I-Pay co-founder and chief executive Thomas Pays. Image: Supplied.
JOHANNESBURG - An ambitious  businessman is on a mission to connect neglected lower LSM groups with innovative technology that allows them to do online shopping sans credit and debit cards.

Thomas Pays, the co-founder and chief executive of fintech i-Pay, says he wants to build an African unicorn to tap into the R14 billion digital payments market in South Africa.

Pays says the company has its sights on ordinary people in the township to introduce them to e-commerce.

“We want them to know that they don’t have to carry around cash,” he says.

i-Pay is an online payment gateway for both buyers and merchants allowing instant payment on all smartphones and desktop devices. Payments can be made via SMS, E-mail, QR Code and Push Payments.

Pays says the company’s instant EFT offering has been so well received by the market that he now wants to take it across Africa and ultimately to the world.

Pays, who found and sold three leading digital businesses in the past, says the innovative product allows people without debit or credit cards to shop online. This, he says, provides much-needed economic inclusion and greater access to the market for local merchants.

I-Pay co-founder and chief executive Thomas Pays. Image: Supplied.
“Two months ago we launched in Namibia,” he says. “We are now aggressively looking to launch our products in Kenya and Mauritius. We also have a partnership agreement in Nigeria.”

He is cautious however about tapping into Nigeria, saying they would set up shop in neighbouring Ghana first.

“You need a hands-on approach when you tackle a big economy like Nigeria,” he says, adding that he is aware of South African companies that have experienced problems in the West African country.

For the Kenyan market, Pays says they plan to ride on the back of successes achieved by M-Pesa, a mobile phone-based money transfer service. 

“The point is to transfer money from one person to another,” says Pays, who closed a $5 million funding round in 2017 and secured a further R10 million investment from venture capital fund Kalon Venture Partners.

Once i-Pay’s footprint has been firmly established in Africa, Pays says he plans to expand its operations across Europe.

He harbours ambitions to open an office in Amsterdam in The Netherlands as most of their big partners are already in the European country.

Pays says Amsterdam is well off on its way to becoming the Silicon Valley of Europe and is an idea because of its high concentration of English speakers as well as a big pool of European talent.

He says Amsterdam is but among i-Pay’s plans to expand to 100 countries in the next five to 10 years.

Pays says the ongoing requests for their product offering from African governments and banks shows that there is a need for what they are doing.

“And no one was providing that (kind of service),” he says, admitting however that setting up offices across the vast African continent will not be easy.

“Africa is a bit more of a jungle that we have to crash through but we are ready to do all the heavy work.”

The 36-year-old tech entrepreneur, who commutes between the Johannesburg and Cape Town offices, says he is happy about the progress made so far.

“The impact we have made so far is getting better and bigger every day,” says Pays.

“It feels great to afford the opportunity to people without credit and debit cards the chance to shop online.”


- BUSINESS REPORT