Fundamo founder, Hannes Van Rensburg, generally considered the father of mobile payments, has joined the advisory board of Nomanini, a South African-based, enterprise technology transactions platform provider, saying the company is well placed to be a market leader within a niche space. The company’s platform facilitates cash transactions in informal markets, allowing enterprises to bolster their mobile airtime and electricity distribution channels and monitor micropayments in frontier markets across Africa and beyond.
With Fundamo, Van Rensburg built one of the world’s most advanced and sophisticated mobile financial service platforms, deployed in more than 34 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Having sold the company to Visa in 2011 for US$110 million, he will now be lending his expertise to Nomanini as an advisor to the board of directors. Van Rensburg said the quality of Nomanini’s management team and the company’s execution of its targeted strategy puts it in a strong position to be a market leader within the growing mobile transactions space.
"As online financial transacting is picking up, and more and more people are using mobile to transact, there is a clear niche of participants in this payment ecosystem serving the mid-sized retailer,” he said. “In emerging markets a big percentage of the economy is going through these shops and to expect them to only use mobile phones to transact is unrealistic. We need a different device or mechanism, one that is affordable, reliable, easy to use and efficient. In that space, I have not seen anyone design and deliver it better than Nomanini.”
Van Rensburg said his involvement would be “humble”, as Nomanini was already a well capitalised company with a strong team and good product. He said he would offer his experience as the company looked to establish a strong position for itself within the mobile payments space.
A market leader within a niche space
South Africa alone has more than 100,000 ‘spaza’ shops - informal convenience stores - turning over an estimated US$600 million per year, while half the world’s population makes purchases from small shops and street hawkers.
“Mobile transacting is an immoveable force, but is not the de facto transaction mechanism yet. Every participant in the ecosystem benefits - governments, consumers, retailers, regulators. Nobody sees it as a threat. It will just happen, and become the standard in terms of how we transact, in emerging markets and all over the world,” he said.
“Nomanini’s technology and expertise means it has the capability to play a very important role. There is a very clear focus in terms of where the product will have an impact, which is important. Too many players try to be everything to everybody, and end up failing on all counts. Nomanini has a very clear vision.”
Nomanini, which has in total raised capital of over US$2.3 million, has scaled enterprise partnerships in Ghana and Mozambique, including signed partnerships in four other countries across Africa with active terminals processing over ten million transactions to date in those regions, including South Africa.
CEO of Nomanini, Vahid Monadjem, said van Rensburg’s experience of growing Fundamo would be helpful to Nomanini as it looked to replicate Fundamo’s success.
“Nomanini, being in the payments in emerging markets space, is in markets tangential to Fundamo's. Hannes has experience in scaling an innovative organisation and expanding its client base across dozens of countries. He is wonderfully candid about what worked and also what didn't. His experience and forthrightness, combined with shared values to serve underserved markets, makes him a great addition to our team,” he said.
Exciting times for the African mobile payments ecosystem
Monadjem said the combination of a growing multitude of forms of electronic money, the lowering cost of smartphones and data, and increasing mobile coverage was creating an enormous second wave of opportunity in electronic payments, though the sector is still in its early days. He believes the sector will see its fair share of investment as investors see the opportunities available in financial technology solutions for Africa.
“For Nomanini, it's particularly exciting seeing the multiple approaches to solving this essential problem, specifically in approaches to retail payments, which is multiples larger than person to person payments. Our approach to focus on small general retailers, rather than networks of directly employed agents, is pretty unique as is our model of empowering the existing mobile airtime distribution channel,” he said.
“Nomanini is capitalised, can execute and deliver to its clients. It has proven scalability of its product, and is processing millions of transactions. There is still huge scope for growth, but it has already proven itself,” van Rensburg said.