CAPE TOWN - Wala, a mobile money solution that uses blockchain technology has launched their services for Android users in Uganda, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
The service uses blockchain technology along with the Dala cryptocurrency to allow users to send money, earn rewards and apply for credit services through the platform.
Co-founder and COO, Samer Saab and Co-founder of Wala and director of The Dala Foundation Tricia Martinez teamed up to start the company and currently have a team of 13 people employed in the business.
Saab explains that these are the 4 reasons that make Wala different from other forms of online banking services:
1. Wala is not a bank or a financial service provider. We are a platform for users to obtain and engage with financial services provided through the blockchain and regulated service providers.
2. Unlike banks and mobile money providers, Wala does not charge its users any fees, instead focusing on driving digital financial engagement rather than just providing a transaction channel. We also choose to only work with financial providers who also share this zero-fee goal so that we can achieve a goal of global financial inclusion
3. Wala is an entire financial experience in your phone. Through the application, you can register for services, manage your funds, send money peer-to-peer, buy value-added services, and even transact in person at merchants. The platform is meant to support our customers’ entire financial lives
4. Wala is a global platform, aimed at delivering a consistent experience to users around the world. Though the accounts and services will vary by market, consumers can still have a consistent Wala experience thanks to blockchain-based payments.
Saab said that the path to launching Wala was not very easy and that they had experienced countless challenges.
"To start, we long believed that banks could lead the way in addressing this problem by working with us to lead a revolution in financial service delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa"
"We had partnerships in place with numerous banks in different countries that ultimately fell apart, most often due to the organization’s apathy, consumer doubt, or internal politics"
"Though the problem and opportunity were massive, the bank and the bankers’ incentives never fully aligned with driving financial inclusion. Unfortunately, even the true believers could too easily be drowned out by doubters throughout the organization as the risk for saying “yes” always dwarfs the risk of saying “no”. Thankfully, not all banks feel this way but even the ones that share our views still have their own challenges"
"Additionally, as an early-stage company, we faced challenges fundraising from venture capitalists. Ultimately, the doubts gravitated to one of the following concerns: “do people really need or want free banking?”, “do people have smartphones?”, and my favorite “is this a charity?”. Hopefully, people will start realizing how big of an economic opportunity 800M underserved people in Africa represent", said Saab.
When asked about his thoughts on the future of blockchain, Saab thinks that blockchain will lead to a revolutionary disruption of internet-based businesses by decentralizing economic activity that is flowing entirely through tech super-powers.
"Right now, most of the investment and effort is going into the infrastructure, which is great since we are nowhere near scaling form. Beyond infrastructure though, we need to see companies start to build great, decentralized user experiences on top of the blockchain as well".
"This may be a larger challenge than scaling because we are now asking consumers to actually own their information, which brings its own great risks", said Saab.
When trying to source funding to start Wala, the company raised roughly $1M in funding from angels and VCs in the US, EU, and Africa.
"During this time, we also took part in 2 accelerators - Barclays Accelerator Powered by Techstars and Impact Engine", said Saab.
When asked about the focus on African countries, Saab explains that is was their focus to suport the unbanked in Uganda.
"The company originated with a focus to support the unbanked in Uganda, where founder & CEO Tricia Martinez was working prior".
"The pivot from Tricia’s original focus into the Wala financial platform came as we further understood scale of the problems and opportunity. Ultimately, there is plenty of both and that makes Wala an exciting product to work on and an meaningful company to work for", said Saab.
For the future, Wala has plans to launch in 10 countries by the end of 2018 and to continue scaling from there.
These countries include, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, United Kingdom and Zambia by the end of the year.
" We hope to be a global platform that connects consumers financially, the same way Whatsapp has with communication", concludes Saab.
- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE