Archives for posts with tag: Emerging Markets

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African SMEs and Entrepreneurs – the time is now!

Africa is quickly emerging as a top contender for business expansion in large company ventures. In many ways, Africa has been referred to as the “next Asia” with strong investment growth. After all, the continent is home to 7 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. The future has been looking much brighter for Africa, especially in the last decade where we have seen Africa’s GDP more than double.

According to EY’s recent attractiveness survey for 2014, Sub-Sahara Africa places in second place.  Three years ago in 2011 SSA was listed 3rd from last on the same list. This year, North America is the only region that ranks ahead of Africa in terms of investment attractiveness.

Growth within these nations not only provides incentive for foreign direct investment (FDI) from all over the world, but also more importantly provides immense opportunities for African entrepreneurs across the continent. EY also cites Intra-African investment and development as a major source of growth for the continent.

Inherently Africa has a high level of risk associated with business investment with many nations battle political instability, corruption, and problems associated with the lack of proper infrastructure. All of these factors contribute to the risk in conducting business in Africa which is eminently complex. In the past, such issues have resulted in the hesitation by global companies from exploring expansion into African nations. However in present day, it appears investors have been able to see beyond negative headlines of nations such as Nigeria, Kenya, and Sudan due to the market potential outweighing many of the risks.

Africa micro business While many large size multinational enterprises (MNEs) such as Nissan, H&M, and Burger King are making headlines for their decisions to expand into Africa for business ventures, the success behind these rapidly growing countries is largely due to SMEs, small and medium sized enterprises. Several MNEs have recently been attracted to the region due to significant improvements in regulatory, legal, and business systems. However, according to IFC and World Bank reports, over 90% of all businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa are SMEs. Aside from this, there is also the informal market of micro businesses that are largely unaccounted for.

With the exciting growth of the mobile phone industry, it presents a major opportunity for Sub Saharan companies to prosper. MMIT, Mobile Media Info Tech, a Nigerian software provider of mobile payments is an example of how Nigerian entrepreneurs and SMEs can benefit from the recent growth trends. With the significant increase in cell phone users, mobile opportunities are abundant. MMIT quickly entered the market by creating M-Wallet and M-Diaspora products.  These products allowed Nigerians to use their mobile phones to pay for products, acting as a mobile wallet, and our M-Diaspora product which allowed ex-pat Nigerians in the United States and United Kingdom to send money to friends and relatives in Nigeria. MMIT saw the opportunity and benefit of mobile payments, a technology that has revolutionized the African consumers’ lack of banking access and dependency on carrying cash.

With the overwhelming majority of the business landscape being SMEs, they are instrumental to the growth of the economy within the Sub-Saharan region. African SMEs growth and development helps create the desperately needed jobs within the formal economy which can ultimately boost economic growth and stability. Although things are looking up, reports of high unemployment rates in SSA, particularly among the youth, continues to plague the continent. The need for the creation of jobs and infrastructure is still in dire need to foster the current economic growth and to sustain it.  Therefore, it is imperative that they do not ignore these rising opportunities created by the economic growth of the past years.

Business in Africa is challenging and varies significantly from country to country which further adds to the degree of difficulty for foreign entrants. African companies have many advantages that they can capitalize especially in terms of market knowledge, understanding of consumer behavior, and realizing what innovations can revolutionize the African way of life. African companies partnering with foreign companies is another smart option for both sides of the spectrum as local African business are able to fill many of the gaps that large MNEs cannot always fill. With new economic developments and increasing incomes, consumers are demanding access to more goods more than ever before. African entrepreneurs and SMEs should seize the opportunities before the MNE’s flood gates open.

To follow MMIT please visit www.mmitonline.com and to subscribe to our monthly newsletter please contact us at newsletter@mmitonline.com


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AB: Today I am speaking with Jide Akindele, CEO and founder of MMIT, Mobile Info Tech Limited.  MMIT is a software development company based in Lagos, Nigeria and Boston, MA.   MMIT’s primary focus is the mobile banking industry and MMIT is currently creating a proprietary mobile platform that allows customers to use their mobile phones for personal use such as gaming and social networking, financial use specifically for money transfers and banking, and the purchasing of products and items via the scratch card concept.   Before we get into the meat of the interview I thought I would ask Jide why he chose the mobile banking industry, and why more specifically West Africa and Nigeria?

