London — There have been few local challengers to the global big tech social platforms. Aiming to become a super app, Moya has made significant progress in South Africa along this road. Russell Southwood talked to Datafree CEO Gour Lentell about what’s cooking.
There are three parts to Datafree’s business, two main parts – the overall Moya platform and the newly added payments service MoyaPayD – and a “sub-part”, the sale of its reverse billing software as a B2B SaaS service.
The biggest part of the proposition for the platform is in the name: users don’t have to pay for data and it offers features that Lentell has consciously modeled on other super-app platforms like WeChat. These features include: Discover, its data free content; unlimited texts and voice calling; the payment service and group chat.
When we last spoke almost exactly two years ago, there 800,000 active users in South Africa who used the app at least once a month. Of these, 500,000 were daily active users. Currently there approaching 5 million active users in South Africa, of which 2 million make daily use of the platform.
The most popular content on Discover, which gets around 2 million daily users, is football scores, live updates and news. The most popular cluster of news services from Arena Holdings (which includes the Sunday Times, Business Day and the Financial Mail) gets 800,00 daily users, although most others get around 0.5 million. Weather updates get 700,000 users.
Although MoyaPayD was launched only two and half weeks ago, there were 535,000 people who pre-registered before the launch. It has taken a little time for users to understand how it works and to see it as trustworthy.
“We’ve had a marketing programme in Soweto to seed it into hubs of use. We’re marketing it to what we see as the main potential users: small businesses; tradespeople and enterprises… the challenge for people is getting paid while doing ‘the daily hustle’. Payment is the friction part.” He points to the high cost of banking in South Africa that means many low-income customers minimize their use of services and transactions.
It will shortly be adding a web API that will allow merchants to take payments for a standard merchant fee of 1%. It is also offering Moya Team Paid so that companies can pay their staff:”The security business in South Africa employs around 20-30,000 people. You can make payments to a group of employees for R1.25.” It also overcomes the difficulty that non-South African workers are not able to get a bank account because they lack a South African ID.
On making payments, users can send small amounts for as little as R0.1 cent. They can also get a prepaid Mastercard tied to any card that has no cost for transactions:”We want to be the largest mobile money platform in South Africa. The market is wide open. No-one’s cracked it.”
So what’s his target for success?:”The benchmark is WhatsApp’s 25 million active users in South Africa. By the end of 2023, we’d like to have 15-20 million active users.”
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