As beneficial as mobile technology can be in facilitating financial inclusion in underdeveloped countries, it brings with it the complications of trying to conduct transactions across different carriers, devices and use cases. Mozido’s acquisition of Zimbabwe’s NettCash platform provides a level playing field for those who need access to such services but don’t have access to the latest mobile technologies.
Recently, Adnan Doha, Head of Mergers & Acquisitions at Mozido EMEA, discussed with MPD CEO Karen Webster what makes NettCash unique, and how its implementation — beginning in Zimbabwe — is poised to accelerate Mozido’s efforts to bring financial inclusion throughout the African continent, and then the world.
KW: We’re here to talk specifically about what Mozido has done to expand its presence in the region with the acquisition of NettCash. Tell us a little bit about NettCash and why you found it to be an attractive target of acquisition for Mozido.
AD: In NettCash, we saw a huge opportunity to invest in one of the newest and fastest-growing mobile money providers in Zimbabwe. It’s a company that has a number of key financial contracts in place that we saw could make the business successful. There’s been a significant effort by the government in Zimbabwe to encourage foreign investment, which facilitated the opportunity for us.
Since we acquired the business in January, the company now has about 3,000 agents and 200,000 customers — which clearly speaks to the strengths of the mobile services sector in Zimbabwe.
One of the most interesting elements of NettCash’s platform is that any phone, regardless of the network or the operator, can be used as a payment tool. NettCash is the only mobile money operator in Zimbabwe that has that unique feature. In a country where many people have old mobile devices, this platform provides financial inclusion — which, for our business, is a key principle.
KW: My understanding is that NettCash has a particular capability with bill payment, specifically utility services. I think that’s an interesting anchor to lots of other mobile money features that consumers can build around and Mozido can enable. Can you describe what that capability is?
AD: The company has a relationship with the local government’s electricity provider. What that enables is for consumers to directly purchase electricity on their mobile phone, so they don’t have to wait in line for hours, or commute for hours, to do so in person — in a market that is largely prepaid.
There are other services that the company offers, such as inbound and outbound remittances through a partnership with MoneyGram. That’s quite valuable, given the high unemployment rates in Zimbabwe leading to many citizens working abroad. Our relationship with MoneyGram provides a way in which people can send money home to family members in a secure and safe way.
KW: It’s a very interesting capability, and its ability to work with any mobile platform is, as you mentioned, certainly an important first step in a financial inclusion initiative.
What is the state of mobile money in Zimbabwe?
AD: Historically, there’s been a great deal of hyperinflation of Zimbabwe’s currency. What that has led to, starting around 2004, is a clear demand for a mobile finance product.
Today, the statistics are hugely impressive: Almost 50 percent of the country’s GDP is transacted through mobile. There’s obviously momentum towards it becoming Africa’s first cashless society.
KW: That is impressive; I wasn’t aware that mobile had made such significant inroads in Zimbabwe. Is that a result of platforms like NettCash enabling real services on any mobile device?
AD: I think that’s absolutely right. Companies like NettCash have paved the way for secure forms of finance. In a country where there wasn’t strong confidence in the local currency due to its severe fluctuation, it’s allowed people to conduct transactions in a very easy, convenient, and safe way.
The increase in product offerings from mobile financial services companies is reducing the need for people to carry cash. In that regard, NettCash is already enormously helpful — and it will continue to be — for people across Zimbabwe. We’ll look to build on that success as we expand into other countries across Africa.
KW: Can you share some of the details of that expansion plan?
AD: Of course. One of our biggest principles is establishing a presence locally, and helping bring financial inclusion to the whole world.
Africa is a key focus of our global efforts. I’m on the ground a lot across the continent; I’ve spent time in Nigeria, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, and other countries, building relationships, looking at opportunities and assessing which make the most sense. As part of that effort, we’re looking to bring our global expertise, technology, know-how and relationships to the continent.
It’s a very important undertaking for us.
Head of Mergers & Acquisitions Mozido EMEA
Adnan Doha, Head of Mergers and Acquisitions has worked on billions in value worth of corporate and private equity focused mergers, acquisitions, disposals, public takeovers, initial public offerings, corporate restructurings, capital raising’s and fund establishment across Europe, the U.S., Asia, Middle East and Africa. Adnan is responsible for Mozido’s investments and acquisitions across the EMEA region.
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