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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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The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at the MIT launches Foundry Fellowship for entrepreneurs in Africa

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The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at MIT has launched the Foundry Fellowship, a first-of-its-kind leadership program for accomplished entrepreneurs who are considering their role in shaping the future of the African innovation ecosystems in which they work and live. At an inflection point in their entrepreneurial journeys, Fellows will learn from MIT faculty, connect with investors, and expand their network of peer innovators. The Fellowship is open to entrepreneurs working and living in Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and Senegal.

Building on the MIT ethos of Mens et Manus (Mind and Hand), the Foundry is a place where entrepreneurs come together to reflect on their achievements and shape their futures as leaders in business, investing, and governance. The program includes an interactive online curriculum followed by a three-week immersive session that brings the cohort together to explore innovation-driven ecosystems.

The Foundry Fellowship presents a unique opportunity to bring MIT resources and knowledge to these critical innovation ecosystems and, importantly, also offers MIT an opportunity to learn from successful leaders and their innovative solutions.

Professor Fiona Murray, Faculty Director of the Legatum Center, described this opportunity to expand MIT’s innovation network “[as] a moment for the Fellows to reflect on [their entrepreneurial] journey that also allows us to learn from them. They can use this experience as a stepping-off point as they move to the next stage of ecosystem-wide leadership.”

“As a school dedicated to the development of principled, innovative leaders who improve the world, MIT Sloan looks forward to welcoming the Legatum Foundry Fellows to Cambridge and to the MIT community,” said David Schmittlein, John C Head III Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

A Collaboration between the Legatum Center and The Mastercard Foundation 

Through this collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, the Foundry Fellowship will deepen the impact of leaders who are solving complex problems, creating jobs, and bringing essential services to millions through innovation-driven business models.

With the world’s fastest growing youth population, Africa is home to 4 of the world’s top 5 fastest-growing economies, has the fastest urbanization rate in the world, and has a rapidly expanding middle class predicted to increase business and consumer spending. Innovation and entrepreneurial solutions are a critical component to continued growth and prosperous people and societies across the continent. Africa’s entrepreneurs are building businesses that offer lessons in inclusion, sustainability, and value creation that extend far beyond the continent. As a global network of entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders, the Legatum Center’s Foundry offers a platform for leaders to share their stories and consider new ways to extend their impact in their local ecosystems and around the world.

Dina Sherif, Executive Director of the Legatum Center says, “To propel Africa forward and remain competitive globally, we need innovation-led entrepreneurship and robust African entrepreneurial ecosystems. The Foundry Fellowship supports African entrepreneurs to transition to entrepreneurial leaders who work with various stakeholders to strengthen and improve their ecosystems.”

The Foundry Fellowship is a competitive program for outstanding entrepreneurial leaders working in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda. The Legatum Center will accept nominations from May 3 – May 20, 2021. A nomination is not required to apply; entrepreneurs are invited to submit an application directly. All nominees and applicants must submit a completed application by 11:59 PM EDT on June 10, 2021 to be considered for the program.

Nomination and application information is available at The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship

An initial cohort of 15 Fellows will be selected for this fully-funded program.

 

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AI Expo Africa, Wesgro, and Zindi launch the Deepfake Africa Challenge

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AI Expo Africa, in partnership with Wesgro Film and Media Promotion and African Data Science competition platform Zindi, has launched the Deepfake Africa Challenge in a bid to raise awareness about deepfake media, tools and ethics on the African continent.

Deepfakes have been prominent in the news in the last two years as the tools and platforms that allow for such content to be produced are widely available and easy to use by both skilled and casual users.

While some deepfakes can be used to create fun, viral videos or new synthetic applications such as digital avatars that have multiple applications, they also can be used to manipulate or generate visual and audio content with the potential to deceive with subsequent negative impacts for people, organisations and wider society.

