Digital Afrique Telecom seeks to make the transition from VAS provider for francophone Africa to mobile payment platform

4 November 2016

Top Story

The changing business model for operators is shaking up the VAS ecosystem and current providers are looking to change themselves. Russell Southwood spoke to Digital Afrique Telecom’s Simplice Anoh about his ambitious plans.

Anoh got his MBA in the USA and went back to Africa to work in a private equity firm. One day he had a blinding flash moment:”I can sit here and read business plans or be an actor. I started by building websites.” For Anoh, mobile picked up in 2007 in Francophone Africa and that’s when he entered the VAS space.

Based in Cote d’Ivoire, Digital Afrique Telecom now has four areas of activity: mobile content; mobile payment; mobile marketing; and mobile games. It works in 25 (largely Francophone) countries and has relationships with 40 mobile operators including all the big ones like Orange, MTN and Etisalat. It calculates that it has a reach to 100 million mobile customers.

At the back of end October it launched DigiPay, a transaction processing platform that enables service providers to deliver mobile financial products and services to their customers in Africa.

DigiPay is available for use by mobile network operators, banks and other financial institutions, subscription-based service providers, international remittance companies, among other providers. The ambition is to be interconnected to all of the mobile operator services like Orange Money and MTN money. The company says that transactions via DigiPay are fast and secure and can be done via mobile devices or web-based portals.

Currently 90% of its revenues are in SMS-based customer activation but in 2-3 years time Anoh believes that 90% of those revenues will come from his payment platform.

In content terms, the company plays a traditional VAS role:”We’re an enabler. If for example, Jeune Afrique wants to get into 10 countries, we do that for them. Some churches want to spread prayers to their followers, we can send a Prayer of the Day. We also do local news handling.” More interestingly, it partners with doctors to provide a health information service and agricultural prices in Niger. We make it easy to upload your content.” As an example of a local news service provider he cites Abidjan-based Fraternite Matin which has 10,000 users for its headline service.

He believes that mobile games will be a killer predict in the next 2 years:”People want to play but they are limited. They want to play wherever they are. There are huge opportunities in this market but also huge challenges.” However, he points to the rising smartphone level as one of the key changes: for example, he estimates that the level of smartphone penetration in Cote d’Ivoire is about 40%.

In mobile marketing terms, his main activity has been helping mobile operators activate their user base from their own databases. He also has his own plans to build a database of potential customers for his services over the next 18 months.

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