Dare Okoudjou, the founder and CEO of MFS Africa speaks to African Finance and Tech on how MFS Africa solves the issue interoperability, deliver scalable financial solutions and their MFS Hub.
In the past few years, we have seen a huge number of mobile money providers rise across Africa. Although this has reduced the number of people that are financially excluded, we have seen new issues rise. For example, services are mostly confined to a domestic market with almost no interoperability between networks. How do you break up this barrier and encourage open networks?
This is the first problem that the MFS Hub was created to solve. We connect these local schemes to each other to increase the utility for each participant through the ‘network effect’. We currently connect over 50 different schemes and are continuously adding new ones to our network of networks. What we want to build is the equivalent of the ACH, but at continent scale, which will in turn unlock so many other opportunities across the continent. Many of which we can’t envision today.
In doing so, what challenges did you come across and how did you solve it?
There are the traditional challenges of starting and scaling a venture; from the ability to recruit and retain the right talents, building the right culture to securing funding along the way; but those are generally expected. The hardest ones are the ones most difficult to plan for; in our case, it has been the regulatory battles in key markets from Kenya to Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. We have come to understand that we need to continuously engage with regulators, explain our vision and show how our success will be first and foremost theirs and hugely beneficial to the people of Africa. We have learned to speak their language and see the risks they see so we can best address it together. The challenge is far from over, but I am confident we are on the right track. Many regulators across the continent are recognising the power of mobile and willing to get behind it. That in itself is rewarding.
How are you able to deliver scalable mobile financial solutions? Especially to underserved markets?
One of the value propositions of the MFS Hub connecting African consumers to the digital global economy, and conversely connect international merchants, organisations, and services to African mobile wallet users – whether for payment collection, disbursement, or other services.
The MFS Hub also connects banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions who can take advantage of the scale we provide and the possibilities of the mobile channel to create innovative products for underserved markets. Some pan-African banks are already taking advantage of this.
What do you think could be implemented for Africa to catch up with the developed world?
We think Africa is ahead of the developed world when it comes to fully leveraging the possibilities of mobile to uplift and empower people. While we’re not chasing the developed world, we are focusing on continuously understanding the pain points that our various stakeholders are facing from mobile money operators to regulators, banks, merchants and the users themselves to expand the capabilities of our API and offer relevant use cases.
MFS Africa helps mobile money schemes to connect with each other and to global payment networks. In doing so, they enable mobile money users to send money to each other regardless of their country or network. Additionally, they make or receive payments to and from virtually to anyone in the world. MFS Africa enable financial institutions to create innovate financial services at scale to hundreds of millions of unbanked and under-banked people in Africa. MFS Africa’s partners connect to MFS Hub via a single, compliant and secure API which facilitates transactions across networks, borders and currencies. As they have the largest network with over 120 million users connected in Africa across 30 Sub Saharan countries. They also connect users in Europe and the US for inbound money transfer into Africa. Our partners include mobile operators such as Airtel, Econet, MTN, Orange, Tigo, Vodafone, Lebara and Hello Group.