By Bertil van Vugt on July 1, 2011
Every other week the VC4Africa team places a new venture in the spotlights. Now we will meet Ethiopian entrepreneur Vince Mountaga Diop, the founder of BelCash.
Can you please describe the company BelCash?
“We offer our customers and partners complete and ready made mobile payment systems that can be hosted or collocated using our real time transaction-processing platform. BelCash is a trademark of WOS Group, a company based in The Netherlands, employing a highly motivated and professional team. Ten of them are based in The Netherlands and extra people are disseminated between Africa, Asia and North America.”
When did you get the idea for this company?
“The idea started around seven years ago and the main purpose was to create a worldwide exchange platform for ‘live’ services. It was essential that users of emerging countries could also provide services, be remunerated for it and cash out their earnings in a simple way. They should also be able to purchase online and be a part of the global economy. Building such a platform where users could exchange online or via their mobile phone, their respective knowledge (for free or for gain), required the creation of a complex multi billing system as well as an universal wallet.”
Why is your idea unique?
“BelCash is the first company providing an ‘Interoperable Mobile Platform’ where the banks can connect themselves and provide local and international remittances. BelCash solutions are free from the Mobile Network Operators and any user having a mobile phone can open ‘live’ an account in the bank of his choice, although the bank must be member of the BelCash Network. Merchants are also members of the network and any BelCash end user can ‘cash in’, ‘cash out’ or even pay his utility bills at the nearest merchant.”
Can one compare Belcash to MPesa in Kenya? Why or why not?
“You can compare it to ‘Mpesa’ when it comes to the main features it offers to end users. It also uses the existing infrastructure of merchants as ‘cash in’ and ‘cash out’ points. It remains that our model is different and looks unique as the banks are the customers of the BelCash Network and they are the ones who monitor the end users.
You could compare our model to that of Visa and Mastercard; the BelCash account remains at the end of the day an account owned by the local banks and BelCash is mainly their technical provider. As I already said, BelCash is independent from the mobile operators and all types of phones can be used, no need to have a specific SIM card or a phone of the last generation. Last but not least in more than 60 countries all over the world people will be able to use their local phone and send international remittance for a very competitive price in a very easy way.”
Who is your target audience?
“The target group in Ethiopia or other African countries is the underbanked population. Only 5 % of the population, the upper and middle class have access to financial services and paying a bill can sometimes take you a complete day. The BelCash revenue model is based on serving a large database of consumers with very low transaction fees. We consider ourselves as the Visa card for the poor and intend to build the highway of mobile banking for the under banked.”
What are your achievements so far?
“Agreements have been signed with major Ethiopian banks and the technical implementation is underway in Addis Ababa. Workforce has been selected and they are undergoing pre-training. The headquarter-site has been leased and we are in the process of setting this up. Applications have successfully passed stress-tests. The soft launch will last two months, involving bank managers and tellers first, then a first batch of customers prior to validation process. This process will last 6 months and then final launch will follow in December of this year.”
What are you looking for?
“Reinforcing our investment will help speed out the implementation process, by educating the population as well as marketing toward the agents. Knowledge and experience is always welcome and any proposals will be taken in consideration. Young Ethiopians with a good expertise in IT or Marketing are also more than welcome to submit their resume to BelCash.”
What are you hoping to gain from being present at the VC4Africa website?
“VC4Africa is a strong tool for the African community of investors and businesses people. We believe that VC4Africa can help us reinforce our network and also assist us in implementing BelCash in others African countries through the network.”
How can members contact you?
“Email remains the best way to contact us, traveling myself a lot the phone is sometimes not the best way to reach me. When you just need some complementary information then just send an email via m.diop [at] belcash.com”