Digital Shapers # 1

In our new Digital Shapers series, Euromena Consulting invites you to meet those who are shaping the digital economy in Africa and in the Middle East. By discussing with digital actors, telecom operators, tech industry players, non-profit/community leaders & international organizations, we intend to reveal the transformations that are shaping the future of B2B & B2C digital services across these regions. 


Interviewee Stephany Zoo, Head of Marketing

Company AZA (formerly BitPesa)

Industries Fintech, Payments, Finance

Founded 2013

Headquarters Nairobi, Kenya

Presence Offices in Lagos, London, Luxembourg, Madrid & Dakar

Total funding amount $30m

Main investors Greycroft, Digital Currency Group, Draper Associates, Zephyr Acorn, Pantera

AZA is an established provider of currency trading solutions, which accelerates global access to frontier markets through an innovative infrastructure. With its TransferZero and BFX products, AZA can significantly lower the cost and increase the speed of business payments to and from frontier markets. 

TransferZero is B2B2C product, which provides both wholesale currency purchase and retail settlement via an API. BFX is a B2B over-the-counter platform for businesses with wholesale currency needs, especially those paying partners and suppliers.

AZA’s partners utilize their hybrid financial infrastructure and deep local knowledge to manage liquidity and send payments to dozens of bank networks and mobile money operators across Africa.

Licensed by the UK's FCA and the Bank of Spain, AZA is a market-maker in every major African currency.

  • How do you position AZA & FinTech startups in relation to banks & traditional Telecom operators? 

AZA is an FX Broker & Infrastructure company so, at the end of the day, it is banks that hold on clients’ funds. We only add a payment service. In that way, we are very different from banks. FinTechs are not opposed to banks and telco operators. We need to think about how we can be more complementary with each other while working in a very fragmented African ecosystem. Through interoperability, FinTechs are trying to bring a lot of different payment services provided by as many actors as possible and offer them together to the final client.

  • What are the main challenges to scaling payment services today in Africa? 

The first challenge is regulatory: it’s important for us to be at the forefront of engaging with regulators. Some of them are going to be more open than other ones dealing with business models they have never seen before. The second challenge for FinTechs growing in multiple markets is getting local bank accounts and holding assets in local currencies. This can be difficult sometimes. Eventually, even if some countries such as Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, and Benin are using the same currency (XOF), these countries are very different in terms of customer behaviors & financial inclusion and it is important to go towards a very precise segmentation rather than dividing Africa into large geographic blocks. 

  • What is a typical journey of a CMO in the African FinTech Industry?

I think it’s a lot of product marketing. Figuring out what kinds of customers we target, how we can better target them, and building new features addressing these targets. At AZA, we prefer to think about events and big brand strategies rather than lead generation. Because lead generation is very difficult for a B2B company in Africa, we tend to engage a reflection on how to build media coverage, to enhance relationships with existing clients, and to raise awareness among professionals. 

  • What are some top observations in terms of marketing strategies specific to African B2B clients?

I think digital marketing across these countries in general is very hard. When it comes to B2B, it is even harder. AZA’s customers are 40-50 C-levels that are not typically reachable online. The marketing strategies that have had the most impact on our clients are thought leadership, publications on currency outlooks, and targeted advertisings. If I had to choose a specific digital outlet that we use the most - I would say LinkedIn because it is where most professionals sit. We also need to keep in mind that at the end of the day, customers spending a large amount of money are still looking for a face-to-face, being able to pick up the phone and have a discussion with someone if something goes wrong. 

  • How were Fintechs impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

COVID-19 was good for a couple of industries such as online streaming, healthcare…the FinTech industry is one of them. A lot of companies that would have been more reluctant to work with a Fintech came back willing to work with us. They’ve realized that they cannot do without Fintech innovations. I believe this will have a longer-term positive effect. Because more people are sending money online, FinTech volumes have gone up significantly and will certainly continue to do well.

By Hamza Iraqi, Consultant at Euromena Consulting

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