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  • Writer's pictureConnar Stratton

Startup Idea #21: Mobile banking wallet for underserved populations

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Idea: A mobile banking wallet targeting underserved populations across Africa. The business could follow in the footsteps of Go-Jek in Indonesia, or WeChat in China. You would need to find local partners, then eventually build your own e-KYC process, and navigate government tensions, but there is a massive unbanked market to capture.

Problem: Some 1.7 billion people across the world remain unbanked meaning poor access to credit, security risks, and debt cycles. Although there was a significant improvement during Covid, 57% of Africa remains unbanked due to:

  1. Lack of access to financial institutions: Some people may not have access to financial institutions due to their location or lack of transportation.

  2. Lack of documentation: Some people may not have the necessary documentation, such as identification or proof of address, to open a bank account.

  3. Lack of bank incentive: Many banks do not serve the poorest population as legacy systems result in them being poor customers being deemed unprofitable.

  4. Lack of trust: Some people may not trust banks or financial institutions, or may not understand how they work, which may prevent them from opening an account.

Insight: Not yet

Validation method: Do some research into the most unbanked countries within Africa, and do some desk research to do some preliminary shortlisting for promising and accessible countries. From there, you can use Google ads to test which countries, and demographics would be most interested in a mobile wallet. Given the language and dialect constraints, you may need to get the help of several translators. Once you narrow down your experiment to a few countries, then you can start finding local partners to help you distribute the service.

Notes: Although there is large market opportunity, the biggest challenge would be selecting, and navigating the right market. Even single countries have multiple dialects, significant cultural nuances, and complexities to deal with. With the lack of trust for financial institutions, a large part of the business's success would be educating consumers. From there, you would need to figure out eKYC, which is another big hurdle (One option is building your own eKYC infrastructure). Then there is also the threat of government regulation. Despite the myriad hurdles to success, you have a proven business model, there are some blue ocean markets for you to target, and could help bring millions of people out of poverty.

Why am I doing this? I’m an innovation consultant who helps businesses build new products, and ventures. And I want people to see how easy it is to build, and validate an initial business idea. Hopefully inspiring them to start their own business.

Am I worried that people will take the ideas? I hope they do. These ideas will hopefully make the world a better place. Just remember, “Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything”. What’s most likely is that within a month of testing the idea, the idea would have completely pivoted, but this is a starting point.


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