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How Africa tech meets Africa demands

By MVELASE PEPPETTA, freelance writer

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From Facebook to Google, the world’s largest tech companies are increasingly looking to Africa and other developing economies as key markets where to ensure the continued growth of their businesses. Policy makers in African governments are also making sure their economies are preparing for a tech-focused future.

For instance, in South Africa the government has indicated its goal of ensuring its economy is geared to answering the needs of the “fourth industrial revolution” and Malawi’s Reserve Bank announced a policy to have all local businesses offer at least one method of digital payment. But while much can still be untapped from the African tech ecosystem it is a very active scene. According to the 2018 venture investment report by WeeTracker, African startups raised a record US$725.6 million across 458 deals in 2018.

Imagining what is on the way is on the way is certainly exciting, it is also just as important that we keep an eye out for what already is out there in terms of African tech developed to provide solutions for uniquely African demands.

Abalobi Marketplace

A South African service, Abalobi Marketplace is a particularly unique service in that it is designed to ensure that small-scale fishers are supported within the fishing industry. The app which currently services 140 restaurants allows chefs to source fish directly from small-scale fisher who load what they have caught onto the app. Chefs can also place requests on the app for a particular catch. Launched in 2017 by Abalobi, a non-profit working to empower small-scale fishers, the app services restaurants primarily in the Cape Town region but has already started working with restaurants in Johannesburg. For chefs, it provides them with the ability to source far fresher fish than can traditionally be provided. But for the 200 odd fishing families who use the app, tackling decades of entrenched inequality in the South African fishing supply-chain, the app allows them to receive fair price for their catch. 

SweepSouth

Similar to Abalobi, while its most commonly referred to as a “Uber for domestic cleaners” SweepSouth is another service that also touts itself as looking to tackle decades of inequality in South Africa. At its most basic, SweepSouth is a service that allows people looking for domestic workers, whether for home or office, to book them using a mobile app. However, according to SweepSouth’s founder Aisha Pandor the service is also committed to the women finding work opportunities through the app. In that regard, SweepSouth not only provides them with benefits like accidental death and disability cover at no cost to the domestic worker but at a far more basic level, also pays domestic workers who find work through the app at a far higher rate than South Africa’s legislated minimum wage. While currently operating in South Africa only, SweepSouth has mentioned plans to scale their services into the rest of the continent. 

Mama Money

Using the internet and cell phone technology to answer the needs of immigrants working in South Africa, Mama Money looks to undercut traditional financial services by allowing its users to send money across borders at far lower rates. Described as Africa’s first completely cashless money transfer system, when answering why they launched the business, Mama Money’s founders Raphael Grojnowski and Mathieu Coquillon have said, “We wanted to get into business to help others and we knew that there were millions of migrant workers in South Africa who send money home to their families, but battle with the transfer fees. We thought this presented a perfect opportunity to disrupt and help people get more money home.”

Quicket

Established in 2011, Quicket has transformed how event organisers and ticket buyers engage with a range of events – from concerts and sports to yoga and fashion shows. Unlike traditional ticketing companies, Quicket allows organisers to create an event and start selling tickets without needing a website and imposing onerous contracts, or big fees. The company’s offerings have resulted in seven years’ of exponential growth with James Tagg, Quicket co-founder explaining that today the platform has widespread adoption from some of the continent’s largest festivals through to micro gatherings, and everything in between, including fundraising drives and school related events and funds collections.. What sets Quicket apart from its competitors is that it gives event organisers complete control, whether they are planning to host 10 or 10 000 people.  

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Meet the accountant of the future

The accountant of the future will need a new set of skills, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, as he meets both the local users and the global creators of Xero accounting software

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Buchule and Sivenathi Sibaca get a highrise view of London. Pic by Arthur Goldstuck

Meet Buchule and Sivenathi Sibaca. They are not only partners in marriage, but also in a thriving accounting business. Buchule and Sivenathi are, respectively, chief executive officer and chief financial officer of SMTAX, which focuses on tax and accounting services for small businesses in the Western Cape, but includes the likes of Absa and Old Mutual among its clients. It employs 18 people and has 4,500 individual and business customers.

That’s not what makes the outfit remarkable. The startling feature of this business is that it has been structured to be a model accounting firm of the next decade. Even more remarkable is the fact that the couple both hail from rural areas where thoughts of the future tend to be about survival rather than blazing new trails.

