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WeChat Expands in Europe to Attract Advertisers, Payments

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  • WeChat Expands in Europe to Attract Advertisers, Payments

WeChat, China’s most popular social media and messaging service, has launched a new bid in Europe and the U.S. to develop its payments offering and win new advertisers.

Owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd., WeChat is looking to launch an office in the U.K. and another European country, alongside its existing presence in Italy. Tencent, which has an established office in San Francisco, is also looking to grow its WeChat team in the U.S., targeting advertisers and payments providers.

“We needed to make a step closer in serving European brands,” said Tencent Europe director Andrea Ghizzoni, in an interview with Bloomberg.

WeChat, which also hosts payments and brand pages, has more than 889 million users in its home country, yet remains largely unused outside of its home country.

It is not the first time WeChat has attempted to win over Western users. In 2013 the app hired soccer star Lionel Messi in a high profile campaign outside of China. “There were lots of downloads” of the app, said Ghizzoni. “However stickiness was slow.”

WeChat is now focusing more on business-to-business, encouraging Western brands to sell products on the WeChat platform. The service is courting “high-value” brands in countries like the U.K. and Italy, Ghizzoni said in a Bloomberg Television interview. Burberry and Chanel are already high-profile clients on WeChat’s platform.

In Europe, the focus is first on fashion and luxury goods, and will in time expand to travel and broader retail services. WeChat is hoping its expansion in Europe will convince more high-profile brands onto the platform, not only to reach consumers in China, but also Chinese tourists visiting Europe.

Goldman Sachs estimates that 220 million Chinese tourists will travel overseas by 2025, up from 120 million in 2015.

“Tencent could be following Chinese travelers to Europe and the U.S., as many of these consumers are going overseas for shopping,” said Marie Sun, a Shenzhen-based analyst at Morningstar Investment Service. “It would make sense for brands to advertise on WeChat which is a large and effective platform.

Payments Push

Tencent’s payment business is booming, as its average daily transactions topped 600 million a day in December. Chinese consumers are using the service to pay for everything from ride-hailing to food takeout.

But while WeChat has been one of the leading providers in offering chat-based payment systems, its global competitors have been ramping up the competition.

Facebook Inc., which owns WhatsApp, has been expanding its payments offering within its messaging apps, while Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s finance affiliate has been busy pushing Alipay in Europe. In August, Ant Financial, Alipay’s parent, announced a partnership with Ingenico Group SA, a French payments group, to allow Chinese tourists to pay for goods in Europe via the group’s e-wallet platform.

“We are talking to different payments institutions in Europe,” said Ghizzoni, “in order to integrate them into WeChat.”

Ghizzoni flagged the U.K.’s high-profile payments industry as a major reason for setting up in the country. WeChat is working with media agency Digital Retex in the U.K., who are helping set up an initial office in Mayfair. The messaging app will add more staff, from IT to operations, over the next year.

“Tencent could be trying to do what Alipay is doing,” said Sun, “but there’s much more uncertainty in terms of when the business could take off, as it would need to overcome many regulatory hurdles.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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E-commerce

Jumia Nigeria Appoints Sunil Natraj as CEO, Outlines Ambitious Expansion Plans

Former Jumia Ghana CEO to Lead E-Commerce Giant as Massimiliano Spalazzi Steps Down

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Jumia Nigeria, a prominent player in the e-commerce sector, has announced the appointment of Sunil Natraj as its new CEO.

Natraj, the former CEO of Jumia Ghana, will take the helm of the e-commerce business in January 2024, succeeding Massimiliano Spalazzi, who has been with Jumia Group for 11 years and will be stepping down in December 2023.

The announcement came during a media parley held in Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria, with Francis Dufay, the CEO of Jumia Group, unveiling Natraj as the new leader.

Natraj expressed Jumia’s commitment to becoming a truly Nigerian company and continuing the initiatives started by Spalazzi.

“We want to continue what Spalazzi started,” Natraj stated, emphasizing Jumia’s vision to expand its presence beyond Lagos.

He disclosed plans to extend operations to additional Nigerian cities, with Akure and Ilorin on the radar and a focus on cities en route to Ibadan, Warri, and Benin in the first quarter of 2024.

The overarching strategy is to create a comprehensive network covering the entire country.

Dufay outlined the ambitious goal of targeting cities with populations exceeding 20,000 people, citing successful precedents in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Senegal.

He acknowledged the challenges faced by Jumia, including a workforce reduction in Q4 2022 and a 73% cut in advertising budgets in Q3 2023.

