There’s #Fintech in #Africa #Rwanda?

Many of us here on LinkedIn are so consumed by our #firstworldproblems (e.g. spotty wifi) that we forget that 750 million people live on less than $2 a day.

YOU should CARE about this if you are from wealth or asset management.

There is a vital flow of immigrants sending money back to their original homes to help families pay the bills, that in turn helps fuel our world economy, people’s education and ability to live. But people lose more than half their hard-earned money when remitting funds to Africa.

Today I am talking with Louis-Antoine Muhire (@muhirela), Founder of MERGIMS (www.mergims.com), a startup I met at the recent Finals of Kickstart Accelerator Zürich. MERGIMS is busy solving what started as a personal problem but became a community problem. 💥 🚀

How can we pay basic services for migrants and refugees and control the process?

Q: What are the problems with transferring money to Africa?

From inefficiency, bureaucracy, banking fees to outright robbery, poor people trying to do the right thing are faced with mountains of challenges to put their money to work. The first problem is really ugly – people lose up to half their money on:

  • The government, which taxes people’s remittances
  • The money-senders, who charge 10% or more fees
  • The intermediaries, who employ unfavourable conversion rates
  • The robbers, who typically lie waiting near the local cash-remittance shops

But there is a secondary, more fundamental problem. People often mis-use the moneyfor other things than it was intended for. A recipient might typically pay their overdue phone bill or rent first, before their education bill which was the primary reason for transfer. All this cries for a smarter, digital solution.

Everything is prepaid in Africa!

MERGIMS enables directly paying people’s telecommunications, education, grocery bills – things that MATTER locally. The goal is to have high impact and keep costs really low.

Q: Why should I care about this, coming from wealth management?

Impact funds are very in because wealthy people want to do good and invest in products that give back. Louis-Antoine is looking to partner with micro-finance or wealth managers who are ramping up their Impact offerings. There are tax advantages on both ends of the transaction being worked out, and the team already have 25,000 customers on the platform and seeking $500k seed funding to grow even faster. It takes the team 48 hours to onboard a vendor and they have four guys on the ground locally in the markets they are growing. Traction Time!!

Q: Can we see how this works?

Sure! We added in footage with a live demo from 20:45 so you can check it out!

Look, if it wasn’t for Banks we would all still be living without paved roads, internet and running water. So to me startups like MERGIMS really matter because they are using banking infrastructure to solve real-world problems and we all can help support that to grow.

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Next Big Thing, Solar Industrialization!

For a decade, mobile technology and its great effect on emerging markets’ economies were the main conversation for both investors, medias, scientists or you and me. But, this time, imagine for a moment what effect #SolarCity #ElonMusk’s Solar Roofs will cause in industrialization of emerging markets, where the sun has never been a problem!

Enjoy the video:

Posted by:
Muhire Louis-Antoine (Founder and CEO of Markets Merger Ltd)
Serial entrepreneur in Internet related business.

The world is getting smaller, and faster!

mergims’ mission is to shorten the distance between African migrants and their relatives in Africa!

How is that even possible?

Mutual assistance between #migrants, their relatives and friends back home is not fiction. Migrants leave their loved ones to look for better opportunities, mostly in the western world, so they can then give back and improve upon their relatives’ situation back home. Others are being forced out by instabilities in their countries and seek #refuge in a more stable environment. slovenska_vojska_tudi_med_vikendom_v_velikem_stevilu_pri_podpori_policiji_01_b

Nevertheless, no matter the causes of their migration, the #WorldBank numbers are indicating a steady growth of 6% for the last decade of #remittances, and we are looking for a trillion USD by 2020! At mergims, we are adding value to this growth for a positive and sustainable impact for the beneficiaries.

Remittances #money is for ‘extinguishing immediate fires’, such as overdue tuition fees, utility bills, hospitalization of relatives or repairing collapsing houses; mergims is slowly yet surely establishing itself as a reliable direct link from migrants to merchants in Africa.

Today, from anywhere in the world, you can instantly pay electricity, tuition fees or even telecommunications bills for your relatives in Rwanda, with no fees! Yes…no fees! mergims have listened to our community and we have now removed the 5% user fee.

In the near future you will even be able to pay travel tickets, health, life and car insurance plans for your relatives in Rwanda and in two other African countries to be revealed soon! Slowly but surely mergims is making your feeling of abandon go away when your sons and daughters leave for America or Europe. I myself experienced this when I landed in Canada as refugee, far away of my parents left behind in Africa.

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#mergims has temporarily relocated to Switzerland to be part of Kickstart Accelerator, the largest multi-corporate sponsored accelerator in Europe, supported by major Swiss corporations including Swiss Life, Credit Suisse, UBS, SwissCom and EY. Our focus in #Switzerland is to develop a prepaid card that will allow African migrants, microfinance institutions and NGOs to remotely control how their money is spent by beneficiaries in Africa! We called it “Programmable Money, Remittance 3.0”.

