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African telcos highly influential to small business

African telcos highly influential to small business

With innovation considered an effective means to address Africa's growing unemployment challenge, the progress of telcos on the continent is a catalyst for other companies to expand their service portfolios.

This is according to Kees van Lede, CEO of CarePay Limited, the company behind M-Tiba, a 'health wallet' service available via the mobile phone and tightly integrated with Safaricom.

"I don't think a lot of the telecom companies realise their importance in building other companies," said van Lede.

He said traditionally, it cannot be taken for granted that larger companies will readily work with their smaller counterparts, given the difference in working cultures and internal processes. But this should not stifle cooperation.

"The benefit is so big working with a trusted brand that has many customers. It outweighs the downside in relying on a partner," van Lede continued.

He added that there are many ways companies can take advantage of what larger telcos offer. "There is so much more to telecom companies than sending SMS'."

Van Lede believes the mistake for small companies is taking on a partner at a late stage in their growth because integration becomes painful.

Companies looking to leverage a telco's infrastructure need to investigate and contact the prospective partner before fully building their products to have a clear roadmap for collaboration.

According to the latest GSMA Sub-Saharan Mobility report 2017, the telecommunication sector has spurred the rise of many businesses and small companies, employing thousands.

"Tech start-ups can leverage the scale, resources and other assets, such as APIs and distribution networks, that mobile operators have to enhance the functionality and reach of their solution. This could help mitigate the route-to-market challenges for start-ups by providing the platform, customer relationship and resources to drive their mobile innovation to scale," the report said.

M-Tiba's partnership with Safaricom has seen over 950,000 users sign up for their services and clocking Kshs 150 million (U$1.5 million) in medical payouts since its inception in December 2016.

Medical payouts are authorised by M-Tiba and paid to the participating clinics via mobile money.

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