Last week, they made their first trip out of the country, to attend Xerocon London 2019. This 2-day conference, hosted by the world’s fastest growing accounting software maker, Xero, attracted more than 3,000 delegates from the United Kingdom, Europe Middle East and Africa. A total of 57 Xero partners and users, mostly from accounting practices or suppliers to accountants, made the trek from South Africa.

“It was really about seeing how other accountants on other continents operate in terms of how they think and where their headspace is at,” Buchule told us during Xerocon. “Also, being our first time out of the country, it was to see the culture of other small businesses outside of South Africa. 

“London’s quite different in that regard, but it’s been a really a great learning curve, and we were pleasantly surprised to find elements that look like South Africa, where we can say, at least you’re doing something right. The banking environment is quite unique, as it’s been a really good learning curve in terms of where banking might go to in the future of South Africa if they follow the same trend.”

Buchule comes from the “dusty streets” of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, while Sivenathi grew up on a farm in a deep rural area near Mthatha.

“I had no idea about technology or the rest of the world or how it could impact the economy in general,” she said. The two met at the University of Cape Town, where she was studying to be an actuary, and he completed a Masters degree in tax. She decided to put actuarial science behind her, however, when the opportunity arose to join Buchule’s business. But her skills helped transform the business.

Said Buchule: “When Sivenathi came on board we did the modeling of the business, and we said that in order to in order to automate the whole bookkeeping journey, we would need to turn closer and closer towards ‘x’, meaning fully automated bookkeeping. We looked at the journey of how long it will it take for us to get to time ‘x’. And then we said, OK, once we get there, what then?

“It was a big realization that when we do get to time ‘x’, the most important thing will be the human touch. That will be the differentiator. So we then spent our time developing that.”

Visit the next page to read more about the Xerocon 2019 event.

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Takealot reveals startling numbers for Black Friday

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Takealot has revealed startling numbers for expected bumper sales this holiday season, beginning next week, and peaking with Black Friday.

South Africa’s leading ecommerce group expects to ship at least one order every second, with roughly 10,000 boxes leaving their warehouses every hour, this shopping season. 

Black Friday was first introduced to South Africa by Takealot in 2012, and has since become an important day in South Africa’s annual retail calendar. It has been a record-breaker for both retailers in the Takealot Group: Takealot and Superbalist. Takealot’s Black Friday gross merchandise value (GMV) grew 125% from 2017 to 2018, with orders up 127%. Superbalist’s Black Friday GMV has grown on average around 50%. This year, CEO Kim Reid is anticipating the biggest Black Friday yet, a culmination of months of tech and operational business-wide focus to prepare for increased predicted traffic and shopper volumes.

ABSA bank estimates that two out of three South Africans participated in Black Friday sales in 2018. And FNB reports in 2018, Black Friday transaction volumes grew by 16% compared with 2017 and anticipates a 15% increase in transactions over the sales period in 2019. 

Successfully meeting this massive growth in orders has been a key focus for the Takealot Group. CEO Kim Reid says throughout the year they have been working to scale operations across multiple areas within the business. “After expanding our Johannesburg distribution centre (DC), our warehouse storage space now stands at 75 000m2. We house over 3.7 million items at any given time, and have opened 47 Takealot Pickup Points in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga for order collections and returns, with more to open in the coming months.” 

Takealot Delivery Team delivers to more South African homes than any other courier company in the country. On a monthly basis, they carry out over 1.6-million deliveries,  with this number expected to increase to over 2-million during the shopping season. More than 4,500 drivers currently deliver for the Takealot Delivery Team; a number that is growing every month. The Takealot group anticipates they’ll travel over 4,000 000km from Black Friday until 24 December. “To put that in context, it is the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe over 100 times” says Reid.

Takealot.com’s Blue Dot Sale is a five day sale period which starts on Black Friday (29 November) and sees a range of new deals throughout the weekend as well as on Cyber Monday (2 December) and Takealot Tuesday (3 December), with up to 60% off thousands of items. For the first time, takealot.com will also be giving their shoppers early access to some of its Black Friday deals, starting on 24 November. Fresh new app-only deals will be added daily. 

The Superbalist Showdown will run from 29 November to 3 December, with up to 70% off more than 15 000+ items. Superbalist shoppers will also have early access to Black Friday deals on selected days throughout November, with Superbalist’s Black Friday Spoilers – 24 hours to shop deals that they say won’t be beaten on Black Friday. 

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