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Facebook takes Amber Alerts to South Africa, first of its kind in the continent

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Facebook Amber Alert Newsfeed Example(Source: Facebook)

This follows the announcement of a partnership between Facebook and The South African Police Service (SAPS) to use the Facebook platform and community to help find missing children

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, January 31, 2020- South Africa has become the first country in Africa to join to the Facebook Amber Alerts programme. This follows the announcement of a partnership between Facebook and The South African Police Service (SAPS) to use the Facebook platform and community to help find missing children.

The system enables the South African Police Service to seek assistance from the public when it is suspected that a child has been abducted and there is reason to believe there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of the child.

Through Facebook’s Newsfeed, the Amber Alert enables people to instantly share important information about the missing child and suspected abductor, such as a photo, hair colour and clothing with their friends, family and Facebook groups.

By working with law enforcement in helping to share the right information with the right people, Facebook aims to help reunite missing children with their families as soon as possible.

Commenting on the launch, Emily Vacher, Facebook’s Director of Trust and Safety, said: “Amber Alerts is available in more than 20 countries worldwide, with more to follow. We are excited to partner with the South African Police Service to make Amber Alerts available in an African country for the first time.

Also Read: How Tech Is Enhancing Recruitment: An Interview With Sandy Simagwali, Co-Founder Of Graft Africa

“Africa is an important and growing market for us, and we are investing in our community across the continent. This partnership is a signal of our commitment to bringing the latest Facebook features to Africa, building communities, and giving people access to digital tools that improve their lives.”

How Amber Alerts work in South Africa

The decision to declare an Amber Alert is made by the law enforcement when investigating suspected abduction case. Once the law enforcement has been notified about an abducted child, they must first determine if the case meets their Amber Alert criteria, which includes:

  • The abduction is of a child age 18 or younger;
  • There is a reasonable belief that the child has been abducted
  • The South African Police Service believes the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and suspected abduction for law enforcement to issue an Amber Alert to assist in recovering the child

A senior member of the law enforcement will assess whether these criteria have been met before authorising the Amber Alert. The police service will then notify Facebook’s Global Security Operations Centre, which operates 24/7, that a verified Amber Alert is active. Facebook will then quickly send the alert to the News Feeds of people located in targeted search areas within the specific country.

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

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ITU Head of Strategic Engagement, Fred Werner (Image by: AI Expo Africa)

In 2015, in a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030, world leaders adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the landmark United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York.

With 10 years left to reach the SDGs, Fred Werner, Head of Strategic Engagement at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) believes it’s time to move the needle and use artificial intelligence (AI) to meet these goals by 2030.

Werner will give a keynote speech at AI Expo Africa – Africa’s largest business-focused AI, Data Science and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) trade event and conference – on how the AI for Good platform is identifying and generating practical AI applications which advance the SDGs and scale those solutions for global impact.

The ITU strongly believes AI can help solve humanity’s greatest challenges. Its AI for Good Global Summit — the leading action-oriented, global and inclusive United Nations platform on AI has since 2017, together with its community of innovators and problem solvers, identified, strategised and created new projects, roadmaps and initiatives around the use of AI to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

In June the ITU as part of its AI for Good Webinar Series — and in partnership with AI Media Group and Alliance4ai — held a webinar that explored Africa’s varying AI strategies and how they are impacting on the continent’s economic growth. Panelists who included South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams, UNESCO-IBE director Mmantsetsa Marope and Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa director John Kamara provided regional success stories that explained the opportunities and challenges in deploying these strategies.

Also Read: AVCA Board appoints Dara Owoyemi as Interim CEO

“We have 10 years left to achieve the 17 SDGs and we need to act now to make this happen. AI solutions that we identify today need a few years to develop, a few more years to achieve scale and then a few years after that to achieve the desired impact. At a minimum, we are looking at a 10-year timeline, bringing us right up to 2030. We have to act now if we want a chance of moving the needle,” says Werner.

AI Expo Africa 2020 will be held online on 3 and 4 September with a speaker line up led by Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum; Neil Sahota, IBM Master Inventor, UN AI expert and lecturer at University of California, and Bayo Adekanmbi, CTO MTN Nigeria and founder of Data Science Nigeria.

South Africa’s Minister of Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams; Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg and Deputy Head of the 4IR Commission of South Africa are also set to speak at the show.

Issued by AI Expo Africa

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

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Viero & Zistify Founders, Basheer Phiri and Hopewell Fakude

Launching a food delivery start-up requires an entrepreneur to manage 4 aspects; Restaurants, Delivery Agents, Customers, and the most costly of them all, an application. Building a food delivery application can cost up to $60 000. There are also additional costs that need to be paid on a monthly basis to maintain and improve the application. “This is a major barrier to entry into the food delivery industry in Africa” said Basheer Phiri, the founder and CEO of Viero.

“Because of these high costs, we see a lot of food delivery Startups all over Africa serving the urban market, because it is big, and has enough customers to cover the development and maintenance costs and make a profit.” Basheer believes that food delivery Startups do not target township and non-urban areas because these markets need to be built from the group up, which means additional marketing costs and slower growth and adoption rates.

Therefore, coupled with the need to cover maintenance costs and the demand for growth and traction from investors, food delivery Startups prefer competing in the already established urban markets. This has led to high concentration in urban markets while non-urban markets remain relatively untapped.

“We saw this and realised that there was value that could be created” said Basheer. “After speaking to a few interested entrepreneurs, we saw that they could manage every aspect of the food delivery business, but could not afford to pay for an App. That is how Viero was born”

Viero is a SaaS Platform that enables entrepreneurs to create a food delivery web application with no code in 60 seconds. (Here’s how it works – https://youtu.be/1T9oxNtRDpM).

The platform built a standard food delivery application template and enables it to be cloned, rebranded and hosted through white-labelling. Entrepreneurs can use the application under a monthly subscription and have access to many features depending on their chosen plan. Entrepreneurs can also make changes to the layout and design of their app, all without any code.

Launched in South Africa on 1 June 2020, the platform has achieved amazing uptake thus far. 22 Apps in total have been created with 2 Food delivery Startups that are live and operating in South Africa and 20 other Startups preparing for launch. 108 orders have been delivered, with R4700 processed in transactions, 200 customer users, 16 listed stores and 45 delivery agents. 

Viero was launched by UCT students Basheer Phiri and Hopewell Fakude. They met in their first year in 2018 as residents of Smuts Hall Residence at The University of Cape Town, when they were introduced by a mutual friend who noticed their passion for entrepreneurship. Since then, they have worked together on several Startups and projects.

Also Read: Radisson Hotel Group announces new appointments to drive its expansion for Africa

Basheer and Hopewell are not new to the food delivery industry. In 2019, they launched Zistify, a food delivery start-up for the university market. Zistify delivers food ordered from food vendors on campus through it’s app to university students and staff. 

Viero is in capable hands and is ready to disrupt the food delivery industry in Africa. Currently raising a $100 000 seed round to incorporate logistics into its business offering, to bring in more talent to the team, and to continue building and improving the platform.

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