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How has Africa’s mobile money market adapted to the pandemic?

Photo by Derick Anies on Unsplash

 

Covid-19 led to widespread regulatory limits on mobile money transaction fees to boost financial inclusion through the pandemic. How have the controls impacted mobile money operators, which earn 80%+ of revenues from transaction fees? It looks like the controls are here to stay in some countries. In others, like Tanzania, Vodacom and Airtel successfully lobbied to remove a mobile money tax.

Africa’s two biggest mobile money markets – Kenya and Ghana – were early movers to scrap fees on mostly smaller transactions soon after the pandemic hit in early 2020. Other African nations soon followed with fee limits and mobile money tax relief.

Regulators and central banks in more than 20 African countries paused or reduced mobile money taxes while raising limits and imposing transaction fee restrictions or waivers on mobile service providers.

Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Rwanda, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Gambia, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Egypt, Morocco were just some of the countries to impose controls designed to empower millions of mostly person-to-person (P2P) and cash-to-wallet retail mobile money users at the height of the pandemic.

Eighteen months on, certain governments have reintroduced or increased mobile money taxes to help replenish pandemic hit coffers while some cross-border transfer fee caps persist.

The central bank-led measures have proven highly effective at boosting financial inclusion and are likely to remain in some countries for the foreseeable future. Initial negative attitudes by mobile money operators are slowly changing in some markets but are being reinforced in others.

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Paris-Roubaix champ: ‘It’s a bit out there but I fell in love with it’

Pic: GettySport
To hear 2016 winner Mat Hayman affectionately describe Paris-Roubaix’s brutal cobble stoning of bike and bone as “a bit special”, is to comprehend a little of the reverence in which the toughest of cycling’s five one-day monuments is held among (most of) the cycling community.

“Some riders get really hooked on it,” the 43-year-old Australian tells The Draft. “It’s the one race of the year they live for. It’s a bit special, it’s a bit out there but I fell in love with the it.”

The same can’t be said for all who’ve attempted Roubaix. Even though the Frenchman Bernard ‘the Badger’ Hinault, was in 1981 one of the few Grand Tour GC (general classification) riders to raise the famous mounted cobble trophy in the Roubaix velodrome, he only rode the race three times and later declared it “une connerie” – a bullshit race basically.

The Badger, like many others who have given Roubaix the swerve over the decades, turned his snout up at the random way 50+ kilometres of roughhewn, cobble stone farmer’s paths could cause punctures, mechanicals and crashes, not to mention a bodily jackhammering from hell.

Not Hayman, who even in Roubaix pavé royalty terms, is a bit special, sharing the record of 16 completed ‘Roubaixs’ (pl. Roubeaux?😬) with the Belgian Raymond Impanis (1947-1963) and Dutchman Servais Knaven (1995-2010).

“I liked it,” the Belgium-based Bike Exchange sporting director says by phone as he prepared to recon some of the pavé sections of this year’s 258k jaunt north to the Belgian border with his 7-man team this week. “But then I tended to be better at it than most.”

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Neobanks: What next for the new challengers to African legacy banking?

 

Africa-focused neobanks are riding the wave of online banking’s growing global influence and are attracting big investment, creating another challenger beyond mobile money for legacy banks. But can they be any more successful in serving the unbanked than traditional counterparts?

Two of the biggest African neobanks are taking big strides: Kuda in Nigeria and TymeBank in South Africa.

South Africa founded TymeBank, which recently moved its headquarters to Singapore, in February won $109 million in funding from British and Philippine investors, including Apis Partners and the Gokongwei Group. In August, Kuda received $55m in a third funding round that valued the neobank at $500m – making it the 7th biggest among all Nigerian banks.
Africa’s fintech funding frontrunners Other payments and loan-focused fintechs attracting investment are: Nigerian payments operation OPay ($170m);Ugandan firm Chipper Cash ($152m); Cellulant (payments, Kenya, $54m); PalmPay (payments, Nigeria, $40m), Migo (loans, Nigeria, $37m); Paga (payments, Nigeria, $32m); OneFi (loans, Nigeria, $16m) and Paystack (payments, Nigeria, $12m). Between them, the Nigerian-dominated top-10 have raised almost $750m in 36 unique funding rounds. Source: Digest Africa

The intersection of high mobile phone penetration and mass numbers of unbanked or underbanked Africans are key drivers to neobank and fintech customer growth.

