Monday, March 19, 2012

Making a difference behind a screen

Hello everyone,

So I think I will just get the formalities out of the way before I jump into this.

My name is Jade September, I am not the newest addition to the accounting team. However, my start with Mobile Transactions is a fairly recent one. The newest addition would be Ragmat Davids, although I am sure many of you would have seen our names pop up in your email inbox's often enough to get annoyed at the pair of us and to realise that we are the newest employees at the Cape Town offices.

It would seem my experience thus far matters, which is awesome. That being said, one conversation flowed into another and it was decided that I should write a blog post.

Since by nature, I am an honest person, I will say that I hate finance. I just happen to be good at it. Weird isn’t it? However, when I heard word of an employment opportunity here, I thought “Why not? It is not where I would like to be but it is a change” and was it ever.

My first week here must have been one of the most stressful experiences I have ever had, but I can honestly say that I have come to love the company and the things they are involved in. I am living the brand, so to speak.

The vision of this company is so inspiring, that when my family and friends ask me where I work now, they need to prepare for a very lengthy explanation ranging from what I do, to my place in the bigger scheme of things. I love the fact that I can come to work and actually feel like I am making a difference in the world. One reads the blog posts and watches the Kiva videos and everything suddenly comes together very nicely. You realise that even though it might not seem that way, you are helping people and improving their standard of living. Isn't that in itself something to be largely content with?

Okay I can feel myself running away with this, so onto the next topic. The People.

I love the people I work with. In Cape Town, we have the accounting department and the I.T department. Two separate departments, one vision.

I don’t feel like I am in an accounting box and that’s it. I don’t feel any divide between the two departments, everyone is treated the same and all issues and queries affect us all. Everyone is extremely willing to help where they can and it’s awesome.

We have Lelemba, the resident Chartered Accountant and Queen Diva. I still can’t get over how down to earth and friendly this woman is. It’s a joy to be working alongside her and I intend to take in as much as I can.

Then we have Leshain, The internal auditor and fellow Diva extradonaire. One of the most helpful and friendly women I have ever met. It’s like she comes with her own sun. She is just warm and positive all the time. I don’t think I have ever seen her upset, even when the newbies mess up.

Amid all the females, we have Charlton. I think the guys in Zambia should start keeping Charlton company during the day because the dude is really starting to feel the lack of testosterone now gents, he can only be around the I.T dudes for so long before he has to come back over to accounts and feel that overwhelming surge of power infused oestrogen all around him.

Then there’s Marissa, my fellow vivacious Diva and friend. Working with her is an absolute joy. I am extremely proud of her and in awe of how much she, alongside Leshain, accomplishes on a daily basis and I am sure many of the people in the Zambian office can vouch for that.

Then we have Ragmat, the newest employee in Cape Town. So far, I have enjoyed working with her. We talk, we joke, we laugh and we work. What more could I ask for from the girl who sits next to me?
We also have Keith, our Chief Finance Officer. Another person who amazes me with how down to earth and helpful he is. I am not afraid to strike up a conversation with him or to joke with him because that is just the type of person he is. There is a time for work and all the time in between is to joke with everyone here, especially Brett. Just listening to Keith and Brett on a daily basis has to put a smile on your dial.

In my head, generally I.T people are stuck up and snobbish and unwilling to assist with anything. Was I in for culture shock when I got to Mobile Transactions. Never in my entire 23 years of existence have I come across Nerds (don’t even deny it guys) who laugh so much and are capable of talking so much smack!! They make the day fly by and I can never understand how Brett is able to get them to be serious! Though, one tends to understand when they listen to Brett where it all comes from. Yet The system keeps evolving.

Hopefully this little post gives everyone some insight as to what goes through my head on a daily basis.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Making a Difference in Microfinance

It is often said that if more women are empowered with financial assistance in the poorest and remotest areas of the world it would have a huge significance in the uplifting of living conditions for women, men and children alike.

Mobile Transactions is working with Vision Fund Zambia, commonly known as “Harmos”, a wholly owned subsidiary of World Vision International. Vision Fund has a Mission to economically empower the poor to improve their livelihood and become productive members and advocates for positive change in the society, through sustainable microfinance services such as business loans, agriculture loans, bicycle loans and youth loans.

My name is Brenner Nkunta; I am currently as the acting Vision Fund Account Manager (our regular manager is on maternity leave – congratulations!!!). I am the link between the Vision Fund head office in Lusaka, the Mobile Transactions Zambia (MTZ) Champion Agents around Zambia and MTZ Accounts Department in Cape Town.

Vision Fund gives empowerment loans in 15 districts of Zambia with 80% of the loans targeted to women. To be eligible for a loan, one has to be running a business. Most loan recipients have small grocery shops commonly known as “Tuntembas” while others have small scale farming holdings. To identify the loan recipients, Vision Fund field officers physically inspect the settlements of the target clients and make suitable recommendations.

Vision Fund makes use of the MTZ Agent Network, which is spread across Zambia deliver loans to the recipients. Once Vision Fund identifies loan beneficiaries, the details are entered into the MTZ microfinance payments system. Upon approval, the loan recipient receives an SMS to go and collect money at the MTZ agent’s shop near them. In a month Vision Fund approves over 1,000 loans worth around $400,000, which are then disbursed through the MTZ system. Loan recipients are also able to repay their loans through the same MTZ agents.