Have I mentioned an e-Loan scheme is on the mergims’ features list? Yes, from abroad, mergims will enable African migrants to be guarantors of their relatives for small instant loans in Africa! I told you, the world is already getting smaller!

Posted by:
Muhire Louis-Antoine (Founder and CEO of Markets Merger Ltd)
Serial entrepreneur in Internet related business.

Do not miss this African Party!

Remember those Mondays when you came to class and your school friends were still recalling, with joy, memories of the weekend road-trip you missed? Then how desperately you started asking when the next one will be?

I am talking about the African market as the last frontier for rapid economic growth! Yes, if you missed the Chinese boom, please don’t miss this one as it will be the last time you witness billions of people being lifted from poverty to prosperity in record time.

If you think China flew high in its remarkable economic growth of the 90s, just wait until you dig deeper into what is happening in #Africa right now. If you are looking for testimonies of leapfrogging, Africa is the place to go at and here is why…

zipline_droneAfricans went from a majority of unbanked population to the holy grail of mobile money! In other words, for the majority of Africans, their first banking experience was with money being transferred via a text message! Don’t ask them about credit and debit cards, but ask how this mobile money reality changed their way of living. Just when you thought it couldn’t get better #FinTech startups are now disbursing sophisticated financial products like insurance and small loans via text messages! How is it possible? Well, buy yourself a trip to #Kenya or #Rwanda and you will find out yourself.

‘Now to finish you..!’, as in the Mortal Combat 90s video game, since 2008 via remittances African migrants became the main financial source of investment in Africa, greater than foreign direct investments (FDIs) and Official developments aids (OFDs), combined! In fact, startups like WorldRemitmergims, Niokobok or Afrimarket, are actively and efficiently fuelling this momentum, each with their unique yet innovative schemes.

mergims is constantly developing electronic and online platforms that operate with a high level of efficiency and at a cheaper cost, connecting Rwandans living in the western world to relatives back home. Since mutual assistance is deeply engrained in African culture, mergims aims to shorten the feeling of separation between African migrants  and their relatives, no matter where they live in the world! Based on requests from our constantly growing customer pool and community, I can tell you, the real meaning of “leapfrogging” is yet to come! Indeed, mergims is secretly developing features that will only make you say ‘WOW! How this is even possible!’

arton1151Now, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Africa is definitely the last continent to develop the next ‘new world’. Zipline drones are already delivering medical services and products in Rwanda, there is an online medical consultancy in Cameroon, loans are approved by text message in Kenya within only a few hours, telephone calls can be made without a sim card in Namibia, and many more unprecedented innovations are being brought to market by Africans for Africans!

So, with a population of 1 billion and a large young workforce, international #PensionFunds, #VentureCapital-ists and major global banks like #JPMorgan heavily #investing in the next biggest economy, I ll advise you to not miss the boat, because things will go at “lightning” pace. So watch out!

This article maybe outdated in a night’s sleep.

Posted by:
Muhire Louis-Antoine (Founder and CEO of Markets Merger Ltd)
Serial entrepreneur in Internet related business.

Why I rather be sea Turtle than Unicorn!

It has been almost 2 years I jumped in the startup world, full time. Believe me, there are no Unicorns out there, but sea Turtles!

I am sure many startups leaders when asked to choose between that legendary horse and the slowest animal on earth, they go for the first one. Me, I go for the second one!

Why? Because running a startup has nothing to do with myths or legends. It is a very harsh world with no space for fairy tales.  Late Steve Job used to say that you have to be crazy to run a startup because it is so hard that a rational individual won’t survive.

So why turtle? When sea turtles hutch, only 5 out of 100 will make it through their first 8 hours out of the nest! Is that stat sounds familiar? Well, like the baby turtles, I did not know that when I got out of my nest, AKA comfortable Job in Montreal Police, for a very long, harsh yet exciting journey! The only thing I had and still hold on up to, is my determination to succeed!

When watching this video from #DiscoveryChannel on my rare quality time, I was amazed by the resemblance between what am experiencing as an early stage startup and their first hours of life out of the nest.

As they are facing barricades laying in their way, hungry birds storming them like Russian missiles or ambush from scorpions; so I had to face critics from relatives and friends when I left my job, early team members giving up on me and turning in enemies with sole mission of destroying the company, investors defaulting on their engagements and me running out of cash, and so many other killers that I can’t even remember all of them!

Surprisingly, like in that video, I am still convinced that I’ll make it to the sea as long as I have some vital signs such as the constantly growing number of customers and their value per transactions.

So, as am approaching my last mile and getting ready to raise my first series A, I stay focused and aware that the enemy forces are still there.

However, such reality is also reassuring because when #investors, #mentors or other #YCombinator ‘s preachers get dogmatic on mergims, I simply listen to their advises, apply practical ones, but remind myself, like in the case of turtles, no one knows really who will make it to the sea. Otherwise, we will have a #Tsunami of Unicorns! Meanwhile, #GuyKawasaki says: “It’s better to be lucky than smart!”

