- You Can Now Send Money On Facebook Messenger
The International money transfer service, Transferwise Ltd. has announced an integration with Facebook Inc.’s Messenger that will allow people send money over the chat service.
London-based TransferWise launched the technology as a bot — a piece of automation software that understands natural language — baked within Messenger. The bot, which is free to use and doesn’t affect prices or rates offered, will talk users through the process of arranging an international money transfer with TransferWise.
The bot will also allow people to set alerts to notify them when a particular foreign exchange rate they are interested in hits a certain level.
The service is available for payments to and from the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K. and Europe, the company said Tuesday. It said it would later expand the offering to all 50 countries — and 600 currency exchange pairings — that TransferWise supports.
In launching a bot on Facebook, TransferWise joins a growing lists of foreign exchange and payment companies experimenting with sending money over messaging apps, which many people think will gradually replace standalone mobile applications as the primary e-commerce platform.
Azimo Ltd., a foreign exchange transfer service that is a rival to TransferWise, announced an integration with Facebook Messenger in August. PayPal Holdings Inc., Stripe Inc., Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc. and American Express Co. already have payment bots on Facebook Messenger, as does the China-based Alipay.com Co Ltd.
WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging service owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd., was a pioneer in offering chat-based payment systems. Facebook has made a major push to get payment services to integrate with Messenger in order to turn it into a commerce platform as well as a chat destination.
TransferWise, which garnered attention with its promise to give customers the official mid-market exchange rate with low fees, has increasingly sought to become the international money transfer backbone for banks. It currently powers such transfers for the challenger German bank N26 and the Estonian financial services provider LHV Pank AS.
TransferWise, which was founded in 2010, is considered one of the U.K.’s most successful financial technology startups. It is backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz, Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures and Scottish asset manager Baillie Gifford, among other investors, and was valued at more than $1.1 billion in its latest financing round in May 2016.
Lack of Basic Amenities, Unclear Growth Policy Force Twitter to Ghana, Builds Headquarters in Ghana
Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder on Monday announced Ghana has been chosen as African Headquarters over Nigeria despite the tech giant having the largest African users and revenue from Nigeria.
The announcement was made by both Dorsey and Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana.
“The choice of Ghana as HQ for Twitter’s Africa operations is excellent news. Government and Ghanaians welcome very much this announcement and the confidence reposed in our country,” said Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo.
President Akufo-Addo, who held a virtual meeting with Jack last week, said “As I indicated to Jack in our virtual meeting on 7th April 2021, this is the start of a beautiful partnership between Twitter and Ghana, which is critical for the development of Ghana’s hugely important tech sector. These are exciting times to be in and to do business in Ghana.”
It was shocking that in spite of Dorsey visiting Nigeria and invest and support several startups like Mark Zuckerberg has been doing since he first visited Africa’s largest economy, there several issues like unclear policy path, basic amenities, unnecessary bottleneck because of bribery, etc that are more imperative to Twitter future in Africa than what Nigeria is presently offering despite its potential.
While it was obvious that Nigeria remains a target given its huge potentials, Twitter preferred to operate from outside with manageable proximity unlike if it was in South Africa like Facebook.
According to Twitter, the decision was based on
According to Twitter, in a statement released on Monday, the decision was based on Ghana’s openness towards the internet and handling of AfCFTA released matters.
“As a champion for democracy, Ghana is a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet, of which Twitter is also an advocate. Furthermore, Ghana’s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area aligns with our overarching goal to establish a presence in the region that will support our efforts to improve and tailor our service across Africa,” the statement read.
As a Nigerian, this is not good given that we have a huge unemployment rate at 33.33 percent, a weak GDP growth rate at 0.11 percent, a rising inflation rate at over 17 percent, weak revenue generation and low foreign reserves. This would have been an opportunity to boost each of those metrics and also sell the nation as a true tech hub to other establishments.
In recent months, several of Nigeria’s startups have raised huge capital with the latest $10 million raised by Appzone after Paystack was acquired for over $200 million. Kuda Bank, Bankly, etc have gone on to raised mouthwatering amounts to further deepen their presence across Africa.
Telecoming and Evina Sign a Global Alliance to Enhance Security in DCB Payments
European technology companies Evina and Telecoming have signed a global alliance to work hand in hand in promoting DCB as the safest and most appropriate payment method in the new mobile economy and, in particular, for the fight against fraud.
The agreement deals a body blow to the mobile fraud that cost the African continent over USD 4 billion last year. DCB is the most suitable payment technology for millions of unbanked Africans who appreciate its unparalleled reach and convenience. The agreement between Evina and Telecoming; both with operations in 15 African, Middle Eastern and European countries; now makes mobile-based transacting even safer.
Telecoming is the leading expert in DCB since 2008 and Evina is the reference in the fight against digital fraud. With this alliance, both organizations combine their expertise to develop the industry and boost mobile payment security.
Roberto Monge, COO of Telecoming, states “Direct carrier billing has been growing in the new digital economy. It is a technology with enormous potential that benefits all players in the mobile environment. With this alliance, we want to place DCB at the forefront of the payments industry and reinforce our commitment to the development of a transparent, secure and stable mobile economy“.
David Lotfi, Evina’s CEO: “The potential of DCB is widely underestimated by mobile operators and other market players. This is mainly due to the fact that DCB is currently adversely affected by fraud. By protecting the mobile payment ecosystem, we aim to sustain DCB’s growth and help all players flourish in this ecosystem.”
The alliance aims to educate on the vast potential of direct carrier billing through the DCBMaster service that allows users to measure their exposure to fraud, as well as their market and regulations knowledge.
