Asian Expansion & Pan-Africanism at HK Fintech Week

  • Why fintechs had to build infrastructure to unify pan-African payments
  • Why trade finance is still a problem in Africa, and how fintechs are solving it
  • What Asia can learn from African fintechs

Out of the world’s 100 top Fintech’s, 34 of them come from Asia. From China’s Ant Financial to Southeast Asia’s GoJek, it makes sense that many of them are eyeing or considering expanding into the massive African market. At Hong Kong Fintech Week during the first week of November, AZA’s CEO, Elizabeth Rossiello spoke with the Chief Operations Officer of Cellulant, Moses Abindabizemu, and Chief Growth Officer of Tyme Global, Rachel Freeman about the right strategy to enter Africa and understanding the main players. 

Globally, open banking and increasing interoperability has been a very hot topic. In Africa, fintechs will have focused on payments and brokerage mainly because the digital bank regulation has been mostly co-opted by telecoms. Starting from M-Pesa, which was founded by Kenya’s largest telecom, Safaricom, telecoms in Africa have been the main contenders to become digital banks, similar to Monzo or Revolut. 

Because telecoms are one of the most important last mile distribution channels across the African continent, they are very important partners to all fintechs. However, they also have a complex operating structure that prevents them from being truly pan-African in service provision. While it may seem like most of these telcos have pan-African reach, in reality, the different “OpCos” (operating companies) in each market are very powerful and have their own priorities. It is almost impossible to sign a pan-African deal. 

Perhaps a fintech looking to come into Africa may be able to sign a deal with a telco headquarter in South Africa, but when it comes to actual implementation, each country will be very different. Working with the OpCos in Ghana or Uganda, you may suddenly find yourself dealing with different systems, processes, and partners. This can lead to multiple, separate integrations, signing brand new contracts, or dealing with different currencies. While this operating structure really allows for the telecoms to build local expertise and product, they are not positioned as ideal expansion partners. 

On the other hand, the role of fintechs across Africa has really been to build infrastructure to unify pan-African payments. Working with a company like AZA, which operates across Africa cohesively, empowers any Asian fintech doing market entry to seamlessly expand into more than one African at a time. With one easy integration, an Asian fintech can have access to multiple collections and payout methods, from mobile money to bank to cash. 

Reach out if you’re looking for: 

– Infrastructure (licenses, payout/collection partners, bank accounts, regulatory relationships) to launch a product in Africa
– Partner with extensive operating/execution experience to help you build something custom
– Buying or remitting currencies from Asia to Africa 
– Collection of payments in African currencies to send back to Asia

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