Model Partnerships – Catalysing Africa’s Digital Transformation By Backing Start-up Growth

Standard Bank is committed to growing entrepreneurship across Africa to drive Africa’s growth.

The bank also intends to move beyond merely serving financial services and transform into a platform business by investing in innovations and partnering with others, including start-ups.

Traditionally, corporations and start-ups haven’t always seen eye to eye because of different mindsets.

Start-ups, unlike Corporate, are associated with nimble capabilities equipped to explore opportunity spaces in short bursts of iterative sprints until a repeatable model is found. Corporates, on the other hand, are accustomed to familiar repeatable business models.

But now, there is a need to cultivate mutually enriching relationships through intelligent external partnerships.

For instance, Start-ups can ride on the established business experience of Standard Bank’s expansive footprint across 20 African countries for expansion advice and pilots.

Standard Bank is an asset to start-ups for its skills, funding capabilities and distribution to start-ups, depending on their immediate needs while nurturing an open line of communication for future partnerships.

“The stringent regulations that govern many sectors can trip up a start-up before it even gets off the starting block, ” says David Hodnett, Interim Head of Business and Commercial Banking at Standard Bank.

“Working with a large financial institution that has experience in complying with regulation is of great assistance for a new business.”

Meanwhile, Standard Bank benefits by working with these start-ups, exploring new ways to service its clients as it transforms into a fully automated, platform-based business as part of its future-ready strategy.

“Founders of start-ups are on the ground with in-depth first-hand knowledge of their customers; they are nimbler and robust in fast-tracking product development and execution. They can also quickly pivot off findings based on changes in the markets in which they operate.” Hodnett continues.

Partnering with Start-ups is advantageous for large corporations like Standard Bank. It aligns with its goals of growing entrepreneurship to stimulate Africa’s growth, expanding into a platform business and serving broader ecosystems and, therefore, accessing new profit streams.

In 2018, Standard Bank entered a strategic investment partnership with Founders Factory Africa, a venture development company that designs, builds and scales tech-enabled businesses across Africa.

Three years later, 67% of Founders Factory Africa portfolio businesses have benefited from Standard Bank’s competitive advantage, demonstrating the significant commercial potential of strategic partnership.

In that time, Standard Bank has worked with several of the Founders Factory Africa’s portfolio businesses to develop products or extend their offers to its clients, access to exclusive networks and commercial trial deployment opportunities to accelerate start-up growth to scale trajectories.

Some of Founders Factory Africa’s start-ups that Standard Bank has worked with more recently include:

  • Powered By People (PBP),  a business-to-business digital wholesale platform that connects over 150 artisan producers in 46 emerging markets with buyers. PBP’s platform equips producers with digital tools and purchase order financing to increase their market access and scalability.

It has established a diverse, ethical supply chain that empowers artisan producers across Africa, as well as parts of Asia and South America.

The company has also contributed to the creation of more than 20,000 direct and indirect jobs through its producers, the majority of whom are women, impacting over 40,000 livelihoods, including rural and historically excluded communities.

PBP has deployed more than $1 million in purchase-order financing to these makers which in turn has been instrumental in supporting the growth of independent makers that otherwise would have struggled to get financing, or meet orders, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PBP also contributes to the global sustainability movement by enabling global buyers to seamlessly source sustainable and ethically produced goods. It enables buyers to validate sustainability and authenticate product provenance storytelling via transparent supply chain, built-in analytics, and impact measurement, while increasing transaction security and ease for ethical sourcing.

  • Asaak,  a FinTech platform that provides affordable asset financing to African gig economy workers. Asaak’s primary customer is ride hailing app drivers operating motorcycle taxis (known locally as boda bodas). Despite having steady work, most boda drivers cannot access capital to purchase a motorcycle or to pay for their everyday expenses. This group represents the fastest growing demographic in Africa today with a $50bn unmet need for capital.

The traditional requirements for getting boda financing is complex and structurally exclude most drivers from asset ownership. As a result, the majority of boda boda drivers lease old and under-maintained vehicles from existing operators at rental terms that do not drive sustainable wealth creation.