The alliance will also enable the launch of the first global DCB indicator. This DCB Index will measure the maturity of the DCB market in different regions, based on the analysis of four indicators: Fraud protection, Innovation, Penetration in the Digital Industry and Growth Potential.
Nigerian Fintech Appzone Raises $10M for Expansion and Proprietary Technology
Africa’s fintech space has gained proper attention over the past few years in investments but it is not news that startups still battle with offering high-quality products. However, they seem to be doing quite well compared with traditional banks that face challenges like legacy cost structures and a major lack of operational efficiency.
Appzone is a fintech software provider. It is one of the few companies that builds proprietary solutions for these financial institutions and their banking and payments services. Today, the company is announcing that it has closed $10 million in Series A investment.
Typically, African financial institutions rely on using foreign technology solutions to solve their problems. But issues around pricing, flexibility to innovate, and a lack of local tech support always come up. This is where Appzone has found its sweet spot. The company based in Lagos, Nigeria, was founded by Emeka Emetarom, Obi Emetarom, and Wale Onawunmi in 2008.
Appzone clearly plays a different game from other African fintechs. One clear differentiator is that the company functions as an enabler (at payment rails and the core infrastructure) within banking and payments.
It commenced as a services firm to provide commercial banks with custom software development services. In 2011, the company launched its first core banking product targeting microfinance institutions. The following year, Appzone launched its first product (branchless banking) for commercial banks. It went live with its mobile and internet banking service in 2016 and launched an instant card issuance product in 2017. In 2020, the company launched services catered to end-to-end automation of lending operations for banks and blockchain switching.
“We started Appzone with the intention to build out innovative local solutions for banking and payments on the continent,” CEO Obi Emetarom told TechCrunch. “The focus was to leverage our ability as an enabler to create proprietary technology for both segments.”
Appzone platforms are used by 18 commercial banks and over 450 microfinance banks in Africa. Together, they amass a yearly transaction value and yearly loan disbursement of $2 billion and $300million.
Since its inception, the Google for Startups Accelerator alumnus claims to have led Africa’s fintech sector in some global firsts from the continent. First, the company says it created the world’s first decentralised payment processing network. Second, the first core banking and omnichannel software on the cloud. Third, the first multi-bank direct debit service based on single global mandates.
Emetarom likes to describe Appzone as a fintech product ecosystem with an emphasis on proprietary technology. So far, we’ve touched on two layers of this ecosystem—the digital core banking service providing software that runs financial institutions’ entire operations and interbank processing, which integrates these institutions into a decentralized network powered by blockchain.
Coinciding with this investment is the introduction and scaling of a third layer that focuses on end-user applications. Appzone, having built both banking and fintech layers, wants to connect individuals and businesses to their services. This is where most new-age fintech startups operate, and although Appzone is coming late to the party, it has a bit of an edge, the CEO believes.
“Most of these companies operating in end-user applications have to depend on services from core banking and interbank processing to be able to get their own offerings out there. For us, I think we have an advantage in terms of costs and flexibility because we are already operating in both layers,” Emeratom said in relation to what he thinks of competition.
The company is coming out to blitz scale its products and services after working in stealth mode for more than a decade. One way it wants to carry this out will be to take its pan-African expansion sternly even though a large part of its 450 clients are based in Nigeria. Other countries with a presence include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Tanzania, and Senegal. Before now, Appzone lacked the resources to push into these markets aggressively even though they showed promise. But having closed its Series A, the plan is to drive growth in these countries and expand across more African countries.
Another means Appzone plans to achieve scale is by growing its engineering team — a department it takes pride in. These engineers make up half of Appzone’s 150 employees and there are plans to double down on this number. Like most Nigerian startups these days, Appzone is big on senior engineers. Still, while it might present a problem to other companies, Emetarom says the company has no issue training promising junior talent to grow in expertise.
“Our proprietary tech allows us to innovate at a fraction of a cost, and they are built by essentially the best local talent available. Because those systems are really complex and the level of innovation required is on another level, we literally seek out the to 1% of talent in Nigeria,” he remarked. “We know that even though the expertise isn’t there, we can accelerate acquiring that expertise when we train the very best talents. The more we train our engineers, the faster they grow in terms of expertise, and they will be able to deliver at the same level of world-class quality we expect.“
Back to the round, a noteworthy event is that most investors who took part are based in Nigeria despite its size. CardinalStone Capital Advisers, a Lagos-based investment firm, led the Series A investment. Other investors based in the country include V8 Capital, Constant Capital, and Itanna Capital Ventures. New York-based but Africa-focused firm Lateral Investment Partners also participated.
Before now, Appzone closed a $2 million from South African Business Connexion (BCX) in 2014. Four years later, it raised $2.5 million in convertible debt and bought back shares from BCX in the process. But overall, the company says it has raised $15 million in equity funding.
Speaking on the investment, Yomi Jemibewon, the co-founder and managing director of Cardinal Stone Capital Advisers, said the firm’s investment in Appzone is further proof of Africa’s potential as the future hub of world-class technology.
“Appzone is building a disruptive fintech ecosystem that will be the backbone of Africa’s finance industry with products across payments, infrastructure and software as a service. The impact of Appzone’s work is multifold — the company’s products deepen financial inclusion across the continent whilst providing best-fit and low-cost solutions to financial institutions. Its emphasis on premium talent also helps stem brain drain, rewarding Africa’s best brains with best in class employment opportunities,” he added.
Appzone’s funding continues the fast-paced investment activities witnessed by Africa’s fintech space after a slow January. In the last two months, more than eight fintech startups have secured million-dollar rounds. This includes very large rounds by South African digital bank TymeBank ($109 million) in February and African payments company, Flutterwave ($170 million) in March.
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