My job as Account Manager is to ensure that a loan recipient, once approved, will be able to receive their cash at their local MTZ agent. I communicate closely with the Vision Fund team, the MTZ accounts team, and monitor the MTZ system to ensure that agents will have the necessary liquidity to make the pay-outs. The feedback we hear from the loan recipients is that they appreciate that the agents are close to where they live and the pay-outs are faster than the previous manual system that was employed by Vision Fund.

One of the most noticeable success stories is that of the MTZ Champion agent in Maamba located in the Southern Province of Zambia. The agent was set up to meet the needs of the Vision Fund loan clients in the area. The agent caters to loan clients that come from as far as 20Km away from the agent location in Maamba town.

A few of the key challenges faced by Vision Fund include the low level of literacy of their clients and the distance they must travel to reach the pay-out/pay-in locations. We’re working closely with Vision Fund to ensure that their loan officers are able to educate their clients about their role and how the system works. We are also working to expand the agent network to reach out to new areas, previously never served by any financial services. Our agent in Maamba, a rural community to Southern Zambia, was set up primarily to service these loan recipients and offer our other money transfer services. Before this agent, loan recipients would have to travel around 90km to access their loans.

MTZ Champion Agents operate as independent entrepreneurs. Mobile Transactions is working in partnership with Kiva to provide additional working capital to these entrepreneurs to better serve loan recipients and others across Zambia. To check out the profile of some of these entrepreneurs, check out the Kiva website:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Omidyar Network and ACCION Invest US $3.2 Million in Mobile Transactions International

FEBRUARY 29, 2012, Redwood City, CA and Boston, MA—Omidyar Network and ACCION International announced today that they have invested US $3.2 million in Mobile Transactions International, a Zambia-based company that leverages mobile technology and an agent network to enable financial transactions across the Zambian economy. The $4 million investment round also includes $500,000 in converted debt funding from Mennonite Economic Development Associates.

With a proprietary technology platform and countrywide agent network, Mobile Transactions makes transacting easy, quick and safe by replacing cash with electronic currency. The investment from Omidyar Network and ACCION, the first venture capital deal in a Zambian start-up technology company, will enable Mobile Transactions to develop its leadership team, agent network, and technology platform to provide financial access to underserved organizations and base-of-the-pyramid consumers in Zambia and in new markets.

“Omidyar Network believes that Mobile Transactions demonstrates the potential of a ‘cashless Africa’ to transform the way people and organizations transact in emerging markets,” said Arjuna Costa, Director of Investments at Omidyar Network. “We are proud to support entrepreneurs who have demonstrated a tireless commitment to building a model and products from the ground up that can scale across borders and have a pan-African footprint.

As part of the transaction, both Costa and Monica Brand, fund manager for ACCION’s Frontier Investments Group, will join Mobile Transactions’ Board of Directors.

Frontier Investments, an early stage equity fund that invests in breakthrough models that can radically enhance financial service delivery to the unbanked, has supported Mobile Transactions prior to this investment with bridge financing as well as strategic support in market expansion. Frontier Investments acts as a hands-on equity partner, leveraging its specialized domain expertise and ACCION's five decades of experience in emerging markets.

“We are thrilled to have the support of Omidyar Network and ACCION, investors that bring deep expertise in technology and mobile platforms, financial inclusion, and scaling companies in emerging markets,” said Mike Quinn, CEO of Mobile Transactions. “Omidyar Network and ACCION share a commitment to our mission and are ideal partners to help us reach our goal to become a pan-African mobile payments business.”

Monica Brand of Frontier Investments said, "Mobile Transactions combines state of the art payment technology with an entrepreneurial agent network tailored to the local market. From the cotton farmer in rural regions to the small shop in Zambia's urban centers, Mobile Transactions is expanding financial inclusion and integrating the unbanked into the broader economy."

About Omidyar Network

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $490 million to for-profit companies and non-profit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple investment areas, including microfinance, property rights, consumer internet, mobile and government transparency. To learn more, visit

ACCION is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of building a financially inclusive world by giving people the financial tools they need to improve their lives. A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded as a community development organization in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil. Over time, ACCION has helped to build 62 microfinance institutions in 31 countries on four continents. Those institutions are currently reaching millions of clients. In the United States, the U.S. ACCION Network is the largest microfinance lending network in the country and has served tens of thousands of clients, with over $300 million in loans. For more information, visit

About Mobile Transactions International

Mobile Transactions is helping to create a Cashless Africa, where organizations from all sectors can transact electronically with unbanked and unconnected end-users. Backed by a proprietary technology and innovative agent network on the ground, Mobile Transactions makes transacting in Africa easy, quick, and safe. The company’s core products include Money Transfers, Electronic Voucher Payments, and Agent Payments for consumers, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, and commercial enterprises. For more information, visit

Thursday, March 1, 2012

e-Vouchers: Better Cash Transfers and Humanitarian Assistance

The Cash Learning Partnership has featured Mobile Transactions in one of it's case studies in its recent publication, New Technologies in Cash Transfer Programming and Humanitarian Assistance. The Mobile Transactions e-Voucher platform was used in the World Food Program (WFP) SPLASH program to distribute over 275,000 electronic voucher scratch cards to vulnerable houses in Zambia. These e-Vouchers were redeemed at local retailers (triggering an instantaneous payment to the retailer's mobile money account) for a basket of food and other commodities. We're proud of our involvement in the program and being featured in the report. Have a read!