Two South African companies are included in a cohort of six African start-ups selected by a global fintech accelerator, Catalyst Fund, which is investing R226-million into a global programme.
The Fund, managed by BFA Global and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), recently announced a new £12-million GBP ($15 million USD) commitment from UK aid and J.P. Morgan to advance financial inclusion for underserved people across the world. Over the next three years, it will support the growth of 30 additional startups across five key emerging markets for fintech innovation: Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, and Mexico.
Its latest cohort includes:
- Pesakit – Kenya-based app for mobile money agents
- Kwara – Kenya-based online and mobile banking platform for Savings + Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs)
- Cowrywise – savings and investment tool targeted toward Nigerian youth
- Meerkat – South Africa-based debt counseling and savings product
- Farmart – India-based digital credit platform for farmers
- Spoon – South Africa-based savings and credit offering for women-owned, subsistence enterprises
The two South African companies both include savings products, but approach financial inclusion from different perspectives.
Spoon Money (www.spoonmoney.com) is a savings and credit offering for women-owned subsistence enterprises. It is an impact-driven commercial enterprise that capitalises credit-worthy group saving and credit schemes (i.e. stokvels) in order to support their financial growth, and bolster economic activity in informal communities.
Meerkat (www.meerkat.co.za) is a “new-generation financial wellness business” committed to making a difference in the financial lives of customers. Their vision is to help the customer do more with their money through simple solutions, with savings at the heart. They help customers gradually reduce their reliance on debt and improve their financial health. They say they’ve changed thousands of lives through their professional and confidential debt counselling service that can be conducted over the phone. They’re currently putting together the finishing touches to their simple savings solution and funeral plan, which will launch early 2020.
“We’re thrilled to enter the next phase of this journey, building on lessons learned over the last four years, to position ourselves as the best partners for innovators building affordable, accessible and appropriate solutions designed to improve the financial health of underserved populations in emerging markets,” said Catalyst Fund Director Maelis Carraro. “The additional support from UK aid and continued support from J.P. Morgan will enable us to deepen our local footprints and ecosystem development role in each of our key markets, as well as welcome new partners that can support our mission.”
Catalyst Fund is focusing on specific markets because of their vibrant fintech industries, which house a significant number of early-stage startups across Africa, Latin America and Asia, and because of the need to address critical challenges faced by local underserved consumers.
This new commitment will enable the program to apply lessons learned from accelerating startups in emerging markets over the past four years and focus on:
- Providing critical pre-seed capital and bespoke venture building support;
- Broadening the pool of investors who receive 1:1 connections with Catalyst Fund companies;
- Accelerating the innovation ecosystems in each market to improve startups’ access to capital, corporate partnerships and talent; and
- Sharing best practices toolkits, learnings and insights with the global fintech community to spur innovation across markets.
“With the support of UK aid, Catalyst Fund is connecting more fintech start-ups in emerging African markets with expertise and investment from the UK and around the world,” said UK Minister for Africa Andrew Stephenson. “This innovative work is crucial to changing the lives of people around the world by providing access to basic services like pensions, lending and health care.”
“Financial inclusion is the cornerstone of resilient communities and households,” said Carol Lake, head of international markets philanthropy at J.P. Morgan. “As part of our $125 million global commitment to financial health, we are supporting the development and growth of innovative fintech solutions that can help underserved people across the world save, reduce their debt and improve their lives.”
Catalyst Fund was created in 2016 with support from J.P. Morgan and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to support entrepreneurs building solutions that improve the financial health of underserved communities. It is supported by the Department for International Development (DFID), which leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty.
To date, Catalyst Fund has accelerated 25 fintech startups, who have so far raised over 10 times the amount of grant capital they received and are serving over 1.2-million customers globally. Based on learnings so far, in the next phase Catalyst Fund will focus more on businesses that are building solutions that go beyond financial access and inclusion, to improve the overall financial health of underserved consumers.