Dr Nick Bradshaw, founder & CEO of AI Media the company behind AI Expo Africa, stated, “The objective of the challenge is to create convincing deepfakes to highlight the power of this synthetic media, illustrating its creative potential for exploitation for both positive and negative outcomes and focusing debate about its ethical use or mis-use in an African context. We partnered with Zindi as they have the largest community of Data Scientists in Africa, and Wesgro Film Unit to tap into the award-winning creative industry based in the Western Cape, South Africa. This challenge is open to both creative and technical talent across Africa. We look forward to seeing the outcomes from the submission.”

Wesgro Film and Media Promotion head Monica Rorvik commented, “Deepfake media can have negative outcomes. This challenge serves as an opportunity and platform that we can leverage during this interesting time of the “Pandemic of deep fakes” – and by working together, and checking facts, we can learn together and gain some herd immunity.”

Zindi co-founder and CEO Celina Lee stated “Deepfakes are fast becoming a challenge of our time. Through the Zindi platform we are seeking to tap into the collective insights and creativity from twenty-six thousand African data scientists to shine a light on this topic and create debate about the potential harms these media and tools can do from a uniquely African perspective.”

Submission and evaluation

Submissions are welcome from across the African continent and from relevant communities including researchers, developers, content creatives and film makers. The winning submissions of the Deepfake Africa Challenge will be showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE between 7 to 9 September.

Submissions for the Deepfake Africa Challenge can be either video or audio based. Each submission should be no longer than 90 seconds in length (MP4 or MP3 preferred final format). The content submitted must not be offensive or harmful in anyway and any submissions deemed to contravene this rule by the judges will be immediately rejected.Winners must be citizens of an African country and must be residing in Africa.All entries will be judged as follows:
  1. Artistic creativity and relevance to the challenge topic
  2. Level of innovation used in the process to generate the content
  3. A short explanation of platforms, tools and techniques used to generate your submission will greatly enhance your submission and are encouraged so we can build a picture of the most common tools and techniques used

The judging panel will be made up of representatives from Zindi, The AI Media Group and Wesgro. The judge’s decision will be final.

Prizes

1st Place Winner: Complimentary ticket to join AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE (including 1x return economy flight & 4x nights hotel stay B&B courtesy of Radisson Blue to join us at AI Expo Africa 2022). The 1st Place Winner’s flight is eligible to delegates joining from outside the host city capped to $1000 using economy class fare. Expenses and visas are not included.

2nd and 3rd prize winners to receive 1x complimentary ticket to AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE.

Top 3 placed winners will have work showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 along with write up and press mentions.

Timeline

The competition closes on 30th July 2021. Final submissions must be received no later than 11:59 PM GMT 30th July 2021. Winners will be notified and announced by 17 August 2021 with the winning submissions being showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE between 7-9 September.

The challenge organisers reserve the right to update the content timeline if necessary.

 

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Possibilities of Making Profits On Crypto, Risk-Free

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Over the course of the last decade, cryptocurrencies have experienced unprecedented growth and garnered a lot of interest across a range of demographics from all over the world. Interest in digital currencies is spiking globally and search terms such as “how to buy Bitcoin” have seen an uptick in interest according to Google trends. This is just one of many indicators that suggests a notable influx of people are entering the blockchain space and looking to explore the crypto ecosystem.

While the market cap of digital assets has varied extremely with price fluctuations, it, however, grew from about US$10 billion in 2013 to about $237 billion in 2019. Also, in the last 5 years, the increase in Bitcoin (BTC) private accounts and trades has averaged about sixty percent every year. Currently, the market cap for digital currencies is just above $2 trillion.

Even though many people have made early gains in digital assets, the cryptocurrency space is still in the early phase of development. The Internet for example, was created in 1969 and the “worldwide web” was designed in 1989 and subsequently the first web browser in 1990. Compared to those revolutionary technologies which massively transformed the communications landscape, blockchain technology is nascent and cryptocurrencies have only been in use for only a decade.

Crypto goes mainstream

Social media has exposed a lot of people to the crypto industry. The mass media is quick to broadcast the movements in bitcoin prices, leading to FOMO and FUD or the hysteria that sometimes characterizes crypto markets. Overall the ever growing coverage has done more to spur further development of new innovations within the space.

