Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Facebook is in talks with financial institutions about possible mobile-payment collaborations in Africa, says Carolyn Everson, a vice-president at the social networking group.

In 2018, Absa partnered with Facebook’s popular WhatsApp messaging platform to launch the world’s first chat-banking service. The platform lets customers make peer-to-peer payments or pay utility bills, among other features.

“It’s gone really well with customers,” Jason Quinn, Absa’s group financial director, told Business Day on Monday.

Everson said Facebook would consider other similar products following this “break-through case study”.

“We’re definitely interested in helping facilitate payments — it’s more of a 2020 roadmap for us than a 2019 one — but we're having those initial conversations with some of the larger financial services companies; we will work with local partners.”

Facebook estimated that venture-capital funding in Africa is currently worth about $1bn a year, with 40% of that going into fintech.

“Mobile money is arguably one of the most exciting opportunities, given the number of unbanked citizens on the continent. We’re also seeing that the telco and fintech industries are starting to blend – more here in Africa than I see anywhere else in the world,” Everson said.

By the end of 2019, MTN plans to have mobile money services in 18 of its 21 markets, including in SA and Nigeria. In Nigeria alone, the “addressable unbanked adult population” is between 40-million and 60-million people, MTN CEO Rob Shuter said last week.

Everson said Facebook, which also owns Instagram, saw “tremendous potential” in Africa, partly thanks to the continent’s youthful population and its growing start-up segment. “We’re very optimistic and excited about what we see here. It will take many years, but we’re committed and we’re continuing to invest.”​

In Kenya, Facebook is building a content-review centre in partnership with San Francisco-based Samasource, to help it stamp out offensive content.

Said Everson: “We will have about 100 content reviewers in Kenya to start us off, but I fully expect that to grow over time. This is the start of our local investment here on the continent.”

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za