Learning Mobile Money Payments

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Software Engineer, Twilio
May 10, 2022
Today, I've been learning about #fintech and mobile money payments/transfers/remittances in Africa. And I'm really confused.

It seems there is a lot of money being invested for everyone to essentially do the same thing, over and over again.

Is this all a function of "whoever gets there first wins"?

Here's my thought process here, and I'm still early in my learnings so I'll preface with I'm extremely ignorant and oversimplifying.

Why does anyone think they stand a chance against the likes of Paystack/Stripe and Flutterwave/Paypal? That's not even accounting for other mostly fine solutions like Sendwave and WorldRemit?

I guess I'm mostly curious what the big bet is when investors pour more money to different competitors on the continent. Is the bet that we think we can execute better than the competitors? I would believe it if some companies wanted to make that claim since there's enough signal that the way to win is vision + strategy + execution + a little bit of luck.

It sounds like everyone has mostly the same vision. Most of the high flyers have basically the same strategy (read: Nigeria -> South Africa -> Kenya/Egypt -> ???). And as far as luck, it seems the formula is to make your own luck (i.e. partner with Stripe,  partner with Paypal). Progress has been less than great (the ecosystem is objectively hard to work with) so execution is key. So now the differentiator is execution.

These are bold claims from a fairly inexperienced person on the internet, Twitter fingers and all that. I just found it kinda odd to read the same stories with different names attached to them. I think on the whole more competition seems right. I just wish it were more clear what's new and fresh with each competitor.

For instance, one company I'm watching closely is NALA out of Tanzania (disclaimer: I'm Tanzanian.) One of the coolest marketing ideas that NALA was putting forward when they first burst onto the scene was offline money transfers with an incredible user interface (as opposed to USSD). Haven't heard that being put front and center since 2019. I assume it coincides with their pivot to international money transfer. I think it's a regression to the (lucrative) mean, but we have to keep the lights on in this line of business. Interesting! Writing this statement and linking that article forced me to look into their CTO and apparently that same year, the CTO and NALA parted ways - wonder if there's any correlation with the move away from marketing the product using this offline angle. 

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