The price increase of cryptocurrency will probably be boosted by increased cryptocurrency adoption. While many institutions have started to invest and buy Bitcoin, there are still a lot of firms waiting in line to invest and buy Bitcoin. The average volume of digital assets transacted on any given day is just one percent of the FX trade. Regardless of cryptocurrencies increasing to more than $2 trillion in market cap according to Coinmarketcap, digital assets are still a tiny fraction of global equity trade ($34.8 trillion in 2020) and worldwide debt trade (over 281 trillion in 2020) according to Bloomberg.

With more institutional adoption of Bitcoin and other digital assets, traders and investors are presented with more chances to make money in the digital asset space.

How to make money with crypto

There are several ways of making profits with digital assets. Given that digital assets are basically volatile, many digital assets involve a great level of risk while some need greater expertise. It is important to have prerequisite knowledge about digital assets before you buy bitcoin.

One of the ways of making profits with cryptocurrency is through investing. This is generally for long-term purposes. It requires you to buy Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies and hold them for a chosen period of time. This can be done via different traditional crypto exchanges or P2P platforms like Remitano. Digital assets are usually well-suited to the investing practice of buying low, holding and then selling high. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile in shorter timeframes, however, they typically and have historically offered a much more lucrative upside over long periods compared to traditional investment vehicles.

Studies have also shown that most BTC profits are realized in the ten best trading periods of the year.

Due to cryptocurrencies being naturally volatile, investing for a long period is one of the ways of making profits with cryptocurrency. Just like with any type of investing, risks have to be thoroughly considered and expectations of rewards have to be managed well.

Another way of making profits with cryptocurrency is to trade digital assets. The most notable difference between investing and trading is the general time frames between entering and exiting positions. Investing is for a long period, while trading is basically to leverage opportunities over a short period. To trade digital assets successfully, it is important to know the basic fundamentals and have the capability to conduct technical analysis in order to avoid making costly mistakes.

Making profits via trading cryptocurrencies is more about knowing the price trend and pattern and utilizing it to forecast future value, many times over a short period. Find out the 20 best platforms to buy Bitcoin and other digital currencies in South Africa.

What is the possibility of making profits on crypto, risk-free?

Trading digital assets sounds relatively easy, however, due to the highly volatile nature of crypto assets, it involves a lot of risks. One of the ways to make profits on cryptocurrency with relatively low risk is by doing cryptocurrency arbitrage. This trading method exploits price and demand gaps between different digital asset marketplaces. But, the trades have to be done almost instantaneously to realize gains.

Arbitrage Trading

Crypto arbitrage involves exploiting price differences on different crypto exchanges for your benefit. This method is effective in places where bitcoin price varies from one exchange to the other like in South Africa and Nigeria. The price differences could be a result of several factors.

Arbitrage trading involves buying bitcoin or other digital assets from one exchange and selling it on other exchanges at a higher price. Selling the asset after the purchase must be done relatively quickly to avoid price movements narrowing margins or leading to loss at times.

Exploiting the price difference using the cryptocurrency arbitrage technique requires a cryptocurrency market that has price discrepancies depending on the supply and demand in the different markets.

Remitano Invest

Another way to make money risk-free is with Remitano Invest. Remitano invest allows you to buy and invest in cryptocurrencies without putting your capital at risk.

How?

With the Stop Loss and Take Profit features, your crypto asset will be liquidated to USDT (a stable coin) to prevent loss and maximize your profit. You simply set the auto sell price for the Stop Loss and Take Profit. When the asset you have invested hits your Take Profit price, Remitano Invest converts it into USDT to secure your profit. However, if the asset’s price falls to your Stop Loss price, the system will convert it into USDT to help you secure your capital and prevent further loss.

Risks and benefits are an intrinsic part of most money markets and they go hand in hand. Risks cannot be eradicated but they can be managed. Some risks can be managed by utilizing effective risk management practices. Personal risks like wallet hacks, coin theft, and loss of access to funds can be offset by making sure you implement good security practices.

Article & Image source: Heath Muchena

 

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