Asaak has transformed the mobility industry by providing asset financing to this group. They have directly disbursed more than $4 million across 2,700 loans, providing boda drivers access to affordable financing and an opportunity to build up their credit rating to access other financial services. Through partnerships with Jumia, SafeBoda, Bolt and Uber, Asaak has been able to offer job opportunities and access to wider financial services to thousands more young people in East Africa.

These drivers are typically aged 20-40, grew up in rural areas and moved to a big city to find work. Many of them dropped out of school early and have limited literacy and boda driving is one of their limited employment opportunities. By providing access to affordable asset financing, Asaak has enabled many of these drivers to increase their income generating capacity and finance additional entrepreneurial ventures that have contributed to local wealth creation. The team estimates that for every loan disbursed, 4-5 livelihoods are improved, representing almost 13,500 livelihoods impacted to date.

  • Tripplo,  a logistics software platform built to automate and optimise operations for transporters in Africa, by managing the end-to-end movement of cargo across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

In recognition of its innovative solution, Tripplo was named South Africa’s ‘Most Innovative Company’ for 2021 by Fast Company Magazine.

They were also selected as one of four African start-ups to join the 2021 AB Inbev Beer Garage Accelerator.

Tripplo’s Partnership with Standard Bank involved:

•       Goods in Transit Insurance – Cargo delivered via the Tripplo platform is covered and brings peace of mind to cargo owners.

•       Forex and Instant Money APIs – Integration with Standard Bank’s API provides Tripplo’s transporters access to Forex at the best rates and easy access to funds across SADC.

•       Telematics Partnerships – Cargo owners can efficiently track the transit progress of their cargo in real-time to ensure efficient delivery and reduce risks.

•       Working Capital – Piloting a working capital product that will allow Tripplo’s transporters to get paid on delivery instead of in 90 days.

•       Distribution and white labelling of software for enterprise clients to increase transparency and efficiency in the road freight industry.

Intra-African trade remains low compared to global counterparts, due to poor transport infrastructure and considerable time and costs in moving goods across borders. The transportation and logistics industry, is however, essential in fuelling growth in multiple adjacent industries, including supply chain and distribution networks, ultimately bolstering job creation.

Tripplo reduces transit risk, increases efficiency and provides enhanced visibility of cargo while in transit, encouraging growth in the local logistics industry and spurring regional trade.

This start-up has transformed operations and provides a new standard for African road freight logistics by creating a digital logistics platform that facilitates safe and efficient movement of road freight cargo.

Tripplo has significantly reduced transit cost for businesses across the SADC region, and unnecessary loss, damage and delay for mid-large companies including large FMCG corporations – increasing ease of doing business in SADC.

  • OkHi is a smart addressing system on a mission to enable the 4 billion people without a physical address to be included. Their digital address verification product makes it easy for businesses to verify their customer’s address through their smartphone, replacing manual processes like utility bills and in-person visits.

An address is a human right.  It’s a pillar of identity and is critical for everyday life. Around the world, 4 billion people lack physical addresses, preventing them from accessing critical services such as banking and healthcare, undermining their inclusion in society and quality of life.

If individuals are unable to prove where they live, they are unable to open a bank account, get a loan, get insurance and in some cases, secure employment. Most concerning is that without an address, emergency services would struggle to respond to often life-threatening situations on time.

Standard Bank and OkHi launched two pilots in Nigeria and Zambia (with the Nigerian pilot recently concluding) to prove the solution could support the bank’s digital transformation strategy, particularly in the KYC space. This pilot helped OkHi validate that their verification solutions positively impact elements of the KYC process versus the current process.

Comparing OkHi to Standard Bank’s business as usual approach, OkHi was able to:

  • Increase the accuracy of addressing verification by 29%
  • Increase the speed of address verification by 4x
  • Reduce the cost of address verification required to verify an address by up to 52%
  • Improve the accuracy of addresses by 29%
  • Verify addresses 4x faster than the current process

“Standard Bank remains committed to its strategic partnership to ultimately build an ecosystem of African ventures that drive investment and growth,” Hodnett concludes.

Founders Factory Africa and Standard Bank are modelling what is possible when prominent corporates commit to deploying early-stage investment and channelling venture growth resources into partnerships dedicated to backing promising African start-up plays.

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