Despite the hurdles, Dufay highlighted Nigeria as Jumia’s largest market and affirmed the company’s determination to navigate and thrive in the ever-evolving e-commerce landscape.

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Technology

Google DeepMind Unveils Gemini AI Chatbots to Rival OpenAI’s GPT Series

Gemini Ultra Outperforms GPT-4 in Text, Image, Coding, and Reasoning Tasks

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Google DeepMind has officially introduced its highly anticipated family of AI chatbots named Gemini, poised to compete with OpenAI’s renowned GPT series.

Among the key highlights is Gemini Ultra, the largest and most advanced model, which Google claims surpasses OpenAI’s GPT-4 in various domains, including text-based, image-based, coding, and reasoning tasks.

The announcement also shed light on the meticulous development process, emphasizing that Gemini Ultra is undergoing rigorous “trust and safety checks, including red-teaming by trusted external parties.”

This stringent evaluation process aligns with Google’s commitment to ensuring the reliability and security of its AI technologies.

Accompanying Gemini Ultra are two additional models, Gemini Pro and Gemini Nano. Gemini Pro is now accessible to the public through Google’s Bard chat interface, while the smaller Gemini Nano is designed to run on Google’s Pixel 8 Pro smartphone.

All three models exhibit the capability to process text, images, audio, and video, providing comprehensive outputs in both text and image formats.

Google envisions the integration of Gemini models into various products and services, including internet search and advertisements.

Developers will gain access to Gemini Pro through an API starting December 13, with Android developers empowered to build with Gemini Nano.

The Gemini suite is set to face competition from industry rivals, including OpenAI, Anthropic, Inflection, Meta, and Elon Musk’s xAI.

Google DeepMind’s ambitious move reflects its dedication to advancing AI capabilities and establishing a strong presence in the burgeoning field of AI chatbots.

This unveiling marks a significant milestone for Google DeepMind, a company born out of the fusion of DeepMind and Google Brain in April 2023.

The incorporation of Gemini into Google’s AI portfolio signifies the tech giant’s determination to close the gap with competitors and assert itself as a leader in AI innovation.

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Fintech

Flutterwave Expands Financial Frontier: Acquires Money Transfer Licenses for 13 U.S. States

Africa’s Leading Payments Tech Firm Facilitates Faster, Affordable, and Secure Transfers between the U.S. and Africa

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In a significant move towards advancing financial connectivity between Africa and the United States, Flutterwave, Africa’s premier payments technology company, has proudly announced its acquisition of money transfer licenses for 13 key U.S. states.

This strategic expansion aims to expedite, streamline, and secure the transfer of money from the U.S. to Africa and back.

The states covered by the newly acquired licenses include Arizona, Arkansas, Maryland, Michigan, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

These additions, combined with Flutterwave’s existing partnerships and licenses, now empower the company to serve customers seamlessly across 29 states in the U.S.

Money transfer licenses, issued by state regulators, play a pivotal role in enabling financial technology companies like Flutterwave to engage in the transmission of money.

The acquisition of these licenses fortifies Flutterwave’s commitment to regulatory compliance, safety, and the soundness of its services.

Stephen Cheng, Executive Vice President, Global Expansion and Partnerships at Flutterwave, emphasized the significance of this milestone.

“Getting these licenses expands our regulatory footprint, demonstrates our ability to deliver services with safety and soundness, and fosters trust among regulators, partners, and customers,” stated Cheng.

“We’re growing and are committed to servicing customer needs in as many geographies as possible, particularly with a significant African diaspora.”

Flutterwave’s popular solutions, such as the Send App, are set to benefit greatly from this expansion.

The Send App facilitates easy and secure money transfers between the U.S. and Africa, catering to both individual users and enterprises that rely on Flutterwave for global last-mile payouts.

“Sending money between the U.S. and Africa has been challenging for the African diaspora. These licenses pave the way for Flutterwave to make the Send App available to the African diaspora in the U.S., offering a super user-friendly money remittance experience,” explained Olugbenga Agboola, Founder and CEO at Flutterwave.

“Our mission is to connect Africa to the world and the world to Africa by simplifying payments for endless possibilities. These licenses move us one step closer to our vision, and we will continue to expand this feat to ensure coverage for all states in the U.S. and beyond.”

Flutterwave remains steadfast in its commitment to providing accessible remittance services across the U.S. and has outlined plans for further expansion of licensing coverage in the near future.

This ambitious endeavor reflects the company’s dedication to fostering financial inclusion and creating a seamless financial bridge between continents.

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