In this week’s episode of Innovate Africa, co-host Tapfuma Makina visits Nairobi to meet Kariuki Gathitu, founder of Zege Technologies. Zege has launched MPayer, a mobile payment alternative to MPESA, aimed at small businesses.
“In Kenya, 11-and-a-half million people use simple cellphones to pay their bills,“ says Tapfuma. “That’s more than double the number that have bank accounts… It all began when Kenyans who had no bank accounts began to trade their airtime to pay for services. This system was so successful that it was fine-tuned and called MPESA, the Swahili word for money. It is now the most widely used form of payment cross the African continent… But while MPESA works well for individual cash payments, it’s not designed to facilitate a business. But now there is MPayer, a new mobile innovation designed specifically for small businesses in Kenya.”
Co-host Ndoni Khanyile visits Rwanda to interview Henri Nyakarundi, an entrepreneur who has designed and franchised solar-powered mobile phone charging kiosks
“The lack of electricity was a big problem in the region,” says the Ared founder. “60% of the population has a cellphone but less than 15% has access to electricity.”
The kiosks are small enough to be towed by a bicycle to wherever people will pay a small fee to charge their phones. The kiosks can charge up to 30 phones at a time and Henri now has 24 franchisees operating across Rwanda.
“You see a lot of people that want to be in business for themselves but they don’t want to be in business by themselves,” Henri says. “When you look at statistics, the franchise business model has a higher rate of success than traditional business. 80% of franchise businesses succeed; 80% of traditional businesses fail.”
In Kigali, Ndoni also interviews Clarisse Iribagiza, who co-founded He He, a software development company, which led to her being named one of Forbes’ ’30 under 30’ outstanding tech entrepreneurs in Africa; a feature in Wired; and awards from Transform Africa and Inspire Africa. She talks to Innovate Africa about Nuntu, HeHe’s app store for Africa, and creating mobile apps that deal with everything from motorcycle taxi safety to agricultural online markets.
“We don’t just want to be a country or a continent that is simply consuming whatever technologies are being built by others,” Clarisse tells Ndoni. “We want to be part of the people creating the solutions that are contributing to the technological advancement of the world. And I certainly believe that great technological innovations will be coming out of Africa, and out of He He.”
• MPayer – an Mpesa alternative for small businesses in Kenya
• Franchising solar-powered cellphone charger kiosks in Rwanda
• An award-winning mobile applications development firm in Kigali
Innovate Africa premieres on Al Jazeera English on Tuesday, 2 December 2014 at 22h30 GMT/ Wednesday, 3 December 00h30 CAT