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Fintech firm Zoona plans aggressive Africa expansion

Fintech firm Zoona plans aggressive Africa expansion.

African FinTech company Zoona, with operations in Zambia and Malawi, plans to leverage the current momentum around financial technology solution adoption to 'sell' its peer-to-peer based offering and secure presence in ten markets in Africa by 2020.

The company recently attended the World Economic Forum hosted recently in Kigali and noted the high level of discussion around the role of fintech in facilitating financial inclusion on the continent and its value proposition as an alternative to traditional banking.

"When one considers that 80% of Adults in Africa have no access to financial services - it becomes clear that the market is huge and there is lots of space for various players and methodologies. A recent study has shown that African fintech companies have raised over $60 million in investment in 2015 alone," the company asserts.

Zoona is relying on its 'over-the-counter' vs mobile-wallet approach for local remittance and its network agnostic system to differentiate it within an ever-competitive space. The belief among decision makers at the company is that most fintech operators are not focused on the peer-to-peer component, which gives it a competitive advantage.

"Our key offering centres on Peer to Peer transfers / remittances, as opposed to the payments functionality which is the focus of many of the other players in the fintech space," the company explains.

This move against the industry grain is something unique to markets like Malawi, Zambia and next in line, Mozambique, DRC and Ghana.

The company entered the Malawi market in 2009 and claims that to date it has approximately 350,000 90-day clients (who use the service on 90-day intervals) in the Southern African country.

In Zambia, Zoona took four years to secure its client base, a significant portion of which is also within the 90-day user category and currently stands at 1,350,000, according to the company.

New executives

In order to prepare for the next stage of its expansion and scaling, the company has made a number of high profile appointments to its executive team.

Andrew Milne, co-founder and former CEO of medical startup Hello Doctor , joins Zoona's executive team as its new Chief Operating Officer.

Zoona has also appointed Lelemba Phiri, formerly its Managing Director in Zambia and Malawi, as its new Chief Communications Officer.

According to Zoona, in his capacity as CEO of Hello Doctor Milne oversaw the expansion of the service into five new markets across Africa and Asia.

"Prior to co-founding Hello Doctor, Andy was a part of the Virgin Group of Companies – where he spearheaded the launch of Virgin Pulse (then known as Virgin Healthmiles) in the US Market. This experience will serve him in good stead as Zoona takes aim at a number of new markets in the coming months and years, including Mozambique, DRC, Ghana and others," the company explains.

Milne says, "Technology has incredible potential to bring financial inclusion in Africa. Zoona's model of investing in and working with emerging entrepreneurs has proven results and impact in Zambia and Malawi – and is now ready to be tested in other places in the continent."

It was under Phiri's watch as MD when Zoona Zambia achieved 80% year-on-year growth and reach 1,500 locations in Zambia and Malawi, and an active consumer base of 1.5 million people.

"I have seen first-hand the impact that Zoona has brought, particularly in terms of growing female entrepreneurship and in powering the Girl Effect in Zambia and Malawi. We are looking forward to growing this impact in more countries over the next few years and partnering with key government and other institutions to make this happen."

She added that the continued support of investors Omidyar Network and Accion, as well as frequent partners CGAP, Unreasonable Group and IFC would be key in the coming cycle.

Zoona CEO Mike Quinn said that: "Zoona's model of investing in and growing young women and men as franchise agents has been proven to help communities thrive."

In the execution of its strategy, Zoona will continue to focus on its agent network and has committed to covering initial operating expenses and setup costs, as well as provide training.

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