One of the world’s fastest growing financial technology firms based in Africa is about to tap into the estimated US$7 billion remittance market in the Caribbean to make it easier for individuals to receive and send funds.
On Friday, the Ghana-based Zeepay fintech firm officially announced a partnership with the Barbados-based Global Integrated Fintech solutions (GIFTS), to offer Barbadians a new mobile wallet to be called Zeemoney, through which they will be able to receive remittances from MoneyGram anywhere in the world and transfer funds to other Zeemoney users on the island or in other countries.
Officials are also promising that once the necessary regulatory approvals are granted by the region’s central banks, the build out of the new digital service will result in thousands of jobs and greater financial inclusion among the unbanked, and that Zeemoney mobile wallet users will be able to pay for goods and services at different businesses.
In 2021 remittances to Barbados reached an estimated $432 million (about US$216). It is not exactly known how much of that was sent using the MoneyGram service or how much money is remitted locally between residents annually.
However, during a media briefing on Friday, Andrew Takyi-Appiah, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the eight-year-old Zeepay, said he was excited to introduce his company in Barbados and the rest of the region.
“So we have come into a partnership with GIFT and the idea is to be able to bring in a lot of opportunity into the Barbadian market and subsequently the larger Caribbean. We are looking to create direct and indirect employment of about 10,000 people while looking to grow the fintech ecosystem . . .” said Takyi-Appiah, who noted that the model will allow for agents and a range of technology-related jobs.
“We believe with the expertise we will be able to change and diversify your market significantly and through that process build a playbook that will help us reach the entire Caribbean, starting with Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, and then of course, the wider Caribbean,” he said.
He said the move to establish a presence in Bridgetown has been in the works for the past three years. He noted that the level of investment as a result of setting up shop here will be in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Zeemoney mobile wallet, once approved, will be facilitated through the GIFTS platform.
Chief Executive Officer of GIFTS Dave Sahadath said the partnership was an ideal one for his firm.
Boasting that the mobile wallet will eliminate the need for standing in long lines to receive remittances, Sahadath explained that “Oppose to a person having to go and stand in a long line, that money will either be able to be sent directly to a bank account, a visa card or into a local wallet system.
“Once we are fully operationalised here, we will also be looking at launching several kiosks across the country . . . Our aim is that within the first two years, to provide employment to at least 100 Barbadians based on the model that we are choosing to adopt,” said Sahadath.
He disclosed that the principals of Zeepay chose Barbados as their headquarters for the Caribbean because of the island’s political stability, the skilled workforce, ease of access to air travel to and from the island, and the stability of the Barbados dollar, among other reasons.
“It is about digital remittances, it is about people being able to receive funds directly into their account and even be able to cater for those who are unbanked. We want to solve the challenge very quickly. I believe that once we are operational, within less than six months you will see very little need for anyone to go stand in long lines to wait for these remittance services,” said Sahadath.
“Any funds that come here to Barbados we are not looking then to repatriate those funds back out. So as oppose to some in the industry this is not going to be a drain on foreign exchange but we see the company as being a main foreign exchange earner for Barbados. That will separate us,” he said.
The fintech officials gave the assurance that cyber security will not be an issue.
Zeepay operates in some 15 countries and boasts assets of over US$1.5 million for the last financial year. GIFTS currently has operations in some six African countries and expects to increase that number this year. (MM)