File picture: Pexels
File picture: Pexels

How an African start-up grew into a global fintech powerhouse

By IOL Tech reporter Time of article published Jul 14, 2020

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From humble beginnings in a London flat in 2005 to African fintech giant in 2020, Mukuru’s journey has been one of turning challenges into opportunities for innovation.

Mukuru has harnessed robust digital platforms in a complex African context to innovate and provide a critical service to many communities and is all about delivering a service to customers where they are – and finding the best and most robust solution available. 

When it launched, Mukuru’s founders worked with developers to build a platform that would enable family and friends in the UK to send fuel coupons and groceries to families struggling in Zimbabwe. 

At the time, the service was only usable from the UK. In addition, Mukuru offered an international calling card option to Zimbabwe - allowing loved ones in the UK to call internationally. 

However,  the early days was not at all smooth sailing. There were database failures that put the business at serious risk and threatened future plans. Mukuru was completely invested into its vision and everything was rebuilt within six weeks. 

Mukuru then saw an opportunity to start sending cash from the UK and Europe. This meant that migrant workers would now be able to send money home - easily, safely and affordably. 

In 2010, it launched financial remittances from Africa and moved its head office to South Africa, creating a joint venture with a company called Inter-Africa to build the Mukuru we know today. 

As the business grew, it started expanding into new African markets and used technology as the means to help people in their own journeys to financial inclusion. 

It established an agent army that uses an Android app to assist customers where they live. Instead of being inhibited by compliance requirements, it is also an enabler to grow key services. Agents can verify customers' physical address and can also check passports and asylum papers.

By 2015, Mukuru had added a customer application to its offering that now included branch and agent services as well as a USSD self-help channel critical for the customer base. 

Due to a large number of customers being unbanked, it introduced the Mukuru Card. This card is a simplified money account that gave them electronic access to financial services such as salary deposits, savings, and withdrawals from banks and retailers. 

When Zimbabwe encountered another cash crisis in 2017 and banks were unable to service customers, Mukuru launched its now well-known Mukuru Orange Booth network that took over the cash logistics system. This meant people could still receive cash when they needed it most. 

Today, Mukuru has 60 partnerships in place worldwide to enable more than 100 brands to provide cash out points. 

Due to growing needs during the Covid-19 lockdown, the company launching key self sign-up platforms as well as Mukuru Groceries.

"Importantly, one of the fundamental components of Mukuru’s success has been the ability to integrate technology and business in a way that directly benefits its customers. Whenever it encountered the challenge of people struggling to access funds, it would put in place a new retail or financial service provider partnership and introduce a new channel to facilitate this," said  CIO at Mukuru, S andy Rheeder. 

"Instead of pursuing innovation for innovation’s sake, Mukuru’s mission has been to listen carefully to what customers need and want, and then build the relevant technology from there. And like a truly homegrown African company, its talent for frugal innovation – coupled with being entirely customer-centric – has naturally propelled growth and evolution at the opportune moments." 

IOL TECH



About Mukuru 

Mukuru is an Africa-based FinTech that enables safe, affordable and reliable financial services to underserved communities. With over 30 million cross-border transactions in just over a decade, we are one of Africa’s largest remittances-led FinTech’s. Our remittance service offers customers the opportunity to send money to their relatives or friends in over 20 countries across Africa and Asia.

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