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A ‘second renaissance’ for African payments post COVID

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African payments is fast becoming a ‘gold-standard’ for payments worldwide, and COVID is set to accelerate both the value and funding available to this segment across the continent. Since M-Pesa launched in Kenya, the proportion of Africans (particularly East Africa) paying by mobile has exceeded every other emerging region. In Africa, perhaps more than anywhere else, ‘mobile first’ has given way to ‘mobile only.’ 

Another attraction is, perversely, COVID. Digital businesses across the continent are normalizing the use of payment technology and money transfer in the informal economy (i.e. the part of the economy that is neither taxed nor monitored by any form of government) out of sheer necessity. To encourage the shift, leaders such as Kenya’s largest teleco, Safaricom, have implemented tactics such as a fee waiver for M-Pesa (East Africa’s leading mobile-money product), to reduce the physical exchange of currency and drive increased adoption.

Across the continent there is a renewed drive to reduce reliance on cash. Meanwhile payment data value is only now being leveraged, which sets the stage for creating another ‘value peak’ for emerging African payments vendors in the near future.

This is a perfectly ‘natural’ response for economies with large informal sectors, still-low average  transaction values, and a large proportion of transactions for essential goods and services. The IMF, in its April 2020 World Economic Outlook, recommends countries with large informal sectors further develop their digital payments systems. These systems “may provide an opportunity to improve the delivery of targeted transfers to the informally employed.”

In the coming ‘renaissance,’ what are African payment players doing to differentiate and position themselves for the next stage?

Insights from Leading African Payments Players

Hybrid and Pure-Play Payment Players

African payments companies take two broad forms.  The first is ‘pure play,’ generally based on Payment Service Provider (PSP) functionality. These vendors run a defined set of services and leverage partnerships to achieve scale. The second are hybrid vendors, who are more vertically integrated, usually offering a broader range of services off their core technology stacks:

  • Examples of pure-play: Direct Pay Online, Interswitch, Paystack, Flutterwave.
  • Examples of hybrid: Cellulant, Pesapal, Paga, Jambopay

The definition is important to distinguish as it impacts strategic direction of any company, which would also directly affect the set of longer term buyers or investors for each of the companies.

Winning SMEs & Agent Distribution/Network

Winning in African payments generally means winning the SME sector. There are very few true enterprise corporates, and a significant number of sole-proprietor businesses across all sectors.  The fragmentation of the potential customer base is so much greater than in other fast-growing regions that many payments companies need to adopt a broader ‘ground game’ to target, connect, engage, and maintain a broad SME customer base, often across quite different markets.

To effectively target SMEs, direct selling, agent distribution or agent networks are crucial for payment players, particularly in West Africa, due to the lack of infrastructure. Over the last 10 years, M-Pesa’s rise was closely associated with Safaricom’s dominance in Kenya (70% mobile market share), its broad and tied agent network across the country, and the focus applied to rolling out this service broadly. 

In West Africa, the continent’s largest prize, the market is deeply fragmented, ATMs are virtually non existent or not functional (Nigeria has < 20,000 working ATM’s), and for many of Africa’s 1 billion+ population agents of various forms are the main or only means of transacting effectively. Companies such as Paga and Kudi already demonstrate the requirement for, and value of, developing and maintaining a broad enough agent network on which to drive scale and reach.

Broader number of use cases

Creating and maintaining an agent distribution network is expensive.  The ‘quid pro quo’ are a broad range of use cases enabled as a result, and the first-mover margins available to payments companies which can scale this way.  Across the continent, agents are used for cash in/out, remittances, bill pay, payment for utilities and power, and the purchase of basic goods and services.  While many of these remain cash transactions that are then converted to digital, increasingly payments companies are linking services to make transactions end-to-end digital.

Another benefit for creating broad based agent/direct distribution is that payments companies often can achieve higher margins on transactions than almost anywhere else.  Its not atypical for take rates to be 2x+ what they would be in more competitive markets like India, and even at those levels they are still far below other alternatives. For example, the avg cost of transferring $200 via a bank transaction can exceed 10%, and in remittances many emerging digital players can charge 2x ‘normal’ take rates and still reduce the cost to consumers significantly vs traditional services such as Western Union.

Digital works for payments companies, and for consumers, and the higher take rates are simply a function of the challenges and costs of reaching such a distributed, informal customer base.

Data Value

In developed markets, data value is nearly always under-leveraged within payments providers.  Many have built legacy systems that cannot easily adapt to actioning data insights to deliver value to customers, and increase margins significantly. An African ecosystem only now being built has the incalculable benefit of ‘starting with a clean sheet of paper’ in terms of realizing the value of data earlier and more completely.

As a result, intelligent leverage of data and insights from an early stage could vault the strategic value of payment players to an entirely different level than current valutions. And since in the data monetisation game, ‘better data always beats better algorithms’, it is our view that many African payments companies are sitting on a large and growing ‘gold mine’ of proprietary insights on customer and SME behavior which can be leveraged in many ways to drive margins. 

In time, many payments vendors will have greater insight into consumer spending habits to deliver targeted offers via mobile in a way which is simply impossible to envision in developed markets, where that ecosystem is already dominated by much larger incumbents. For example, both Square and Stripe have introduced and expanded significantly in the financing area.

Square extended almost $700m SMEs loans per quarter in Q4 2019, highlighting the massive market potential. The point is that through the value of data and insights, many African payments companies can grow value well beyond pure payments value, because what they are ‘seeing’ are truly unique insights.

Capital Efficiency & Unit Economics

Because of structural inefficiency in Africa (‘reinventing the wheel’ is by definition required as there is no ‘wheel’ of infrastructure that functions successfully today) there is a degree of inherent capital inefficiency presumed to be required to get to minimum size to scale.  Second, targeting SMEs and consumers is inherently more expensive than enterprise sales, with higher churn, greater cost to acquire and service, and a still-limited ceiling on realistic customer lifetime value.

Also Read: Viero: A SaaS Platform Enabling Entrepreneurs Create Food Delivery App Without Code In 60 Seconds

We see that emerging African payments leaders go through different stages of capital inefficiency.  For most, there is a multi-year period of greater inefficiency, as basic vertical integration is built. However, once companies pass a ‘tipping point’ of scale, rising take rates, and the leverage available from layering on additional services and use cases quickly turns that inefficiency into a highly capital efficient set of assetsIt is particularly important to distill, frame, and articulate these metrics as investors / buyers value a ‘perpetual motion machine’ that targets, acquires, services and ‘up-sells’ customers.

Having a well-crafted set of unit economics also underscores the value of the existing and prospective customer base, and validates the ‘ground game’ execution strategy of local distribution across Africa. Buyers of equity can also rationalise paying more upfront because there is no significant $ required to subsequently drive customers to profitability.  This transition from inefficiency to hyper-efficiency is a key element of story telling for African payments companies to sell equity at rising prices.

Conclusion

Africa presents maybe the biggest payment opportunity in the world today. For companies with some degree of scale, they have already done much of the hard work to generate long term embedded value, and only now are many starting to see the benefits of high marginal unit economics.  With more capital, and compelling equity stories to tap the next generation of larger investors, we see several potential ‘unicorns’ emerging in the space in the next 5 years. M-Pesa and Interswitch are only the tip of the (value) iceberg.

Credit: Magister Adivors

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Press Release

SSC Capital Tanzania teams up with World’s first Halal angel network to tap the fast growing African Market

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SSC Capital Founder & CEO, Salum Awadh (Source: Halal Angels Network)

Halal Angels Network is among the first to penetrate the $5 trillion Halal consumer market has teamed up SSC Capital of Tanzania to tap the fast growing African market. 

According to Brookings Institute “More than 80 percent of Africa’s population growth over the next few decades will occur in cities, making it the fastest-urbanizing region in the world. In total, we expect annual spending by African consumers and businesses to reach $6.66 trillion by 2030, up from $4 trillion in 2015.

Halal Angels Network was launched to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and start-ups, and inspire investors across the world to tap into a sector that will be worth $9.71 trillion by 2025 (Reuters, 2019).

The angel network is adopting new, innovative technology to digitise the way they present, distribute and manage Halal-based deals. In doing so, angel investors will benefit from greater access to deal flow which can be profiled based on their interests, risk appetite and current portfolio.

Salum Awadh, Founder & CEO, SSC Capital said that “Opportunities for investing in game-changing start-ups are ever increasing, we currently see many solutions by entrepreneurs coming to the market with disruptive and high-growth potential business models. But all this will be massive if these entrepreneurs get the right investment, with the right mentorship, at the right time. The Halal Angels Network and SSC Capital are forming this great potential partnership, sharing decades of industry experience and exposure, and we are hopeful that it will also change the landscape of halal angel investing globally.”

Also Read: ITU’s AI for Good platform to showcase how AI is advancing SDGs at AI Expo Africa 2020

Dr Tausif Malik, Founder of Halal Angels Network, said: “With over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, the Halal industry offers tremendous opportunities across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Based on the available data & research we focused on signing up our first partnership in Africa with SSC Capital.”

Dr Tausif Malik, Founder of Halal Angels Network (Source: Halal Angels Network)

He further added that we felt that SSC Capital was the right partner to tap the East African Startup and Halal market.

Both Halal Angels Network and SSC Capital work together to co-host events in Africa, help connect investors with businesses, entrepreneurs, startups and offer consulting services.

Halal Angels Network is now calling for angel investors countries to join them and discover over 1,000 investment opportunities within the flourishing market – from pharmaceuticals and modest fashion through to food and tourism. Recently Halal Angels Network had tied up Fintech major  Delio to use their digital platform showcase Halal-based deals to a much more international audience, connecting angel investors across the world not just with deals, but also with each other.

Issued by Halal Angels Network

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CEO Corner

African Infrastructure Investment Managers appoints Vuyo Ntoi and Sola Lawson as new co-CEOs

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African Infrastructure Investment Managers new co-CEOs, Vuyo Ntoi and Sola Lawson (Source: AIIM Africa)

London and Cape Town, 3 August 2020: African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM), a member of Old Mutual Alternative Investments and Africa’s most experienced infrastructure manager, has appointed two joint-managing directors to be based in Cape Town and Lagos, following the retirement of the company’s previous CEO.

Vuyo Ntoi and Sola Lawson, have been appointed from within the business, and will continue to sit in their South Africa and Nigeria offices respectively, as two of AIIM’s key markets in sub-Saharan Africa. As AIIM’s new joint-MD’s, they take over from Jurie Swart, who has been CEO of AIIM since 2014 and recently elected to take early retirement to focus on a new challenge outside the AIIM business.  

Also Read: Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu, African Risk Capacity (ARC) CEO Shares Goals, Disaster Risk Solutions, COVID-19 and Future

Commenting on the new roles, Paul Boynton, non-executive chairman of the Board at AIIM said: “Vuyo and Sola have both been integral members of the AIIM team for many years and bring with them extensive and varied investment experience and leadership skills. On behalf of the entire Board, I am looking forward to working even closer with them in their new joint-MD roles as the business continues to expand and move forward.”  

Vuyo Ntoi said, “I am very excited to step into this new joint role, continuing to work with Sola and the Exco team to drive the strategy that we have had in place, which has and continues to deliver excellent outcomes for our investors and stakeholders.”

Sola Lawson added, “I am honoured to take on the role of joint-MD of AIIM and look forward to working closely with Vuyo and the wider team to continue to build on the strong foundations developed throughout Jurie’s time as CEO and to help progress AIIM’s strategic journey.”

Vuyo Ntoi has been a member of the senior management team at AIIM for over a decade and is the co-portfolio manager of AIIM’s IDEAS Managed Fund, one of South Africa’s largest domestic infrastructure equity funds. He was also involved in the initial roll out of the business across the continent and has led and participated in high profile and pioneering projects in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Mali.

Sola Lawson joined AIIM in 2011, founding the Nigeria office, AIIM’s first permanent establishment in Africa outside of South Africa. He has been a member of the senior management team at AIIM since joining and is a member of the IDEAS investment committee. Sola has played a leading role in originating, executing and managing c. USD500 million of AIIM-managed fund investments across Africa, serving on the board of directors of several AIIM portfolio companies within the digital infrastructure, power or renewables and midstream sectors. Prior to joining AIIM, Sola was a member of the infrastructure funds team at Macquarie Group, and prior to that worked at PwC London.

Issued by: AIIM Africa

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CEO Corner

Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu, African Risk Capacity (ARC) CEO Shares Goals, Disaster Risk Solutions, COVID-19 and Future

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Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu is an executive with extensive international experience in insurance and investment management. He is currently the CEO of the African Risk Capacity “ARC” Ltd. ARC Ltd is a specialist insurance company that provides parametric insurance coverage to African countries against extreme weather events and natural disasters. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Lesley shares his goals, disaster risk solutions, COVID-19 and the future. Excerpt.

Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about ARC Ltd and the gap its filling in Africa?

Lesley: ARC is a specialist insurance company that was established by the African Union to help African governments improve their capacities to better plan, prepare, and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, and adapt to climate change. ARC works through collaboration and innovative finance, to enable countries to strengthen their disaster risk management systems and access rapid and predictable financing when disaster strikes to protect the food security and livelihoods of their vulnerable populations.

From 2014 to 2019, ARC cumulatively provided drought insurance coverage worth US$590 million to insure 59 million vulnerable people in Member States and paid out US$61 million in insurance claims.

Alaba: As its new Chief Executive, what are your set milestone in terms of growth and impact?

Lesley: Our target is to achieve US$100 million in gross written premiums in the next 5 years, providing gross insurance coverage of US$1 billion. This level of scale will allow us to reach 150 million people in Africa and more effectively use insurance to protect people against food insecurity brought about by natural disasters such as droughts and floods, the frequency and severity of natural disasters is increasing as a result of climate change.

Alaba: Establishing a risk pooling insurer is clearly a difficult task. What can other Regions learn from the ARC concept?

Lesley: The idea of sovereign risk pooling is catching on globally, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility was the first pool set up in 2007 after the devastating hurricanes suffered by the Caribbean countries. ARC Ltd was set up in 2014, subsequently other risk pools have been set up for the Pacific Island nations, the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative and SEADRIF in South East Asia.

The success of the risk pools depends a great deal on political support by the member countries and a clearly demonstrable value for all the pool members.

Alaba: What are the benefits of your products for vulnerable member sovereign?

Lesley: The main benefit of working with ARC Ltd, is that we are owned by the African countries and therefore exist to cater to their unique needs. We are able to build customized insurance solutions for each country. Our parametric insurance product pays claims very quickly, typically within 10 days of the insured event, giving governments timely funding to start the relief and recovery efforts. Furthermore, ARC Ltd has an Agency arm which provides capacity building for countries to help them understand the risks that they face and development mitigation strategies.

Alaba: Could you discuss more on The Extreme Climate Facility (XCF) initiative?

Lesley: The XCF is an exciting and very innovative concept. The main objective of the Extreme Climate Facility (XCF) is to reduce vulnerability to extreme events by providing enabling conditions for increased adaptation investment and improved risk transfer. The XCF structure combines a green bond and a catastrophe bond, issued centrally on behalf of member states can address critical barriers to adaptation investment and increase post-disaster funding.

Alaba: How is the current global pandemic affecting ARC? Are you Post COVID-19 prepared?