But Africa still lags other continents in neobanking exposure – less than 20 of the world’s 300+ neobanks are African-focused.

“The top funding guys in Africa are still behind some of the numbers you’re seeing in Europe, in Asia, in South America,” said Barcelona-based Exton Consulting analyst Lance Daniels, who co-authored a recent report on global neobanking movements.

African neobanks, he said, are attracting many first-time banking clients compared to Europe where the focus is converting customers to digital-only. “It’s still ramping up in Africa whereas a lot of other markets are reaching neobank saturation,” he added.

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Personalized sports nutrition gets its game on

Pic: Loewi
With the global sports nutrition market worth something in the vicinity of €15 billion and personalized nutrition around €2-3bn, according to market analysts – the cross-over of personalized sports nutrition in 2021 is relatively niche.

Philipp Merk, co-founder and managing director at German personalized nutrition firm Loewi, says sports nutrition accounts for the biggest slice of his firm’s business – about 40% (immunity being the next biggest chunk).

Loewi was founded in early 2019 as a spin-off from a Technical University of Munich, Olympic athlete-focused personalized nutrition project. Its model feeds blood sample biomarker data and questionnaire responses through algorithms to make its mostly food supplement (but also food recommendations) that typically cost users about €75 a month.

“We have basically combined this super-laborious method with my background in data science and artificial intelligence to make it scalable,” Merk says. “So we have a blood test you do at home independent of a doctor and a database of over 15,000 medical studies.”

“We have thousands of interactions between nutrients, diseases, medications, allergies – really everything that is known – and this is also how we can make sure we are never harming any of our customers.”

Merk says Loewi’s ever-growing data set was driving evermore refined recommendations.

“We have algorithms calculating the individual dose for each nutrient and with each blood test that we conduct we use machine learning to build a mathematical model of their metabolism. We basically have a curve where we know which dosage we need to achieve which blood value. The cool thing is with each customer that comes through the system our model gets better and better. It’s like self-improving machinery.”

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Supplement Buying Habits in the UK, Germany & the US

 

The ITC 2020 Global Supplement Buying Habits Reports take a deep dive into supplement users in the US, UK and Germany (2,000 respondents). The 28-page detailed report covers:
  • Supplement consumer demographics
  • What supplements they’re buying and using
  • Familiarity
  • Country comparisons
  • Shopping habits – what and where they buy and purchase enhancers and detractors
  • Data on the influence of trust, transparency and sustainability on purchase habits
  • To see a preview, please click here to download the Table of Contents and Executive Summary.
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Sports nutrition gains promise to level up endurance performance

Deep inside Maurten’s hydrogel
Sports nutrition firms and researchers are continually tweaking formulations to solve the perennial paradox of endurance sports: the fact the human gut can struggle to process the sugar load required to fuel efforts over multiple hours.

Gastro distresses bound across the endurance sports spectrum for this reason.

The likes of alginate hydrogels and shifts from the somewhat standardised 2:1 glucose to fructose ‘dual fuel’ ratio attempt to address the issue.

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‘Start with the dream and build backwards’: Beauty must tackle sustainability challenges post-COVID

Image by David Christensen from Pixabay
COVID and climate crisis-shaken consumers demand more from beauty, experts believe there remain hurdles in packaging, brand communication and supply chain logistics before industry reaches the zero-waste dream.

But ratcheted-up recycling, reuse and circular systems, joined-up communications and materials innovation (wood anyone?) are offering plenty of hope.

“Wood is natural by definition. It’s refillable,”​ said Pierre-Antoine Henry, head of categories at Spanish beauty packaging specialist Quadpack, at last month’s WeCosmoprof International’s Sustainability, For Now and Next​ CosmoTalks webinar​ elegantly moderated by CosmeticsDesign-Europe editor, Kacey Culliney.

“Of course, if you refill, it means you can go for packaging that you bring more time, love and durable materials to because you are keeping the initial pack. So, it could open up a lot of creativity because you can invest a bit more money in the initial packaging,” ​Henry said during the expert panel debate.

Reusable packaging, he said, offered the golden path to waste reduction.

“The more you reuse, you have the impact on the environment of a single-use. This, for me, is the dream. Start from the dream and work backwards.”

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