Mobile money services have not been very successful in South Africa. The new products for micro-payments must address the larger ecosystem of banks and retailers.
Cash is still king in Africa and most parts of the world. Yet, we cannot ignore the continued growth of mobile offerings on the African continent, from the uptake of smartphones, app usage, or digital and mobile payment solutions.
Today, it is possible to open a bank account from a smartphone or feature phone, and for small businesses to set up payment solutions directly from mobile devices. As technologies advance for micro-entrepreneurs, so too for micro-payments.
A new form of payment aimed at ‘paying it forward’, be it to a car guard, gardener, or a donation, has been introduced by South African startup Jini Guru, called uKheshe, which means ‘cash’ in Zulu.
The service allows a receiver to accept a tip or payment once a physical card with a QR code is scanned through the uKheshe app, by the sender.
The money accumulated can be cashed out at any Pick n Pay outlet in South Africa, making it an essential solution for those who don’t have bank accounts. The cards, attached to a lanyard, are of no cost and distributed freely; anyone can order a batch online, only incurring courier fees.
Guru first started working with Pick n Pay about five years ago, which resulted in the startup building and integrating its mobile wallet and rewards platform with the supermarket’s new smart banking capabilities back in 2017.
“The mobile money marketplace in South Africa has been riddled with several failures and false starts over the last 15 years,” says uKheshe founder Jason Penton.
“We looked at these mistakes, registered our FSP [Financial Service Providers] and focussed on building a solution for the unbanked that could uplift and increase their earning capability, and after various iterations, and around a year of red-tape and coding, we were ready to share uKheshe with South Africa.”
uKheshe has two types of users: the receiver who is equipped with a QR code, compatible with a feature phone; and the payer who has a smartphone with the app installed to make quick payments.
The receiver, upon obtaining a free uKheshe QR code, can register via a USSD menu easily on a feature phone, and thereafter, check balances; withdraw; and transfer funds. “The users are charged a R5 a month admin fee ,” Penton says.
Withdrawal fees from Pick n Pay will cost R5, which is much lower than ATM fees; and those who purchase goods at the supermarket will pay a R2 fee.
Similarly, M-Pesa, one of the biggest success stories from Kenya and Tanzania, is a virtual banking system that allows users to transact with a SIM card by making payments and transfers via SMS, through Safaricom. The popular service, however, did not find the same success in South Africa, and was discontinued in 2016.
MD of World Wide Worx Arthur Goldstuck says M-Pesa in South Africa was launched in partnership with an elite bank, Nedbank, then with an almost unknown bank, and finally hidden away in USSD menus. “They [M-Pesa] did everything wrong, and the timing of the launch wouldn’t have saved them.”
“uKheshe is probably making a mistake in its pricing, since it is being punted as an ideal way to tip the poor, it is baffling that the cost of withdrawal is practically the size of a standard tip,” Goldstuck says. “Again, with its emphasis on the poor, the R2 cost of payment for transactions suggests little understanding of the limited resources of the poor.”
But the company says another key proposition is that uKheshe card holders can transfer money to each other at no cost. “We see potential for an entire sub-economy evolving where uKheshe value is exchanged between users,” adds Penton.
“As a registered financial services provider, there are regulations in place to prevent money laundering and transferring large sums of money without being traced in the banking system,” says Penton on the account of the system being abused.
“We have a daily withdrawal limit of R3,000 ($220) and a monthly limit of R24,000 ($1,760). All sources of money into our system have to come from a banked individual and all transfers out are limited to the daily/monthly caps, in line with regulations,” he says.
Given that the majority of mobile money services have previously been a failure in South Africa, Goldstuck says the fundamental difference between markets within Africa is that South Africa already has an extensive and highly-efficient money transfer system through retail outlets, and people both trust and understand it.
“Furthermore, South Africa has a high-banked population, with more than 70% of adults having a bank account. In East Africa, fewer than 10% had a financial instrument before M-Pesa came along.”
A downside to these new products is that they are specific to one retailer, says Goldstuck. “They need to be interchangeable and brand agnostic, so that they can be used elsewhere, which requires an ecosystem that incorporates most banks and retail chains; and right now, we have deals rather than ecosystems.”
More competition is expected in South Africa as mobile operator MTN is set to relaunch its Mobile Money service in the first quarter of 2019. The service currently has more than24 million active subscribers in more than 20 markets.
– Nafisa Akabor
‘AI Is A Powerful Tool’
Research forecasts that by 2025, machines will perform more current work tasks than humans. Murat Sonmez, member of the managing board, and Head of the Centre for the WEF Fourth Industrial Revolution Network, expands on the role humans might play.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is at the center of the current economic frontier. In reality, is Africa prepared for such changes?