Jide: My moment of clarity took place on a trip back from Nigeria to the US.  I tried to make a payment for a product in the United States with my Visa Card from Africa and I noticed that it rejected my payment. I thought about individuals in Africa who wouldn’t be able to obtain a credit or debit card to make payments online, so I decided something needed to be done to simplify the payment process for the African market, but that also worked within the existing local payment infrastructure. I then decided to partner up with different content owners in the United States, Europe, and Asia to target Africans for E-Commerce and M-Commerce payment via our proprietary payment gateway.

AB: Could you tell us a little bit about your company and your product and services?

Jide: We have three proprietary products called M-Content, M-Diaspora, and M-Merchant. Each product caters to specifically to African individuals either in Africa or abroad.  Our M-Content focuses solely on Social networking, gaming and interactive sites. This platform will allow a consumer to be able to top up their Skype account, pay for games on Facebook (we call it Facebook Wallet), pay for content at the Apple Store, Android Store, Blackberry App world store, pay for access to EA Sports online console gaming, etc.  Our M-Diaspora software is MMIT’s international mobile money transfer platform, through which money is sent and received globally on transaction requests from any MMIT M-Wallet user world-wide. This is similar to any other cross-border transfer but the our platform allows you to instruct payment from one country to another country from the comfort of your mobile phone or computer-regardless of where you are located and it will get delivered to the recipient through an improved systematized delivery arrangement that epitomizes security, comfort and minimal transaction charges.  Our M-Merchant is a software platform that allows consumers to purchase items online via the scratch card concept. In the African market consumers are known for not having the capability to go online to order goods or pay for services based on the fact that they don’t qualify for a credit card and their computers do not receive recognition from the IP address that the consumer is browsing. MMIT will tie in with merchants such as Gap, Banana Republic, Target, and Wal-Mart to use our M-Merchant platform so consumers in Nigeria can now pay for goods abroad and have it shipped to them in Nigeria. Since this will be a pre-paid business we will create a pool account that allows the merchants access to the payments made by consumers in Nigeria. This will allow the low-end consumer who doesn’t have a credit card to shop online via the scratch card concept.

AB: Could you describe some of the difficulties you face working in an emerging market that you don’t face working in a mature market such as the US or Europe?

Jide: The difficulties I have faced in working in an emerging market are the timeliness factor of projects and the usual change of management when dealing with clients. Unlike the US and Europe it is never a smooth process when it comes to keeping to timelines and there is a constant change in the management of your emerging World clients.

AB: What in your opinion are opportunities that exist in the emerging world that are not available in more traditional market settings?

Jide: Opportunities in the emerging market are huge.  Unlike the traditional market setting the small guys are competing against the giants of the game and you need something with a lot of fire power to really make a mark. What I have seen is the simplicity of a product really makes a difference in the emerging market and to the emerging market consumer. What we have done here at MMIT is take the traditional way of providing payment and simplified it to suit the emerging market’s needs. Simplicity is what works in the emerging World and that’s what I feel really doesn’t exist in the traditional market.

AB: What are the current trends and where do you see the mobile market, but also your company MMIT, being in the next 5 years?

Jide: Well the current trends in the market are content creation, what content can you provide that will draw the consumer to your product.  That is a major trend and it will become a huge thing in the future.  As far as MMIT, I see us being a major player in bringing international content to the emerging market based around our various products.  In the next 5 years we see ourselves being a major payment processor in the African and emerging market scene.

Thank you to Jide for taking time from his busy schedule to meet with me and I hope you enjoyed the insight Mr. Akindele has provided.  You can learn more about MMIT and its products at http://www.mmitonline.com and also check out the link for a recent article on their partnership with Bango, http://www.punchng.com/business/technology/mmit-bango-introduce-virtual-wallet-for-online-transactions/.  Jide can also be reached at jide.a@mmitonline.com.