2016 African FinTech Awards: Powering up payments in Africa - #afta16 #findaba16

It is estimated that 330 million adult Africans lack access to basic financial services. In the face of an outstanding opportunity, an ecosystem of FinTech startups providing payments and money transfer solutions have grown to transform a cash-heavy payments industry on the continent.

It is not surprising, then, that there were 88 entrants in the Payments & Transfers category of the 2016 African FinTech Awards at the Finance Indaba Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on 13 October 2016.

The judges - Kim Dencey (FNB International), Numan Numan (212 Limited), Agata Szydlowsja (Creditinfo), Nicholas Smalle (Apis Partners), Amee Patel (Accion Venture Lab) and Ainsley Morris (Newid Capital) - had a job on their hands whittling that number down to the final three.

Cellulant was the eventual winner of the Payments & Transfers category at #afta16

Cellulant is a leading digital payments' service provider that prompts, collects, settles and reconciles payments in real time. CEO Ken Njoroge said that the business didn't start out in payments, but they recognised that it was crucial to African progress.

Ken said:

"It is the perfect example of how technology can help the economy and the lower levels of the pyramid. Increasingly, we are looking at new customer segments and to develop products coverage in 33 countries. We also want to open up the infrastructure we've built to other partners to solve problem."

In a case study, he spoke about how Cellulant had transformed Nigeria's agricultural industry by onboarding millions of farmers on a mobile payment platform with close to 100% efficiency. Employees on the ground like Liberian coordinator Babangida Shittu went to great lengths to form relationships with partners.

Next up, CEO of Interswitch, Mitchell Elegbe, introduced the Nigerian integrated payments business, which has since 2002, created infrastructure to connect the country to the digital age and improve the social and economic environment by enabling the efficient circulation of money.

He said:

"We believe in a world where tech is seamlessly integrated in our lives, facilitating transactions in a clear convenient and intuitive manner. We hope to replicate our success in Uganda, Gambia and Kenya, but are finding that no two markets are the same and this requires a varied approach. Financial inclusion is often the way to go."

Interswitch's three major products are Quickteller, a solution built with convenient access to an array of everyday services in mind, Africa's most popular card brand, Verve and Interswitch Inclusion, a financial inclusion vehicle.

Finally Wole Ogunlade of VoguePay, another Nigerian payments startup, said that many traditional banks were not focused on innovation, the cost of integration for SMEs was high and that online payment was still a challenge in Africa.

He said:

"Our mission is to make it easy to collect exchange and move money to and from Africa. There are 20 million SMEs in Africa. Not only can't we sell to foreign markets as African because there is no trust in the payment infrastructure, but we can't even sell to ourselves because of regulations and currency differences. Small businesses are a big part of Africa, but many don't have a website. We make it easy to accept payments, even without an online presence. We facilitate online transactions, offering payment, analytics and business management tools, a secure payment platform and superior customer experience. Tens of thousands of merchants use VoguePay as a touchpoint for Africa."