Lesley: Financially, the COVID induced volatility in the financial markets reduced the market value of our investment portfolio. However, our investment portfolio is made up of high quality, investment grade bonds which we fully expect will pay at par, the default risk remains extremely low.

From a business perspective, our sovereign clients had to respond to COVID 19 and this put a tremendous strain on their finances and in some instances, negatively impacted their ability to pay insurance premiums. Furthermore, due to the lockdown restrictions it was challenging to sustain ongoing interactions with the governments. However, the ability to work remotely has improved over time and the lockdown restrictions are slowly being eased.

All the teams within ARC Ltd have been able to adapt to working remotely and there has been minimal disruption to our activities.

ARC will be launching an insurance product covering Outbreaks and Epidemics, the insurance payouts will provide the funding required for an early and effective government response.

Alaba: How does the use of technology provide opportunities in the fact of natural disaster?

Lesley: Insurance is a data driven industry, data enables us to understand and calibrate risks, to develop appropriate mitigation measures. In parametric insurance we rely on satellites for rainfall data and we use technology to model and predict losses that arise from weather events. This data can be used to anticipate disasters and take timely action to prevent them or reduce their severity.

Alaba: What is the future for ARC in terms of its size, products and impact?

Lesley: ARC Ltd is currently diversifying its product range to include coverage against floods, tropical cyclones and outbreaks & epidemics. We already have a very successful drought insurance product which has been the mainstay of the company. The new products are essential to more holistically meet the needs of our clients and to ensure diversification on our balance sheet. These additional products will allow us to reach our ambition of US$100 million in gross revenues while ensuring that we are more relevant and credible in meeting the needs of our clients.

Alaba: As an industry leader, how can Africa better develop and position its insurance market?

Lesley: Insurance penetration, which is the ratio of insurance premiums to GDP remains rather low in Africa at 1 to 3% compared to over 10% in most developed markets. This low penetration is linked to limited knowledge of insurance as a risk management tool, lack of trust of insurance companies and products that are too complex and do not fully meet the needs and expectations of customers. The insurance industry plays an importance role in the economy by making households more resilient to shocks and giving entrepreneurs’ confidence to launch new ventures, in addition insurance companies are long term investors in the financial markets.

To grow the insurance industry, governments need to create an enabling regime through risk based supervision of insurance companies and the insurance industry needs to develop appropriate and relevant products and build distribution systems that make it easier and more cost effective to reach customers.

Alaba: How do you relax outside work? Tell us one of your favourite destinations in Africa? Why?

Lesley: I am an avid long distance runner, I run about 80 to 100km every week. Running clears my mind and makes me sharper and more focused. My favorite destination is Diani Beach in Kenya; it has dreamy unspoilt white sand beaches that stretch out as far as the eye can see.

Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu

B I O G R A P H Y

Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu

Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu is an executive with extensive international experience in insurance and investment management. He is currently the CEO of the African Risk Capacity “ARC” Ltd. ARC Ltd is a specialist insurance company that provides parametric insurance coverage to African countries against extreme weather events and natural disasters.

Lesley spent close to a decade in various senior management roles in insurance and asset management with the AXA Group in London, Paris and Singapore, including as CEO of a Lloyd’s of London insurance syndicate, Head of Corporate Development for AXA Global Asset Management and Chief Investment Officer for AXA Singapore.

Prior to joining the AXA Group, he was Vice President, Investments at AXIS Capital in Bermuda, as part of an institutional investment team managing US$15 billion in a global multi-asset investment portfolio. He began his professional career with Deloitte, where he had various assignments in corporate finance, audit, tax advisory. He currently serves as a Non-Executive Director for various financial services companies around the world.

Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu is a graduate of Christ Church, University of Oxford in England and at the Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (INSEAD) in France. He is a CFA charter holder, a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales and a member of the Institute of Directors.

Also Read: Interview with Monica Sekhmet Grant, President of Young Boss Media Inc.

Visit: African Risk Capacity

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