Moving quickly and being agile are key principles of success in the 4IR. Any country can succeed if they take on this mindset. A few years ago, Rwanda saw the opportunities drones, a 4IR technology, brought to their country.
They helped save over 800 lives by delivering blood to remote villages. To scale this, the government worked with the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) drones’ team to create the world’s first agile airspace regulation. Now, we see countries in Africa and around the world looking to the Rwandan model.
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What feasible solutions can artificial intelligence (AI) offer in terms of forecasting natural disasters, droughts food security on the African continent?
AI can help predict diseases, increase agriculture yields and help first responders. It is a powerful tool for governments and businesses, but it needs a lot of data to be effective.
For AI to be all that it can be, countries and companies need to work together to build frameworks for better management and protection of our data and ensure that it is shared and not stored in silos. Data is the oxygen of the (4IR). If countries do not leverage data and have their policies in place, they will be left behind.
There is a growing concern that the 4IR will strip people of jobs, of which there is already a shortage. How true is this?
The world is going through a workplace revolution that will bring a seismic shift in the way humans work alongside machines and algorithms.
Latest research from the WEF forecasts that by 2025, machines will perform more current work tasks than humans, compared to 71% being performed by humans today.
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The rapid evolution of machines and algorithms in the workplace could create 133 million new roles in place of 75 million that will be displaced between now and 2022.
Consumers have real concerns around the potential harm technology can cause in areas such as privacy, misinformation, surveillance, job loss, environmental damage and increased inequality. What ethical precautions are being considered in the robotics space?
Now more than ever, it is important to incorporate ethics into the design, deployment and use of emerging technology. Innovating in the 4IR requires addressing concerns around privacy and data ownership, while attracting the skills and forward-looking thinkers of the future.
There are big challenges and bigger opportunities ahead. We have seen many companies and countries create ethical and human rights-based frameworks. What’s important is they are co-designed with members of both communities along with academia, civil society and start-ups.
A multi-stakeholder approach will result in a more holistic set of guidelines and principles that can be adopted in many different industries and geographies.
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What changes need to take place for the African continent to be on par with global developments, and are there tangible goals set?
The 4IR provides governments the opportunity to be global leaders in shaping the next 20 to 30 years of science and technology. It is important they create an environment where companies can innovate.
The other tenet is to be open to working across borders and learning from each other. The global health industry has access to mountains of data on rare diseases, but it is trapped within countries and sometimes even within the hospital walls.
If we can build trust and find innovative ways to share the data while protecting privacy, we can employ tools like AI to help us cure disease faster. Countries and companies need to have the right governance frameworks and mechanisms in place for these breakthroughs to happen. It is possible to do these things now, but we need to work together to make it happen.
Businesses At The Heart Of A Greener Future
With every day that passes by it becomes more apparent that the Earth is deteriorating and time is running out to save it. Scientists have estimated that we have less than a decade to save the planet before it is irreversibly damaged, mainly due to climate change.
Businesses claim the largest percentage of global emissions (at approximately 70% since 1988, according to The Guardian) which is an alarming statistic, especially in a time when the planet’s well-being is being compromised.
Many large business corporations are hastily coming on board with operating sustainably by transforming their practices and placing business ethics at the forefront of their priorities.
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Last week, a round table discussion was held at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel, Sandton hosted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM) – the world’s largest sustainability consulting firm. Their aim was to discuss how imperative it is for African businesses to get on board with sustainability.
“We have been talking about how to be sustainable for a long time but now it is time for us to do sustainability,” says Thapelo Letete, Technical Director of ERM.
An engaging and thought-provoking panel discussion ensued with representatives from ERM and mining companies, Anglo American and Gold Fields. They emphasized the importance of sustainability being recognized by investors, especially in mining and oil companies that rely solely on Earth’s natural resources.
Civil society has a colossal role to play in ensuring the sustainability of businesses. Due to the law of supply and demand in production, consumers are being urged to be mindful of their buying habits and to make sustainable decisions. These are as simple as minimizing the utilization of plastic straws by replacing them with metal or paper straws and reusable shopping bags and by recycling selected items.
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“Research suggests that socially and environmentally responsible practices have the potential to garner more positive consumer perceptions of (businesses), as well as increases in profitability,” according to an entry in Sage Journals published in May.
The advancement of science, artificial intelligence and the rapid growth of the technological industry make it an undeniable fact that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway. Many businesses across the globe seem to be well prepared for this change. However, businesses in Africa seem to be vulnerable.
“It is difficult to say that all businesses in Africa are prepared for it. It is not a country specific thing but it does vary across corporations. There will be businesses that are well prepared and businesses that are not so well prepared,” says Keryn James, CEO of ERM.
A large part of sustainability also relies on empowerment and equality. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of female-owned businesses who contribute a large amount of money towards their respective countries’ GDPs. However, most of these businesses struggle with the issue of scaling.
