Africa fintechs’ product suite explained… from agritech to remittances
- Fintech companies in Africa are increasingly competing with traditional financial services providers.
- Digital payments is the most active segment, accounting for c40% of all African fintech offerings.
- Significant untapped demand in Africa for payments, lending, savings, insurance and financial management services.
Our recent survey of 150+ fintechs across 20 African markets enabled us to find their product and customer niches, as well as identify their unique success factors.
Fintech companies are increasingly competing with traditional financial services providers, by structuring their offerings in innovative and more efficient ways. These companies often help to widen the financial inclusion net using models such as branchless distribution, mobile banking, big data credit scoring and machine-to-machine lending, often simultaneously reducing acquisition costs, servicing costs and risk costs (as well as boosting convenience and service quality). They can thereby profitably access previously unbanked/ underbanked populations at the bottom of the pyramid.
The experience to date indicates that there is significant untapped demand in Africa for payments, lending, savings, insurance and financial management services.
African fintechs product offering mix
Source: Tellimer Research
One major change that is providing momentum to the fintech wave is that more and more Africans are connecting to the internet through smartphones, improving data availability for fintechs and enabling more sophisticated consumer-profiling models to be developed. This, in turn, allows resources to be more efficiently targeted and risks to capital to be reduced.
Mobile penetration in Africa
Source: GSMA, Tellimer research
Digital payments is the most active and arguably most developed segment in the space, accounting for c40% of all fintech products on the continent. Payments encompasses activities such as retail payments, merchant/ corporate payments and the provision of payment infrastructure through several channels: digital wallets (MTN MoMo, Ghana), USSD (EcoCash, Zimbabwe), mobile apps (SnapScan, South Africa), internet (Flutterwave, Nigeria), vouchers (Zoona, Lesotho).
Lending is second in terms of popularity of fintech products, accounting for 24% of the market. These companies offer lending/niche banking products in more efficient ways than traditional banks or credit companies, using technology to profile customers (allowing for more personalised products), disburse loans more quickly and enable repayments to be collected more efficiently. Notable examples are Branch (Nigeria), GetBucks (Mozambique), Jumo (South Africa) and Tala (Kenya).
Insurtech offer insurance products such as life, car, health, etc., in innovative and easy-to-understand ways that rival traditional companies’ offerings. Example include Pineapple (South Africa), which offers peer-to-peer insurance and returns all unused premiums at the end of each year, DabaDoc (Algeria), which offers health insurance by providing users access to nearby doctors, hospitals or pharmacies, and mPharma (Ghana), which provides users with access to pharmacies.
Investech companies offer financial management services such as managing customers’ finances based on pre-established investment guidelines. Their services range from providing platforms for trading securities to advisory services and portfolio management. Piggyvest (Nigeria), is a savings platform that helps users manage and grow their finances, while EasyEquities (South Africa) enables users to invest in equity market instruments such as stocks, ETFs and index funds.
Remittances are in effect cross-border cross-currency payments that enable transfers of money by foreign workers to friends/ relatives/ businesses in their home countries. Relative to domestic payments, remittances carry a much higher burden of documentation, while the currency exchange element also adds to costs and reduces transparency. Due to the high cost of traditional remittance providers, particularly for small denominations, low-income workers will often turn to informal channels to send money home. Fintechs are helping to bridge this gap by providing almost instantaneous cross-border transfers at considerably lower cost. Examples include Thunes (Botswana) an online mobile wallet remittance service, WorldRemit (operating in several African countries), which allows users to transfer money across borders to be deposited in the local bank accounts of the receiver, and Sure Remit (Nigeria), which offers tokened non-cash remittances, allowing users to send vouchers that can be used by the receiver to pay bills.
Financial exchange platforms are increasingly migrating to distributed ledgers (blockchain). These ledgers provide immutable records of transactions and can help to create trust between counterparties even where there is no central intermediary. This technology has the potential to dramatically improve the efficiency of certain financial transactions, such as eliminating the need for currency exchange on cross-border transactions. Examples include Kobocoin (Nigeria), a mobile wallet that allows users to trade in cryptocurrencies, and Sun Exchange (South Africa), which enables users to earn rental income by leasing out their solar panels; they can either be paid in local currency or bitcoin.
Specialised fintechs offer digital financial solutions for unique or niche markets. They often operate as a distinct ecosystem with integrated payments, lending or e-market place offerings. Notable genres include:
Agritech, such as FarmDrive (Kenya), Farmcrowdy (Nigeria) and Twigga foods (Rwanda), which provide farmers with access to loans, crowdfunding or to digital trading platforms based on blockchain technology, enabling them to transact directly with buyers.
Proptech, such as VisaFront (Nigeria), which provides access to property trading, BuyRent (Kenya), which automates rent collection, and JumiaHouse (Kenya), which facilitates short-term rentals.
Fintech landscape across major African countries
Note: Many of these companies could appear in multiple cells.
Source: Tellimer Research, CB Insights, Irrational Innovations
For more detail on the fintech environment in Africa see our recently published in-depth report The Ultimate Guide to African Fintech.
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