Revolutionising the way people pay and get paid in Zambia

Mangwee mobile money booth

Mangwee is a fintech company based in Zambia. They offer a safe and secure electronic wallet service, available in many parts of Zambia through a network of outlets and agents. They enable users to store, send and receive money using their computers, mobile phones or Mangwee kiosks, anytime and anywhere.

Establishing the idea

Bwalya, co-founder of Mangwee, has been in the IT industry for over 10 years, starting out fixing PCs and designing basic websites for companies in his hometown, Lusaka. Before long, he was managing the IT infrastructure and equipment for a number of NGOs and government ministries in Zambia. He later founded an online marketplace which he grew to over 3500 users. The website was regularly hacked and Bwalya and his team were sadly unable to continue with the business – something he now views as a valuable learning experience.

Their next project grew organically. In 2016, with eBay out of their crosshairs, Bwalya and two friends, Aston and Inonge, were discussing opportunities for disruption in the Zambian banking sector. They explored setting up a bank but were somewhat put off, or perhaps priced out, by the ZMK 104million (over USD $9million) capital required to get off the starting blocks. Instead, they began planning a digital wallet for merchant and peer-to-peer payments that they would call Mangwee.

Taking the plunge

Building on their experience, the initial product was completed with relative ease. However, sleepless nights were spent worrying about the financial and legal documentation required by the Central Bank. The application process should have taken three months but dragged on for twelve. Totally out of their comfort zone they managed to get the required documentation together. Completing the necessary documentation to become compliant marked a major step forwards for Mangwee, but also was another steep learning curve for the team.

"No matter how brilliant your idea is, if you’re not correctly networked and linked, it’s difficult to make it big. These are things they have brought to us." ~ Bwalya

Building their network

‘It’s hard to find start-ups that are really making an impact in the southern part of Africa’, Bwalya says – many people are struggling to feed themselves and their families, let alone thinking about how they could start and scale a business.

Bwalya, Aston and Inonge felt they were at a critical point of growth in the business and would benefit from participating in The Baobab Network’s accelerator. With a vision to scale into a national player, Mangwee connected with expertise from across the globe and were able to develop a robust strategy to move forward.

It was in September 2017 that three consultants visited Mangwee for two weeks on one of The Baobab Network’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence programmes. The team firstly focused on the financials of Mangwee, building complex financial models which have since been iterated and honed using real-world numbers. They also investigated and modelled peer-to-peer transactions as an additional revenue stream.

Prior to the EIR programme, Bwalya, Aston and Inonge were slightly concerned that they might struggle to find common ground with such senior business people from global powerhouses like PwC. Bwalya said ‘These guys have so much experience, so much exposure, and we compared ourselves to them. We worried about a knowledge gap.’ For a team used to dealing with small Zambian businesses and individuals, to suddenly be thrown into business with people right at the top of the global game is a scary prospect. However, the fears proved to be unfounded when, after a number of one-to-one interviews, the parties got to know one another and built rapport; the founders’ scepticism dissipated, and a strong and lasting relationship formed.

How's Mangwee doing now?

Today, Mangwee are found in all ten provinces in Zambia. Soon after launch they were experiencing rapid user growth, processing hundreds of transactions each month. They’re currently running a US$75,000 equity fundraising round to build out their technology, expand their operational network and drive user and partner growth.

Mangwee’s lean cost structure has meant they are able to offer the most competitive pricing on the market. Agents and strategic partners have also been attracted by the security and interoperability of the Mangwee platform, allowing for integration with other software and customised analytics and reporting.

And what does the future hold?

Growth and expansion plans for the next five years are bold, and Bwalya’s tenacity and ambition are palpable. They want to increase the number of booths and kiosks to 1000, processing around 5000 transactions per day – figures that would mark real change to the way Zambians use money. They are also working on partnerships with NGOs as well as introducing payments and remittances to Ghana and South Africa, both of which will considerably accelerate growth.

"We see Mangwee as a leader in the drive for financial Inclusion for the unbanked and underbanked across Africa. Our vision of creating a secure, easy-to-use, affordable mobile money platform, on which an ecosystem of complimentary apps and services can be built is quickly being realised." ~ Bwalya