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Ghana’s Zeepay plans mobile-money expansion to South Africa, Rwanda

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Tuesday, 5 January 2021 12:39

People queue to withdraw cash from a local bank in Harare, Zimbabwe, September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Ghana’s Zeepay plans to raise $10m in equity funding to support the creation of new mobile-money hubs in East and Southern Africa, Andrew Takyi-Appiah, co-founder and managing director, tells The Africa Report.

The new hubs, which will include processing centres and back offices, are likely to be in Rwanda and South Africa, says Takyi-Appiah from Accra. He adds that the use of Swahili in Rwanda makes it a good platform from which to reach out to other markets in the region.

The company, which has so far grown through local investment, is seeking $10m in new equity funding. Zeepay, advised by the South African office of Verdant Capital, is targeting investment from remittance companies and private-equity firms. Takyi-Appiah says Zeepay aims to close the fundraising round by the end of June.

The money will be used for marketing and distribution, hiring and creating the hubs. Some of it will be also be used as capital paid to enter new markets, such as Gambia.

READ MORE Africa: over 500 million mobile-money users expected in 2020

Zeepay is active in nine markets and aims to enter a further nine new countries this year. These will include Burkina Faso, Gambia, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Madagascar, though a physical presence will only be needed in countries chosen as hubs. Zeepay has lined up partnerships with Orange, MTN and local players which will enable it to operate.

  • The company is aiming for 100,000 transactions per month in each of its new markets.
  • In total, Zeepay is targeting 2 million transactions in 2021 for a value of $400m.
  • Venture capital firm GOODsoil VC recently bought out one of Zeepay’s shareholders. The fact that GOODsoil has the Ghanaian foreign-exchange (FX) broker Obsidian Achernar in its portfolio will add value to its stake in Zeepay, says Takyi-Appiah. He adds that Zeepay will be able to offer better FX rates and will have liquidity available for settlement.

Transaction security

Zeepay provides digital rails to connect mobile-money wallets, tokens, bank cards and ATMs. It began operations in its largest market, Ghana, in 2016.

Takyi-Appiah says he saw opportunity in the fact that customers had to wait for days and queue up to obtain remittances sent to banks. Foreign expansion soon followed, and Zeepay now counts Côte d’Ivoire and Zimbabwe as its second- and third-largest markets.

READ MORE Mobile money key to Africa’s growth, but bad tax policies ruin it

Zeepay received an Electronic Money Issuer license to operate as a mobile financial services company from the Bank of Ghana in April 2020. In September, it agreed a partnership with Visa allowing diaspora Africans to send money directly onto Visa debit and prepaid cards in Ghana.

Ensuring the security of transactions is a challenge. Ghana has been classified as a “grey list” country by the Financial Action Task Force, a global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog. The European Union (EU) counts Ghana as among countries which pose a “high risk” to the EU’s financial system.

  • Zeepay’s partners carry out screening for money laundering, and then the company does its own secondary screening.
  •  It also uses the US financial compliance and security company Crowdstrike.
  • “It’s expensive, but it gives you peace of mind,” says Takyi-Appiah.

Higher security thresholds for mobile money may in fact speed the emergence of pan-African champions. The security investments made by Zeepay create the need for scale. “If you don’t scale the cost, you’re sitting on ice,” says Takyi-Appiah. “It’s going to melt under you.”

Bottom line

Security compliance is set to be a driver of scale in African mobile money.

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