 

Posted by:
Muhire Louis-Antoine (Founder and CEO of Markets Merger Ltd)
Serial entrepreneur mostly in Internet related business.

Letter to Wall Street: Don’t worry about FinTechs!

I am old enough to have survived the arrival of some real disruptive technologies like cell phones and compact discs, just to name a few. And in all cases, some Gurus predicted the total isolation of previous technologies, but not of the content they were supporting and producers of that content!

I remember hot debates in university on how the #internet was to make students lazy and stupid because, with it, we were to stop sleeping in libraries! Or again, I remember arguing with a teacher in college who was banning the use of social media as valid source of information in researches!

In the first case, definitely, slowly but surely we stopped sleeping in the library at the end of semesters, but spent sleepless nights reading the same content online! In the second case, that same year we had the Arab spring in which #Facebook and #Twitter were the only source of information used to have dictators bombed while hiding in caves!

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So now I am at the forefront of the #FinTech #tsunami, I loudly laugh whenever I read some serious bloggers and media predicting the massive closing of traditional banks and other financial related industries like insurances and brokerage firms. All of them forget that, most of FinTechs, to not simply say all of them, are definitely disruptive financial technologies, but most likely, distribution channels of content from those institutions they are supposed to kill!

Let’s take the most feared #M-Pesa, that even became recently a matter of national security in Kenya because it is, according to #Forbes, channeling 40% of its GDP every year; yet you can’t name any Bank that closed because of M-Pesa? Certainly not even Barclay that just abandoned Africa, due to unknown strategy. Also, no single bank closed in North America because of ING!

So the apocalypse to be caused by FinTech it’s a myth. As I can predict that no bank will close because #mergims will have issued small loans whereby migrants are guarantors of relatives back home! No insurance company will close, because mergims will have distributed insurances on its mobile app! And lastly not the least, no banker will lose his or her job because mergims will have created few positions to support a technology that can certainly serve more people than all Banks combined in Rwanda! So, call yourself mergims, #Mpesa, #ING, #PayPal, …. You still need a bank to process your transactions.

For the MPesa case, it is more opening finance industry to Kenyans in the village than a threat, and mergims is simply complying to that financial inclusion movement, accelerated by FinTechs. Because, not just the Rwandan in the village needs easy access to banks, but also the Rwandan in the diaspora is looking for a convenient way to access to Rwandan Financial institutions. So bankers, don’t worry, you are safe as long as you are producing content so we can distribute it for you!

Posted by:
Muhire Louis-Antoine (Founder and CEO of Markets Merger Ltd)
Serial entrepreneur mostly in Internet related business.

#WEF2016, Africans believe in Africa!

From 11 to 13th of May 2016, Rwanda successfully hosted one of the most important meeting on earth, the World Economic Forum Africa #WEF AF16. I had the privilege to be part of both the preparation, the #WEF conferences, side events and God, it was exciting / exhausting!f23d853c035c31f396b86b8583a4120e

Exciting because I saw by my own eyes some of my role models such as #Elumelu or #AshishThakkar walking next to me. I got a chance to take a selfie with HE President Macky Sall and to showcase my startup to former prime minister of Britain Mr #TonyBlair!

Also, exciting because I am living the renaissance of my country Rwanda, which 22 years ago was totally destroyed by a Genocide against Tutsi. Who could have dreamed that 70 nations will meet in Kigali to discuss of the rise of Africa?

Then, exciting because it was great to hear from activist Winnie who believes in the inclusive African growth and the richest man of the continent Mr #Dangote proclaiming today as the day to invest in Africa. Without forgetting the Rwandan president, HE Paul #Kagame, stressing that we should not just produce things that we don’t consume and just consume things we don’t produce.

But, how about walking the talk with the ordinary African man/woman?

Except those few leaders that have accomplished remarkable things, ordinary people, do we really believe in Africa?

Personally, I took advantage of this #AF16 to reassess my everyday actions in regard of this loudly preached dream of prosperity in Africa. How hard am I ready to work so I can see this dream becoming reality? What amount of stress and burden am ready to bear so Africa can no longer be that continent from which its youth is running away by any means? Will I spend my last dollar on a crowdfunding campaign for a great project in Africa made by Africans for the sake of Africa or on a beer with friends in restaurant in Canada?

Because, as the old sayings state: “if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, look for partners”. “And the wise man believes in Actions not in words”.

How will I convince my fellow young professional African descendants in the West to spend their last 5$ empowering the ordinary people back in Africa, rather than inviting me in house parties where we will pop Champagne made in France, wearing suites made in China, talking on iPhone designed in USA, driving second hand cars made elsewhere, but Africa?

Finally, how will I convince that other youth not to fly to Dubai, just to become prostitutes?

Have I mentioned that, 70% of tools and equipment used to host this #WEF #AF16 were made outside Africa!

 

Posted by:
Muhire Louis-Antoine (Founder and CEO of Markets Merger Ltd)
Serial entrepreneur mostly in Internet related business.