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MTN’s SA unit has signed a deal with local fintech company Payabill as part of its enterprise supplier development (ESD) programme that plans to increase its mobile procurement spend by R4bn over two years with 51% black-owned small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).

The programme — “MTN Xlerator” — plans to double the number of SMMEs on its supplier database and hopes this will uplift them through business strategy development, skills development, and improved funding access.

MTN is working with lenders and banks on the programme, including Johannesburg-based Payabill. 

Over the years, corporates in SA have been working to diversify their supply chains, giving opportunities to previously disadvantaged groups through ESD programmes. 

ESD is a strategic business process that involves the development and growth of black-owned and managed SMEs that supply goods and services to large enterprises.

MTN’s procurement spend rose from about R26bn in 2018 to more than R44bn in five years.

The company said R17bn of that spend went to entities that are at least 30% black women-owned in the 2022 financial year.


In the same year, rival Vodacom said it spent R45bn on all suppliers with B-BBEE status, with R17.5bn spent with greater than 51% black-owned suppliers.

This was in addition to R18.5bn spent on suppliers that had greater than 30% black women ownership.

“MTN Xlerator is a symbol of our unwavering commitment to progress, innovation, and empowerment. We believe in the enormous, unearthed potential within SA,” MTN SA CEO Charles Molapisi said in a statement. 

“At MTN, we believe in the evolution of empowerment and our goal is to transition from a transaction-based supply chain to a values-based one, ensuring everyone enjoys the benefits of a connected world while building a better tomorrow.”

To make this happen, SA’s second-largest mobile operator has signed a deal with Payabill, an SME financing fintech company, as one of the finance partners for the Xlerator programme.

Payabill provides access to funding for SA SMEs. It was founded to assist those businesses that don’t have sufficient funds to buy stock, assets or services from suppliers who demand cash upfront.

The company targets businesses with annual revenues between R500,000 and R30m, giving them working and other capital to grow their businesses, offering various forms of finance including local and international trade finance, as well as asset finance.

Payabill said it welcomes MTN as another partner to achieve its objectives “in giving SA’s SMEs a chance to compete and grow.”

“Small businesses are neglected by banks and other lenders due to high perceived credit risk, and associated costs of assessment and collection,” says Payabill CEO Eli Michal.

“SMEs see these lenders as having onerous credit requirements to keep them out. Payabill is different. Payabill is welcoming, quick and easy to deal with and can provide funding in hours due to its bespoke credit methodology”.

MTN’s programme is open for SMMEs that have been in business for at least six months, are at least 51% black-owned, achieve an annual turnover of R500m or less and have daily operations that have black managers in key positions.

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