Success Story March 09, 2021 at 03:00 pm

After Stanford, this Tanzanian man went back home to build an offline mobile app to make money transfers easier

Abu Mubarik March 09, 2021 at 03:00 pm

March 09, 2021 at 03:00 pm | Success Story

This fintech entrepreneur built a financial solution to make sending money to Africa easy. Photo Credit techpoint.africa

One of the challenges confronting Africans in the diaspora is the ability to remit to their relatives through safe and cheaper means. Despite the existence of many banking solutions, Africans in the diaspora continue to face multiple challenges sending money home, particularly, irregular migrants.

A Tanzanian entrepreneur created a hassle-free, offline mobile money payment platform to make sending money to the continent cheaper. Benjamin Fernandes co-founded Nala following the frustrations of some Africans in the diaspora with mobile money payment services.

The app, which is live in Tanzania and other African countries including Uganda, has over 250,000 users. The app makes it easier for users to send money to anyone on any device. All one has to do is download the app to start transacting. 

In Tanzania, Uganda and other East African states, internet penetration is low. Nala’s offline solution mode allows users to send money without data or internet services and at no extra cost.

Prior to starting Nala, Fernandes was a television host of youth talk shows and sports shows in Tanzania. He migrated to the U.S. for his first degree at the evangelical Christian University of Northwestern in St. Paul. At the university, the former TV host took interest in economics. He received a full scholarship to school at Stanford through the school’s Africa MBA Fellowship in 2014 and moved back to America.

“I took the two years at Stanford to learn everything I can about fintech,” Fernandes recalled. “In the summer I started working at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and that’s where I met Sam Castle. He was a PhD student at Washington doing research in mobile payments in MENA and Sub-Saharan Africa.

After Fernandes’ studies, he returned home and started working on Nala while convincing Castle to come on board. Fernandes was a previous winner of the Seedstars Tanzania and the Ecobank Fintech Challenge.

Nala announced in January that it was planning to roll out its beta app targeting UK customers sending back remittances to Uganda and Kenya this year, according to Tech in Africa. This payment option will also be available to Tanzanian customers.

Fernandes said Nala does not only make it easy for people to transact, but also provides users with insight into their accounts. “The offline application allows us to build trust, which is the backbone for any company in the financial services industry,” he said, according to cardrates.com. “As we build that trust, we can enable and leverage other services to layer on top of what we’re already doing.”

His goal is to operate in at least 30 countries. Since the app was launched in Tanzania and expanded to Uganda, it has seen a massive subscription. “I wish I could build 15 different fintech companies in Africa because there’s so much that needs to be done,” he said. “Most people think it’s easy, but it’s not. If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

Fernandes attributes the success of his business to building trust. “That means we always have to let users know what we’re doing and what security measures we’re taking with our application,” he said.

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