Bankers under pressure to innovate and digitalise their businesses are amused to discover that they are now expected to become hawkers in the digital bazaar. That's right: you're nothing these days if you don't have a marketplace. African telco MTN, with more than 200 million customers across Africa and the Middle East, is turning itself into a marketplace, in what looks like an effort to become the African Alipay. "In presentation slides for a capital markets day in Johannesburg, MTN revealed it wanted to first enable payments to merchants and companies via MoMo and then build the app into a 'financial services market place' selling MTN and third party products," writes Reuters. "MTN's move is part of a shift by financial services firms to turn their banking apps into platforms, allowing third parties to build-in their products and access their customer bases." With Safaricom recently acquiring the IP for M-Pesa, and Ghana launching full interoperability between banks and mobile money, there's a chance for Africa-first operators to thrive. With China and US swinging hard at one another, there will be opportunities for new infrastructure players to emerge, in the digital as well as the physical realm.
Hot on the heels of London listings from Finablr and Network International comes a new listing by Airtel Africa, a subsidiary of the Indian-owned telco Airtel. It looking to IPO to raise funds to compete with the likes of MTN. "The company is aiming to raise around $1 billion (790.08 million pounds) in a June equity offering, a source close to the deal said. Airtel operates in 14 African markets including Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Uganda and Zambia," reports Reuters. "Last year, the telecom operator raised $1.25 billion from six global investors including SoftBank Group, Warburg Pincus and Temasek Holdings. A further $200 million was raised in January from the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), valuing the company just under $5 billion."
There's still plenty of room for expanding card acceptance in Southern Africa, with the recent merger between Crossfin and Sureswipe, led by London investment partners Apis. The new business will operate in three separate markets, with Emerge Mobile's iKhokha POS device aimed at informal traders, right up to Innervation's enterprise solution. "The new consortium will have the scale to provide payment solutions to a broad spectrum of local retailers, from micro-merchants and informal traders through to larger retailers and franchises," writes Business Tech. "It also provides merchants with a range of ancillary products, including: automated lending solutions tailored to cash flow requirements of various businesses; bespoke loyalty solutions; and a comprehensive suite of value-added services designed to drive customer engagement. CTS services over 25,000 active clients, 50,000 active card machines and R70-billion in transaction value. The company will have operations in seven African jurisdictions." CNBC features a short video with Paul Kent, MD of Sureswipe and Dean Sparrow, chief executive of CrossFin.
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