Applicant name: MFS Africa
Applicant type: Private Company
Headquarter City: South Africa
Headquarter Country: South Africa
Innovation Name: MFS Africa Hub
Innovation Type: Service
Category: Top Service Provider
Status of Innovation: In-market
Innovation Active Since: 09/01/2020
Innovation Description: MFS Africa is the largest digital payment gateway in Africa. With a wealth of experience in cross-border/platform payments, MFS Africa empowers the global and African diaspora to send/receive funds to any digital store of value in Africa: mobile money wallets, pre-paid cards and bank accounts.
Fragmentation of digital payment schemes is holding back the potential of consumers, businesses and entrepreneurs in Africa. Since its inception, MFS Africa has strived to tackle this and create a solution that provides convergence and interoperability at scale in Africa. In pursuit of this goal, the company has built the payment and settlement rails that paved the way for digital, secure, and instant payments within, into, and beyond Africa. The company’s “Network of Networks” today is connecting over 400 million mobile money wallets, 200 million bank accounts and millions of pre-paid cards across 38 countries in Africa. This unparalleled reach has revolutionized the remittance landscape in Africa, unlocking access to a borderless world.
What is your competitive advantage? We operate the largest digital payments hub in Africa. Simplifying payments is at the core of MFS Africa’s DNA and through a single API integration, partners can gain access to MFS Africa’s full footprint of 800 corridors (intra-African corridors and corridors connecting Africa to Europe, the United States, China, and India)
Apart from this unparalleled reach and simplifying payments to, within and beyond Africa, what sets us apart is our African DNA and our expertise in the African payment ecosystem. Creating contextually relevant solutions requires being customer obsessed. We bring this energy and ethos to everything we do and ensure that our solutions evolve to address the most relevant pain points in the African payment ecosystem. Since 2019, we filled the gap in our service offerings through a series of investments and acquisitions (Beyonic, Baxi and GTP). This has enabled us to add payment choices like prepaid cards, extend our reach to SMEs and connect Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, to the rest of the world.
Why is your solution best in class? MFS Africa unlocks existing challenges within the remittances landscape:
- Efficiency and reliability: Enabling real-time, transparent, and secure transactions that meet the demand of our global and African partners. Supporting over 5K transactions per min with 99.9999% uptime.
- Reach: Access to the largest digital payment hub in Africa. Our diversified pool of partnerships with MTOs, MNOs, banks and enterprise provide an unmatched coverage of 800 bilateral remittance corridors to, within and beyond Africa.
- Removing frictions and complexities: For partners, we remove the operational burdens of dealing with complexities associated to operating in multiple African jurisdictions, with different currencies and numerous regulatory requirements & compliance standards.
- Reducing costs: Through simplifying integration efforts and reducing costs of establishing partnerships, MFS Africa’ solution reduces the overall operational costs. This can be passed to the end consumer and advance the global efforts on achieving UN SDG 10.c goal.
Name one advantage of your solution versus competitors. Our goal is to enable “Access” to a borderless world of transactions and possibilities. We believe that Access is the only currency that matters and making transferring money internationally should be as easy as making a phone call. We were the pioneers in Africa and were the first ones to build payments and settlement rails to and within Africa. Our key advantage is our relentless drive to remove frictions and to simplify payments across a host of essential daily use cases.
Our experience in the industry has allowed us to streamline a multitude of partnerships with payment institutions to make them available via one ecosystem for our partners’ convenience. No other organisation can offer the same level of interoperability across over 38 African countries as well as the ability to connect to multiple stores of values like MFS Africa. We exist to make borders matter less, so millions across Africa can access opportunities for prosperity through their mobile wallets, pre-paid cards or bank accounts.
Explain your market presence globally and in your strongest market. MFS Africa operates in 38 African markets. We provide an unmatched coverage of 800 bilateral remittance corridors to, within and beyond Africa (corridors: intra-Africa, Africa to Europe, the US, China, and India).
We are the leading hub in the UEMOA zone, managing key trade and remittances corridors such as Côte d’Ivoire to Benin and Togo, Togo to Benin and Burkina Faso, etc. We also cover key migration routes in East Africa such as Kenya to Uganda and Rwanda, and Uganda to Kenya & DRC. We are also the hub of choice for MTOs connecting the global diaspora (inc. Europe and US) to Cameroon, Morocco, and DRC.
Through securing additional licensing in key markets like Uganda, Ghana, and Tanzania, we have expanded our existing offerings, catering to the needs of a more diversified pool of partners.
We acquired a leading super-agent network, Baxi, in Nigeria in 2021. This has added a network of over 200K agents to our network. These agents are foundational in connecting Nigerians businesses and consumers to the digital and global economy.
What was the inspiration for this innovation? When thinking of remittances, a quote that comes to mind is “Love always finds a way”. This statement epitomizes the strong bond between a Ghanaian woman working in Burkina Faso to provide for her family back home. Remittances have been a staple for migrants to display a sense of duty and care to their families and communities, yet the obstacles for those funds to cross the border have made this labour of love, arduous. MFS Africa is the brainchild of its Founder and CEO, Dare Okoudjou. His own experience while studying and working away from his home country of Benin left him with the inspiration that just as his previous struggles to make and receive phone calls to his family members back home had been streamlined, his phone calls to family members back home had been seeing improvements, so could his ability to send remittances and make payments. To date, Dare continues to provide the overarching visions and advocates that transferring funds to and within across Africa should be as easy as making a phone call.
Who can benefit from your innovation most? Our target customer base is a mix. Our initial set of beneficiaries included migrants and diaspora leveraging the rails we built for efficient, fast and cost-effective remittances. Traders, gig workers and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) also rely on our cross-border rails. Our organisational commitment to revolutionising bulk disbursements from governmental development organizations (GDOs) is proving essential for aid beneficiaries. The secure and convenient digital rails that we have built also extend the reach of remittances to rural beneficiaries, smallholder farmers and women.
What are you most proud of about your innovation? At MFS Africa we are proud of the impact we are driving across African countries. The Pan-African ecosystem that we have built since 2009 and enriched through innovative approaches in recent years brings African consumers closer to each other and to the global digital economy. We are grateful for influential partners who help accelerate and expand our impact. As the continent continues to set the pace for digital financial services adoption, we look forward to expanding our footprint and partners to increase our reach to the most vulnerable and fragile communities. We are proud of the validation we have received from partners like IFAD, who awarded us with a multi-year grant to drive change in new remittance corridors in 2022. We are equally excited about our partnerships with other international organisations and humanitarian actors that we can work with to promote our mission of financial inclusion and low-cost digital remittances.
Why do you think you should win this category? We believe we should win this award because we have an excellent track record of driving innovation across the African remittance and payment ecosystem through listening, predicting and responding to the needs of the African consumers and business and our partners:
- Our footprint and commitment to improving remittance channels is unrivalled. On the African continent, no competitor has been able to build an interoperable solution like ours so far.
- We continuously evolve our solution offering and enrich our network with a suite of payment options such as banks, prepaid cards, MTOs, Global Enterprise, NGOs, Government Institutions and other non-bank financial institutions. This has enabled us to create a one-stop-shop of payment choices in Africa.
- We believe that Access is the only currency that matters. Accessibility can be seamless movement of funds between different institutions or on and off-ramps to cryptos in a more mature market or instant access to cash in a less mature ecosystem. We cater to all those needs.
Full Name: Nika Naghavi
Role: Group Head of Growth
Full Name: Jessica Nitiema
Role: Knowledge Manager