Ziad Tlemçani’s Bitaka to offer electronic payment systems in Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire.
The 49-year-old Tunisian forward, who played club football in Japan and Portugal during the 1990s, became director of sport at Espérance but then quickly turned to business.
Founded in Tunisia in 2002, his company, Bitaka, is now expanding into West Africa.
Bitaka started by selling airtime scratch cards but switched to an electronic solution for mobile companies.
“In 2007, Tunisiana was the first to have confidence in us, launching a pilot with 50 point-of-sale machines over six months.
“Today, we deal with 30 percent of their recharges and also 20 percent of Tunisie Télécom‘s. Since 2011, we are also working with Orange,” says Tlemçani.
Since 2008, Bitaka has reported annual growth of between 50 percent and 100 percent, and had turnover of around D350m ($226m) in 2012.
In the next few months, it is due to start operations in Nigeria under the name Bitaka Synergy Nigeria with local partner Hamed Alade,marketing products such as electronic recharge machines, mobile payments and handheld point-of-sale machines.
It is close to finalising its first partnership deal with mobile operator Globacom.
Tlemçani is aware of the differences between the North African and Nigerian telecoms markets.
“In some aspects they are in advance, in some others, we are in advance,” he says.
However, he says the Nigerian business will follow the same model as that in Tunisia and Morocco, where Bitaka bought the distribution company First Telecom in 2010.
Operations have also begun in Côte d’Ivoire, where Bitaka has sold some of its products to Atlantique Telecom.
Bitaka will soon be listed on the Tunis bourse with a public float of 33 percent, which Tlemçani hopes will raise $11m.
It will be an opportunity for Spanish private equity fund Mediterrània Capital to reduce its 47 percent shareholding to 25 percent●