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Fintechs grow in relevance in spite of Covid pandemic

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown in most countries across the globe has clearly had both a negative and positive impact.

In the business world for instance, a number of small and medium enterprises have since collapsed for failure to adapt to the new normal.

One of the biggest bottlenecks for such businesses is the lack of digital skills among their proprietors, yet they have now become as important as financial management skills given the Covid-19 standard operating procedures of social distancing and working from home.

However, those that have embraced e-commerce have not felt the pinch wrought by the pandemic given that many consumers are using online platforms to order and receive goods and services.

Therefore, the commencement of the second edition of the 40-days-40-Finetechs edition organised by HiPipo in partnership with Crosslake Technologies, ModusBox and Mojaloop Foundation, and sponsored by the Gates Foundation couldn’t have come at a better time. 

According to HiPipo CEO Innocent Kawooya, this is the time where the push for financial inclusion is on a high, especially for vulnerable groups such as women, which calls for know-your-customer solutions using digital skills.

“We are happy to start our second edition of 40-days-40-Fintechs. We expect showcases of innovations and brands operating in this space and also use this chance to learn, at no cost, from probably the most knowledgeable pool of global FinTech experts,” Kawooya said.

He alludes that people are increasingly adopting digital payment methods and cross-border payments, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has created an opportunity for financial technology companies (Fintechs) and the African continent to leap into the future.

He further explains that while Fintechs have a common goal of ensuring financial inclusion, each of their services solves unique sets of challenges ranging from payments and lending, remittances, cross-border transfers and neobanks, among others.

‘For example; with cross-border payments comes the opportunity to erase the outrageous rates and bureaucratic bottlenecks that stymie transactions and thus trade among African countries,” Kawooya says.

By press time, more than 10 participants had been profiled in the ongoing second addition of the 40 Days 40 FinTechs. These included Flutterwave, Yassako, Xente, Pebuu, Ticteq, Beyonic/MFS Africa, Jumia, Computing Palace, Trade Lance, and Payclide.

JUMIA

Jumia is one of Africa’s biggest platforms offering integrated logistics and digital payments services. According to Timothy Mugume, the Jumia Food Uganda country lead, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Jumia has remained relevant in the market by enabling customers have access to whatever goods they want even when they are locked in their homes.

Their e-commerce platform offers a range of services from food deliveries to groceries, electronics and appliances and pharmaceuticals to customers at affordable rates.

Beyonic/MFS Africa

Beyonic is a digital payments platform that facilitates payments integration across the African continent by integrating all telecoms in Uganda and in other African countries where it operates.

Thus, once one connects to the Beyonic platform, they will have access to networks across all countries where it operates, enabling access through a single log-in.

Flutterwave

Flutterwave is a payments technology company that operates in 33 countries across the globe including Uganda. The firm provides a payments gateway to enable businesses operate across borders seamlessly across all the countries where it operates. Established five years ago, Flutterwave serves over 10,000 merchants in Uganda, including 3,000 businesses.

Trade Lance

Trade Lance is an ICT firm providing digital solutions including integration, aggregation, software development, and utility payments, among others, to solve day-to-day challenges.

They have integrated with major telecommunications companies in Uganda including MTN, Airtel, Africell and Uganda Telecom (UTL) to facilitate smooth mobile money transactions.

It has also aggregated with MTN, Airtel, Africell, and Lycamobile, in addition to offering third-party integrations to various companies such Smile, Roke telkom, Absolute Energy, Cloud Core, Quick Tap, Bright life and Alliance Africa Insurance.

Payclide

Payclide is a web and mobile application that provides a merchant aggregation system and peer-to-peer mobile payment platform that can be accessed anytime. It also has a wallet that allows people to save money, send or withdraw it any time and pay utility bills and access banking services.

Payclide is a product of Cytrone Limited – a payment technology company that offers a domestic, open-loop, multilateral system that facilitates electronic payments.

Computing Palace

Computing Palace Technologies is an ICT firm that specializes in software development. They have specifically used the lockdown to start imparting digital skills to small business owners to enable them use online channels to market and sell their products.

Ticteq

Ticteq comes with an online ticketing system that offers convenient digital solutions and options for both event organisers and revelers.

From music concerts, sports events to comedy shows, revelers can buy event tickets weeks or even months in advance. With Ticteq, they can even get a refund if they are unable to attend events that they paid for. Likewise, event organizers do not have to worry about the printing of fake tickets, fake money at the gates or physical theft.

Xente

Xente Tech Limited is a mobile financial services and e-commerce platform.  According to Xente CEO Allan Rwakatungu, the Fintech offers an all-in-one business account that helps business owners and finance teams manage expenses, make payments to team members, suppliers and collect payments.

Key among its solutions are disbursements – sending mobile money, airtime or data to groups of people and payment collections – collecting money from mobile money, Visa or MasterCard, on behalf of businesses.

Pebuu

Pebuu is a women-centric brand that uses agents, who are spread across the country, to serve its customers. Trading as Pebuu Africa, it has 2,400 merchants countrywide, with 80 per cent of them using point-of-sale (POS) machines while 20 per cent use a mobile App on their smartphones.

Pebuu partnered with telecommunications companies – MTN, Airtel, Africell and Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) to distribute their products – mobile money, airtime, data, over the top tax, and other services through its platform.

The fintech started off with four agents five years ago, carrying only carrying airtime as telecoms were at first adamant to use onboard any fintech for mobile money and the other services. Pebuu is also partnering with banks such as Stanbic, GT Bank and Centenary.

Yassako (Mallan Company LTD)

In a partnership with Airtel, Yassako offers an instant micro-credit emergency solution that enables users to recharge their pre-paid Yaka electricity on credit at any time.

The solution has turned out to be a lifesaver for many Ugandans, who can now get electricity units on credit and pay within a maximum of 30 days.

Although it is still in pilot phase since March last year, the solution has grown from about 50 customers every day last year to 100 customers every day currently. 

MAJOR CHALLENGE

This year’s participants have so far noted that while the Fintech space in Uganda has evolved over the last five years, it is still quite hard and tough as most FinTechs are still grappling with liquidity challenges.

“For you to survive in the fintech space, you must have liquidity/cash; you must be aggressive, must be frugal, daring and brave,” noted John Paul Semyalo, the Pebuu CEO, adding that those that will benefit are only those that will be resilient to celebrate their 10th birthday.

With at least 40 participants scheduled to be showcased, the 40 Days 40 Fintechs season two initiative will with no doubt shine a spotlight on prime African stories aiding Financial Inclusion through empowering the population they serve with special focus on the less included; that is to say Women, Youth and PWDs.  

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