The South African informal sector is vibrant, pulsating with entrepreneurial energy. Valued at almost $10 billion and representing 17% of the country’s total jobs, the informal economy is an indispensable cog in the economic machine. And yet, it remains largely disconnected from formal financial systems and services.
Mukuru is a leading next-generation financial services platform in Southern Africa that offers affordable and reliable financial services to a customer base of over 13 million people across Africa, Asia and Europe. It is leading the charge in building a bridge to include the underserved population in the mainstream economy and connect them to services they would otherwise miss out on. Importantly, Mukuru simultaneously provides access to this growing, dynamic customer base to its partners who previously had no platform to interact with the underserved communities.
“With the informal sector constituting such a significant percentage of the country’s economy, its exclusion from the formal financial ecosystem is detrimental on a number of levels. For one, by depriving more than 50% of South Africa’s urban population who live in townships and informal communities from financial access, the economy is losing the potential to harness the power of the sector to drive growth and financial stability,” says Mukuru CEO, Andy Jury.
Addressing the gap
Innovative fintech players have an unprecedented opportunity to address this gap. By leveraging digital technologies, Mukuru is designing financial services that cater to the unique needs and contexts of the informal sector.
“With more than 100 million transactions to date, we’ve developed a set of services to address the broader financial needs of our customers,” explains Jury, adding that Mukuru’s core was built on providing international transfers and has evolved into a platform that provides financial services that its customers want.
“We put the customer front and centre of everything we do. As such, we serve clients across physical and digital channels, and by various payment methods including cash, card and wallet, as well as a range of engagement platforms including WhatsApp, USSD, contact centre, app, website, agents and a branch and booth network. We ensure that we meet customers where they want to transact and then work to build trust on their financial journeys.”
Trust is the lifeblood of any financial relationship, says Jury, and even more so in the informal sector. Relationships hinge on in-person engagements and handshakes. This makes establishing trust through digital platforms a difficult undertaking. It requires savvy fintechs to focus on elements such as convenience, transparency, reliability, and safety. It also relies heavily on social influencers who already have trust within communities.
Adding to the value chain
Jury says that hidden fees and costs erode trust and discourage engagement with formal financial services. Digital platforms that make all costs visible and easily understandable foster trust by ensuring customers know exactly what they are paying for.
The ability to deliver on promises consistently is pivotal in establishing confidence. Whether it is order delivery, cash collection or digital distribution, the assurance that services will function as promised and when needed is crucial in maintaining trust.
“Mukuru spends a great deal of time analysing where we are over delivering and under-delivering and then make sure steps are taken immediately to live up to our trust-based proposition,” he says.
Listening to the customer
“Engaging in a consistent feedback loop with customers is also crucial to maintaining trust. By actively seeking customer feedback and incorporating it into service design and delivery, digital financial services show that they value and respect their customers. This feedback loop, combined with dedicated customer service, fosters trust by showing customers that their voices are heard, and their concerns addressed,” he says.
Integrating user-friendly digital payment systems that are widely accepted throughout informal communities while providing accessible cash withdrawal points are essential. Ultimately, according to Mukuru, establishing an environment of trust is the key to creating a pan-African digital financial system that is inclusive, resilient, and robust.
“It is incredibly rewarding to walk the journey with a customer from his or her first experience with a digital store of value, all through a card to accept salaries and make online purchases, as well as stepping up into broader financial services,” says Jury.
Mukuru is a leading next generation financial services platform in Southern Africa. With over 100 million transactions to date, our core was built providing international money transfers and from this base, we’ve developed a set of services to address the broader financial needs of our customers. We now operate in over 50 countries and across over 300 remittance corridors.
Mukuru has, for the fourth consecutive year, been listed as one of the top 100 Cross Border Payments businesses in the world in the 2023 FXC Intelligence Top 100 Cross-Border Payment Companies, one of only six African companies to receive this accolade.
In April 2023, Mukuru officially ranked sixth on the 2023 LinkedIn Top Companies List in South Africa. Further information can be found at https://www.mukuru.com
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