Day by day, the appreciation of the value that financial technology adds to humanity is increasing as its revolution rests in the importance it creates. The marvel of the industry is further understood especially when Fintech is among the fastest growing sectors in the world. As of February 2021, Statista estimated that there are about 26,000 Fintech startups globally, with 10,605 startups in the Americans, 9,311 startups in the EMEA region (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) and 6,129 in the Asia Pacific region. The development of the industry is fast paced, which is not farfetched, since with innovative software, hardware, and networks, Fintech has managed to attract millions of consumers for businesses and had a huge impact on how a business is run and the pattern of its development in future.
In Africa, the Fintech industry is an emerging force on fertile ground. Relevant information suggests Fintech is the most dominant component of Africa’s startup space, with most of the startup funding over the past four years flowing into this sector. Disrupt Africa, a web platform for news on African startups, reveals that for the past six and a half years, these startups have raised about $900 million, more than twice that is raised by startups in any other space over the same period. Statista steps in with data showing the distribution of African Fintech Startups to be that, as of 2021, 154 fintech startups are located in South Africa; which has the highest number of such companies in the Africa region. Nigeria followed closely with 144 Fintech startups, while other 93 had headquarters in Kenya. Together, the three countries harbored over 65 percent of African Fintech, which in total amounted to 576 companies by the same year. It must be understood, however, that the promising future of Fintech in Africa today would not have been possible without forerunners such as Mpesa and Ecocash, founded in 2007 and 2011 respectively.
Understanding Africa’s Fintech Forerunners
African Fintech forerunners still lead the market in their way, working on the sustainable service they provide for the communities they serve. Early Fintech providers have carved out a niche and it is important to consider some of them.
The name M-Pesa is a product of merging two languages. M represents mobile in English and Pesa means money in Swahili. In its role as a service provider, Mpesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer, payment, and micro-financing service launched by Vodafone Group plc and Safaricom in 2007. It is the largest mobile network operator in Kenya and it has since expanded operations to Tanzania, Mozambique, DRC, Lesotho, Ghana, Egypt, Afghanistan, South Africa and Ethiopia.
M-Pesa’s core function sees it operate as a virtual banking system (mobile money service) that offers transaction services through a Sim card on a mobile phone. In Kenya, an account must be with a Safaricom Sim card. Fixed into a mobile device, the Sim card allows users to receive and store money, as well as make payments and transfer money to vendors and family members using SMS messages. M-Pesa’s innovation is particularly useful to users who have no bank accounts and live in remote rural areas. They are able to access the numerous M-PESA outlets distributed across the country. Through the service provided, money to be stored is given to the kiosk attendant, who transfers the amount in digital form to their M-PESA account that’s on their phone.
M-Pesa is a branchless banking service. Simply, with an account, M-Pesa customers can deposit and withdraw money from a network of agents that includes airtime resellers and retail outlets acting as banking agents.
Launched by Econet Wireless in 2011, the target market for Ecocash are its customers in Zimbabwe. The platform serves as a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service through which Econet allows users to deposit, withdraw, transfer money and pay for goods and services, including utility bills, from a mobile handset. Users of Ecocash can buy pre-paid airtime, get data bundles for themselves or others, and redeem stored mobile money for cash. Apart from Zimbabwe, Ecocash operates also in Burundi and Lesotho.
Contrasting Aryze With M-pesa and Ecocash.
While M-pesa and Ecocash offer services that enable simple transactions and allow for financial inclusion, ARYZE goes a step further in its pursuit, employing blockchain technology to build a full-reserve bank that runs at a fraction of the traditional risk associated with banking. ARYZE uses regulated cloud-native banking software, woven with smart-contracts, that are aimed at transforming dumb money into smart money. This is enabled by interoperability to the blockchain and making bank IOUS fully programmable.
Joining an early generation of Fintech that employs disruptive technology via blockchain and its multiple applications, ARYZE incorporates the use of Multi-Asset Modular App, MAMA and MAMA Business, that enables users to have unique payment experiences tailored to each individual with rewards for use.
Both M-pesa and Ecocash act as e-wallets holding and enabling cash transactions between users. Similar to their application, MAMA is a digital wallet that will let users receive, send and store Digital Cash. However, it does not end at digital cash for MAMA as the multi-modular app is also built to hold digital coins. Robin G. Kristensen, explains deposits held in MAMA as features which ‘are fully backed in their preferred sovereign currency and Digital Cash can also be sent to open source blockchains like Ethereum’. All of these are factored in the form of ‘stablecoins’ that are backed one-to-one by real underlying Fiat currencies issued by governments.
The digital cash ecosystem created by ARYZE aims to tackle money laundering, financial exclusion, and high costs in international remittances while promoting inclusion and economic growth worldwide. ARYZE’s strategy presents a massive advantage for a developing continent coming to global standards with great potential, and it is time to key into it.