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Why fin regulators must work with tech entrepreneurs

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Fintech is set to boom in South Africa and the regulatory environment is likely to be conducive for growth in this space. But, a collaboration between the regulators and technology entrepreneurs is needed to boost the industry, writes AHMED CASSIM.

Global investment in fintech ventures has tripled over the last five years and will double again to an estimated $6 billion by 2018, according to a recent report by Accenture and the Partnership Fund of New York City. This growing industry clearly carries significant potential for boosting the local economy and needs to be nourished as far as possible.

The Hello Group understands regulation. Back in 2010 when the Group initially launched a SIM card for migrants to call their loved ones all across the world, it could not have done so if it did not hold a licence as issued by the telecoms Regulator, ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa). Three years later, we wanted to offer our customers an international remittance offering and it was perfect timing as the South African Reserve Bank had just issued new regulations making it easier for independent money operators to enter the market.

The company was involved in engagement with the regulatory authorities when the regulations were still fairly new. Hello Paisa, the Group’s international remittance offering was the first recipient of an “independent money transfer operator” license which allows the Group to offer its customers an instant, cheap and legal way to send money home.

It was ground-breaking to see that the Reserve Bank was so proactive in implementing new regulations and this is extremely encouraging in terms of growth prospects and innovation in the financial services industry.

Prior to the change in the regulatory environment, migrants working in South Africa were forced to use informal and illegal channels in order to ensure that their hard earned cash was sent back to their families at home. The illegal process meant it was expensive, there was a lack of transparency around pricing and inevitable delays in transferring of funds.

The regulations have paved the way for a healthier, more transparent environment where consumers are able to access a service that is transparent and offers the advantage of money being immediately available to recipients in other countries. Our shortest transfer time is literally two seconds to send money across the globe.

Looking globally, the development of the fintech industry is a key driver in the financial services market. However, as with all new developments in any field, the key to a smooth progression is a “meeting of the minds” between regulators and techpreneurs. For example, in Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore created a regulatory sandbox in June this year. This essentially allows fintech companies to experiment with possible solutions/products for the market, carry out due diligence on their projects and then discuss a way forward in terms of regulatory requirements where it is less clear whether particular FinTech solutions comply with regulatory requirements or poses unacceptable risks.

The danger of a regulatory authority that is reluctant to adapt regulations to better embrace new technology is that this could lead to techpreneurs taking their ideas to friendlier jurisdictions. A further danger is that of international fintechs from more regulatory-friendly jurisdictions stealing the march on local companies. We could end up with a situation where foreign fintechs simply use the internet to offer their services and bypass local regulators. A clear example of this is the fact that Whatsapp offers VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telecom services in SA without a license. In line with this thought, it is extremely encouraging that the Reserve Bank has made it clear that it is open to ideas and very supportive of the country’s burgeoning fintech industry.

  • Ahmed Cassim, chief commercial officer at Hello Group

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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