“Catalyst Fund is itself an innovative example of collaboration across sectors and assets,” said Melissa Berman, president and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. “We are proud to be a part of an initiative that combines mentoring from impact investors, grant capital from committed donors and advisory services from expert consulting firm BFA Global.”
Alexa can now read all messages
For the first time, an Alexa skill is available that makes it possible to listen to any kind of message while driving
For the first time, Alexa users can now hear all their messages and email read aloud.
Amazon’s Alexa has become a household name. The world’s most popular virtual assistant is getting smarter every day and now, with Amazon Echo Auto, it’s in cars too.
“In today’s highly connected world, messaging in the form of emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and work channels like Slack, are integral to our daily routine,” says Barrie Arnold, chief revenue officer at ping. “However, distracted driving is responsible for more than 25% of car crashes and thousands of preventable fatalities every year.”
ping, a specialist in voice technology founded by Arnold and South African Garin Toren, has developed a new Alexa skill as a companion to its patented smartphone app, that enables any message type to be read aloud. Designed for safety, productivity and convenience, “pingloud” is the first skill of its kind for keeping users connected when they need a hand or an extra pair of eyes.
“The ping Alexa skill is specifically designed to help drivers stay off their phones while giving them exactly what they want – access to their messages.” says Toren, ping CEO.
Opening up Alexa to developers has resulted in an explosion of new skills available either for free or for a fee that unlocks premium services or features. These tools magnify the usefulness of Alexa devices beyond common tasks like asking for the weather, playing music or requesting help on a homework assignment. According to App Annie, the most downloaded apps in 2019 were Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s main app and WhatsApp, highlighting the importance of messaging.
“The ping Android app is available worldwide from the Google Pay Store, reading all messages out loud in 30 languages,” says Toren. “The iOS version is in global beta testing with the US launch coming very soon.”
Once you’ve signed up for ping, it takes a few seconds to link with Alexa, enabling all messages and emails to be read aloud by a smart speaker or Echo Auto device. Simply say, “Hey Alexa, open pingloud.” ping links an account to a voice profile so unauthorised users with access to the same Alexa cannot ask for the authorised user’s messages.
All major message types are supported, including Texts/SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Twitter DM’s, Instagram, and all email types. Promotional and social emails are not read by default.
*For more information, visit www.pingloud.com
Coronavirus to hit 5G
Global 5G smartphone shipments are expected to reach 199 million units in 2020, after disruption caused by the coronavirus scare put a cap on sales forecasts, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.
Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global 5G smartphone shipments will grow more than tenfold from 19 million units in 2019 to 199 million in 2020. The 5G segment will be the fastest-growing part of the worldwide smartphone industry this year. Consumers want faster 5G smartphones to surf richer content, such as video or games. We forecast 5G penetration to rise from 1 percent of all smartphones shipped globally in 2019 to 15 percent of total in 2020.”
Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “China, United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany are by far the largest 5G smartphone markets this year. The big-five countries together will make up 9 in 10 of all 5G smartphones sold worldwide in 2020. However, other important regions, like India and Indonesia, are lagging way behind and will not be offering mass-market 5G for at least another year or two.”
Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The global 5G smartphone industry is growing quickly, but the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently restricting smartphone production in Asia, disrupting supply chains, and deterring consumers from visiting retail stores to buy new 5G devices in some parts of China. The first half of 2020 will be much weaker than expected for the 5G industry, but we expect a strong bounce-back in the second half of the year if the coronavirus spread is brought under control.”
Exhibit 1: Global 5G Smartphone Shipments Forecast in 2020 1
|Global Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)||2019||2020|
|Rest of Market||1394||1165|
|Global Smartphone Shipments (% of Total)||2019||2020|
|Rest of Market||99%||85%|
Source: Strategy Analytics
The full report, Global Handset Sales for 88 Countries & 19 Technologies, is published by the Strategy Analytics Emerging Device Technologies (EDT) service, details of which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/wep83gc.