and crypto industry like Revix.
“South Africa is a key market for us as the country has a diversity of people with vastly different demographics allowing us to test specific concepts and strategies and get customer feedback while managing scale,” Sanders stated.
The Revix platform is attracting a wide range of users such as fresh graduates, retirees, investors well-versed with traditional finance but who are only now learning about crypto, and investors who are unfamiliar with traditional finance but knowledgeable about crypto.
Advocating for Crypto Regulation
Although the regulatory environment in South Africa is crypto-friendly, Sanders thinks that more should be done to enable businesses like his to run more smoothly.
Since a clear regulatory guideline is missing, crypto businesses like Revix take longer to create relationships with banks because of the perceived risk and they operate unlicensed. Therefore, Sanders is welcoming local regulation because it will offer more protection to consumers, provide guidelines on how to treat this asset class, and encourage institutions to participate in this market.
Sanders is an entrepreneur in the crypto space and has established other startups besides Revix. In the past, he has worked for a VC firm and an investment management company. With regards to recent trends in the crypto space, Sanders believes that Facebook’s Libra coin will drive the adoption and acceptance of digital currencies globally.
The South African Reserve Bank announced earlier in 2019 that it is carrying out a central bank digital currency feasibility study while the South African Revenue Service announced cryptocurrency tax laws in 2018. These events could indicate that South Africa is taking positive steps towards recognising, accepting, and adopting digital currencies.
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