With the increased adoption of digital payment methods due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 is an interesting time for the paytech sector. This is particularly true of Africa, with payments seeing major growth and being a key player in the ecosystem.
With Africa being such a large, diverse continent, with a number of different countries, cultures and economies, the fintech space is considered to be an emerging market in many of the countries, often being unique challenges for companies in the sector.
The Fintech Times spoke to several prominent leaders in the paytech space to hear their insights about the key challenges to payments in Africa, and what the future holds for the sector.
Trevor Goott, Head of Africa at Unlimint, provide fast-growing innovative businesses with a constantly evolving business interface. Trevor is a seasoned expert in the payments and fintech industries with more than 20 years of global experience he believes that one of the main challenges for paytechs in Africa is the adoption of new technology products.
He said: “There are many new fintech products and innovative solutions being launched in various African countries, but that does not mean that they will be successfully implemented in the region. They need to have a user buy-in and a sufficient number of users to be viable in the long term. The main trend with regards to PayTech at the moment is driven by foreign investment – many PE and VC firms together with African-focused funds are looking for the next big thing and are making multiple small (Sub $2m) investments across Africa in the hope of finding the next Google or Amazon or Tencent or indeed, PayPal.”
For the future, he said: “Cash is still King in Africa when it comes to payments. This is mainly due to trust issues. I see a future where PayTech / FinTech operate a hybrid model with cash still being part of the supply chain. This is already happening via Agents, but I expect the offline to online “hybrid” model to keep evolving.”
Agreeing with Goott, Country Manager at JUMO Uganda and Kenya, Joel Anthony Muhumuza, believes digital payments are a primary issue, due to the prominence of cash on the continent. JUMO is a banking platform service provider that builds and manages digital credit and savings products provided over mobile money in partnership with MNOs and banks. JUMO is currently operational in 6 African countries and Pakistan in Asia.
“BOU reported about 85% of transactions as of a few years ago were cash-based in Uganda,” Muhumuza said. “While mobile money remittance has increased digital payments, a large proportion of users cash out to settle their bills and transact in cash because most businesses accept cash universally as opposed to a few that are merchant mobile money enabled or they can take other digital payment instruments. The biggest challenges for adoption are the lack of reliable infrastructure to allow smooth and easy digital payment in much of the country, and the fact that most adults are informal workers or in the agriculture sector which means they are paid in cash and do not receive salaries in the bank in a digital form”
In terms of the future, he believes that digitisation will be key.
“The movement towards e-government services, the digitisation of IDs, and the continued march towards interoperability will increase the use cases and uptake of digital payments. As companies look to broaden their base of customers, digitisation is key towards understanding the behaviour of clients and so digital payments leads to digital footprints that can be used for credit scoring, and other financial services to be viable- as seen in regional financial inclusion strategies in East Africa.
“Similarly, increased over the top services by tech platforms such as Facebook will likely also venture into offering innovative payments solutions with technologies like blockchain garnering more mainstream acceptance. East Africa’s young, largely mobile phone using populace will be using their phones more and more not just to communicate but to also settle bills, pay for subscriptions and good and services easily.”
Aloysious Zziwa is the Co-founder and CEO of OlyCash, a service for enabling unbanked sellers to do business online. With the increasing speed of change technology is making to societies around the world, he agrees that payment technologies and their innovations will drive more parts of the world economy in the near future.
“The pandemic and its accompanying restrictions exposed the need for advancements in paytech to cover cash-based markets. The forced change in habits speeded up the adoption of paytech innovations that would have taken decades. Unfortunately, a lot of other factors to enable this adoption did not move that fast.
“Therefore, the infrastructure, capital, innovation and legal considerations are still catching up to the tectonic shifts in market expectations in the last year alone. Governments have started realising the gaps in the economy and infrastructure for the non-contact society and are making an effort to resolve this with the digitisation of their currencies, legal framework to manage the increase in paytech innovations as well as programs to capitalise on areas of their interest.”
He added: “These changes will have far-reaching consequences to the way business is done in the future. For example, digitisation of currencies brings a government’s insight into each transaction using its currency, even outside its borders, while having the unintended consequence of making it easier to use cryptocurrencies due to programmable fiat to crypto onboarding and the privacy crypto provides.
“Hence, despite recent regional protection enforcements, it remains to be seen the effects of paytech innovations to user privacy, transaction security, fraud reduction and sovereignty of the countries with so many lines of their economies being blurred.
“Also, there will be a higher need for support and innovations that facilitate the migration from cash to digital payments without the need to learn many new habits from the parts of the world that are being left behind by these changes. We see OlyCash as contributing to addressing this need for the seller without a bank account.”
Vincent Tumwijuke is the Co-Founder and CEO of FutureLink Technologies aka FLT, – a fintech company that leverages the relevance and outreach of SACCOs and Microfinance Institutions, to minimise the cost, and promote the adoption and usage of digital Financial Services in Africa.
He has 15 years of experience in developing sustainable business models and Financial Technologies that work for the unbanked., and believes there are two main challenges facing Africa Paytech companies.
“One is the growing trend of cyber risk and the limited expertise in the region to address it,” he said. “The second is the limited access to Capital to standardise for regulation and scale. Though we have lately witnessed the establishment of the regulatory framework for the fintech industry in many African jurisdictions, there remains a funding gap to standardise and scale promising ideas.
“I think there will be a revolution of the rural economy in the next 5 years due to a fairly good phone penetration. With the advent of regulation in Uganda however, only the players with access to capital, and with promising ideas for the rural population will remain standing. This is because regulation, though very welcome, imposes immediate minimum operational requirements which the operating income of many players cannot sustain at the moment.”