Vodacom in deal with Alipay to build app to transform digital payments in South Africa

Vodacom Financial Services has announced a technology partnership with Alipay, the digital lifestyle services platform of the Alibaba Group, to bring inclusive mobile solutions to South African consumers and merchants through innovative digital technologies. Recognised as a ‘super-app’, Alipay is expected to make it easier for users to manage their entire life and business through their smartphones.

Here’s a scenario: imagine waking up to your favourite song, paying for your morning coffee, listening to a podcast on business management, sending money to your family, paying your utility bills, shopping online for everything from clothes, to groceries to electronics, checking on your business point of sales transactions and ordering new stock – all through the same, easy-to-use, super-app, from the convenience of your smartphone.

Vodacom Financial Services will work closely with Alipay to leverage their global learnings and develop a super-app that will not only offer stellar digital customer experience, but bring to life a market place of goods and services tailored to the South African customer needs underpinned by a progressive digital payments ecosystem designed to serve both the banked and unbanked parts of the population. Customers and merchants will all find each other on one affordable platform, operated by Vodacom Financial Services, with Alipay as the technology provider.

Commenting on the announcement, Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group CEO, says: “This partnership is a significant milestone in promoting greater financial inclusion within the communities in which we operate, accelerating our financial services aspirations across Africa. We already offer South African customers an ecosystem of innovative digital financial services products, but this technology partnership with Alipay will enable us to be on par with leading global digital counterparts quicker and more efficiently. We see this as an excellent opportunity for us to reinvent the mobile fintech ecosystem for both consumers and merchants in South Africa and we look forward to achieving this by working with Alipay.”

Alipay is, owned and operated by the Ant Group, a China-based global technology provider. As of June 30, 2019, Alipay had more than 1.2 billion users worldwide together with its global e-wallet partners. Guoming Cheng, Head of Global Payment Partnerships at Ant Group, says: “Alipay seeks to work with like-minded partners around the world, to bring innovative and inclusive digital daily life services to consumers and small businesses globally. Vodacom Financial Services’ aim is to better serve customers and merchants in South Africa through digital technology, and we look forward to working with them to achieve this.”

In just four years, Vodacom Financial Services has grown from a loss-making entity into a business that has more than 12 million customers using its products and contributes R1 billion in profit to the Vodacom Group. With access to 43 million active Vodacom customers, Vodacom Financial Services is looking to take bespoke digital financial services in the country to an unparalleled level.

Mariam Cassim, CEO of Vodacom Financial and Digital Services says: “Globally, we have seen an increase in the convergence of industries. Companies that invest in technology that enables them to understand their customer behaviour better and thereby offer personalised financial, business and lifestyle solutions to their customers are the ones excelling in this space. Through our partnership with Alipay, we look forward to applying world-leading digital technologies to facilitate merchant and consumer transactions from a digital wallet on their mobile device.”

For consumers, the platform will offer a user-friendly, end-to-end experience that will improve transaction efficiency and introduce easy-to-use money management tools.

Cassim adds: “Not only will consumers have the ability to easily and affordably transact, they can also keep track of their monthly spend with each merchant they transact with every day. With a significant number of large and small retailers in Vodacom’s partner and customer network, consumers will be spoilt for choice when it comes to making buying decisions that are right for them.”

The new technology will also allow access to digital lifestyle solutions such as streaming music, playing games and watching videos, e-news, cab-hailing and much more. The application is completely customisable to meet the specific financial and transacting needs of the user.

In the emerging business markets, cash still remains the dominant means of transacting simply due to the high costs associated with using digital and card payment. Vodacom Financial Services aims to remove the cost barriers traditionally associated with digital payments and further enable and promote financial inclusion in our country by allowing the emerging market more freedom to choose how they would like to process payments – QR code scanning being an example of this.

Cassim explains: “We live in a country where the cost of cash-less transacting is quite high for small merchants and large FMCG companies struggle to reach or communicate directly with the end distributor of their products. Vodacom Financial Services aims to link South African merchants, suppliers and consumers on one affordable platform. The primary focus of every development on this Super-app is to deliver a seamless and value-adding experience to everyone who uses it, in a cost efficient way.”

In addition to the benefits associated with accessibility and affordability, there will also be support offered to the SME businesses such as bespoke, programmatic advertising as well as real-time and direct marketing solutions – all zero-rated for customer consumption.

The mobile payment platform will also be seamlessly integrated into the physical footprint of Vodacom’s VodaPay Point of Sale devices, offering merchants a single-payments processing solution for physical and mobile commerce. It will potentially help previously underserviced SMEs access to the best financial services solutions such as lending through VodaLend, access to business Insurance products as well as being able to seamlessly order products from suppliers.

Cassim explains: “We are on the brink of a new fintech wave in SA, as Vodacom Financial Services embarks on developing and creating this world class super-app. To achieve this, we are on the lookout for the best skills and talent in the country. We want people who are willing to push the envelope, think creatively and most importantly, use the technology to develop customer-centric digital financial services solutions.”

Vodacom Financial Services will soon embark on a drive to recruit and develop the best skills required to bring this app to life early next year.


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