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Africa: Standard bank is taking on Mobile money giants with Unayo

Standard Bank’s Unayo platform set to disrupt mobile money status quo in Africa

Standard Bank has thrown its hat into Africa's mobile money ring with the launch of Unayo - a mobile money product. Having launched in Kenya, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, and eSwatini, the bank is looking to onboard the product in other African markets and plans to launch in South Africa next year.

According to Standard Bank, Unayo aims to bridge the worlds of the banked and the unbanked. The digital platform "combines the simplicity of mobile money with the sophistication of a bank account, aiming to connect Africa's informal market to financial services in an easily accessible manner," it said. Unayo transactions are free or attract nominal charges.

A competitive space

Standard bank is throwing its hat into a highly competitive space. Wally Fisher, Head of Unayo of Standard Bank, admitted to TechCentral that Standard Bank is entering an already competitive space — and one that is set to become even more competitive. According to Statista, "Approximately 144 mobile money providers operate in Sub-Saharan Africa, with two companies such as M-Pesa, MoMo and Orange Money accounting for a significant share of the market."

How Standard Bank's Unayo plans on taking the market

Standard bank is banking on these product features to usurp market share from existing players. It is very optimistic about the future, given its estimates of facilitating up to 90% of Africa's payments through Unayo.

Speaking of features, Standard bank claims that Unayo holds the potential to initiate a richer savings and investing culture in these ecosystems, as the receivers and holders of funds can create society and shared savings schemes. Unayo also allows for the management of funds and the participants of the collective funding in one place, from one profile, simply and understandably and without data restrictions.

Fisher says that the unique beauty of Unayo is its unlimited capacity to add features and services to the solution that are not determined by "us as Standard Bank, but by the users of the platform themselves."

A key feature of Unayo is the self-onboarding process. Whether users want to access Unayo via USSD or the smart app, they will not be required to visit a physical banking branch. There are no geographical restrictions and no need to present documentation or undergo a paper-bound KYC process. On registration, users can also opt for additional identification features such as facial recognition. Fisher says that this has an immense potential impact - particularly in an informal market.

High hopes for the future

Standard Bank estimates that it will facilitate up to 90% of Africa's payments through Unayo. In the first quarter of 2021. Unayo has already processed over 60 000 customer-initiated transactions.

Through Unayo, Standard Bank will service four critical payment ecosystems: salaried individuals, cross-border payments, traders, and donor organizations. It aims to create an ecosystem of users and merchants to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and drive financial inclusion on the continent.

Sub-Saharan Africa in focus

GDP: $1.686 trillion in 2020 compared to $1.77 trillion in 2019

Population: 1.136 billion in 2020 compared to 1.107 billion in 2019

GDP per capita: $1,483 in 2020 compared to $1,559 in 2019