The World Bank called Africa’s financial services inadequate and inaccessible because there is no strong banking infrastructure and a large portion of the population has no access to computers, smartphones or the internet.
For this reason, the mobile payments industry in Africa is booming.
However, mobile solutions still need to be able to work with the unreliable networks, poor internet connections, and screen-illiterate users that characterise most of Africa.
Keeping these key points in mind, South African start up, Nomanini, aims to replace physical airtime scratch cards with mobile point-of-sale (POS) terminals in Africa.
CEO and founder Vahid Monadjem has been quoted as saying the mobile revolution in Africa most likely would not have happened without the airtime scratch card.
However there is room for improvement on this method since scratch cards include complex manufacturing procedures, like the application of scratch-off wax. These procedures, together with transport considerations, result in heavy costs.
Nomanini’s portable airtime vending machine works wirelessly. Users simply have to press the required type and amount of airtime and then press the enter button to send the transaction through.
The airtime voucher number is delivered to the terminal after interaction with the simple interface and is printed instantly on standard thermal receipt paper.
Called the ‘Lula’, the orange box also supplies prepaid vouchers for electricity, water, and insurance.
People can buy one of these boxes and set up a mini-business to supplement their incomes. In December 2012, 40 000 people purchased airtime through the Lula.
Nomanini says its Lula terminal is designed for informal market users, is fully mobile and can even be worn around the neck. Owners of the boxes can sell the vouchers anywhere, from their homes to minibus taxis, or simply on the street. This means the terminals can be used to provide airtime to those living in rural areas with no easy access to stores.
They then deposit their earnings into a Nomanini account to reload the terminal and earn a commission on all of their sales. The terminal costs about $200.
- No Internet access or bank account required
- Simple interface
- Instant transaction
- Reduced manufacturing and transport costs
- Opportunity for informal entrepreneurs
- Fully mobile so can serve rural communities