“Women sometimes underestimate their ability and they don’t necessarily have the confidence that they should have about the value that their businesses present. Women often take less risks than men,” says James.
“The issue of scaling is one that we see globally. One of the issues are access to funding to support in the investment and growth of their businesses.”
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Going forward, the availability of mentorship programmes and skills development opportunities for women, especially black women in business should be encouraged.
According to a study done by the UN Women’s organization, an average of 3 out of 7 women score higher in performance when they are placed in senior managerial positions. Additionally, if more women work, the more countries can exponentially maximise their economic growth.
Women will be empowered when given the correct skills and opportunities to be able to run their own businesses independently which would ultimately lead to the scaling of female-owned businesses in Africa and sustainable development.
The Nedbank Capital Sustainable Business Awards aim to recognize the efforts of businesses that operate sustainably and to encourage other corporations who intend to adopt more sustainable strategies into their practices. Initiatives such as these prove that business value also depends on how sustainable they are.
It is clear that the prioritization of sustainability and accountability in businesses is the only way forward in the midst of this global crisis. With a combination of will and the rigorous work that African businesses have put into sustainability initiatives and strategies, it is easier to be optimistic about our planet’s wellbeing.
Ex-Google Staffer Says After Split With Chief Legal Officer David Drummond: ‘Hell Does Not Begin To Capture My Life’
Former Google employee Jennifer Blakely has written a scathing blog post with allegations about how her affair with chief legal officer David Drummond unfolded.
A former member of Google’s legal team who says she had a child with the company’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, has written a scathing blog post about the way that their relationship unfolded within the search engine giant, including that he issued “terrifying threats” to take custody of their child after initially refusing to pay child support.
In a Medium post, Jennifer Blakely says that she was inspired to detail her experience after an explosive New York Times story last fall put a spotlight on how the company shielded top executives from harassment claims and sparked massive employee protests.
“Looking back, I see how standards that I was willing to indulge early on became institutionalized behavior as Google’s world prominence grew and its executives grew more powerful,” Blakely writes.
“Women that I worked with at Google who have spoken to me since the New York Times article have told me how offended they were by the blatant womanizing and philandering that became common practice among some (but certainly not all) executives, starting at the very top.”
While her relationship with the married Drummond was included in the Times story and first reported byThe Information in November 2017, this is the first time Blakely has written about the experience herself.
Drummond is one of several current and former Google executives who has reportedly had relationships with employees or extramarital affairs, including Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, and Andy Rubin.
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Blakely alleges that after their relationship ended, Drummond had another relationship with a subordinate, which is against Google’s workplace policy. He is still employed by Google and made more than $47 million last year.
Blakely says that she started working in Google’s legal department under Drummond in 2001 and that after he told her that he was estranged from his wife, they began a relationship in 2004. She says the two had a child together in 2007 and that Google’s human resources department then told her that one of them had to leave the department.
She moved to sales, an area where she had no experience, and subsequently struggled with her work. Blakely alleges that after she ultimately left the company at Drummond’s urging in 2008, but that while they were living together in Palo Alto, he broke off their relationship via text message.
“‘Hell’ does not begin to capture my life since that day,” she writes. “I’ve spent the last 11 years taking on one of the most powerful, ruthless lawyers in the world. From that fateful night forward, David did things exclusively on his terms.”
She alleges that Drummond initially refused to see their son or pay child support, and then fought against her in a custody battle. While she says they ultimately reached a settlement and he began paying child support, she writes that “months or years” would go by when he wouldn’t see their son. In 2014, Drummond allegedly showed her an article about Eric Schmidt’s reported history of extramarital affairs during an argument, implying that the executive’s position granted him impunity.
“His ‘personal life’ (which apparently didn’t include his son) was off limits and since I was no longer his ‘personal life’ it was time for me to shut up, fall in line and stop bothering him with the nuisances or demands of raising a child,” Blakely writes.
Blakely’s story is the latest in a string of public posts from former Google employees highlighting issues with the company’s culture and policies (or their lack of enforcement).
One of the women who helped organize last fall’s protests, Claire Stapelton, recently wrote about her experience with retaliation, another employee detailed the disappointing way the company’s human resources department dealt with her harassment reports, and former senior engineer Liz Fong-Jones posted about “grave concerns” with the company’s decision making in general.
The outspokenness of Google employees exemplifies — and has helped spur — a broader activism in the tech sector that has seen workers speaking out against their employer’s internal policies and business decisions.
Blakely’s post also taps into the larger #MeToo movement which has drawn attention to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace across industries.
“Until truth is willing to speak to power and is heard, there’s not going to be the sea change necessary to bring equality to the workplace,” she writes.
Neither Google nor Drummond immediately responded to a request for comment.
This story is developing.
-Jillian D’Onfro; Forbes
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