Vodacom, through its subsidiary Vodacom Financial Services, has announced that it will be launching a super-app in partnership with China's Alipay. The app will allow South Africans to shop online, pay bills, and do money transfers all from their smartphones.

Expected to launch during 2021, Vodacom's super-app will also cater to small and medium businesses with bespoke, programmatic advertising as well as real-time and direct marketing solutions.

“This partnership is a significant milestone in promoting greater financial inclusion within the communities in which we operate, accelerating our financial services aspirations across Africa. We already offer South African customers an ecosystem of innovative digital financial services products, but this technology partnership with Alipay will enable us to be on par with leading global digital counterparts quicker and more efficiently. We see this as an excellent opportunity for us to reinvent the mobile fintech ecosystem for both consumers and merchants in South Africa and we look forward to achieving this by working with Alipay,” said Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group Chief Executive Officer.

Vodacom takes another shot at FinTech in South Africa

The announcement by Vodacom on its plans for a super-app is not the company's first foray into FinTech in South Africa. Previously, on several occasions, Vodacom launched and re-launched M-Pesa in South Africa in partnership with one of the country's top 5 banks, Nedbank.

Unfortunately, after several failed attempts of trying to make the mobile money service that is popular in East Africa work in South Africa, it appears like the company is ready to finally pull the plug with the pending launch of its super-app.

It's not clear how Vodacom will be approaching the launch of its super-app and whether or not it will partner with an existing South African bank (given the country's financial services regulations) or whether it will do it completely through Vodacom Financial Services.

Financial inclusion

This, whether it partners with a South African bank or not, is important because Vodacom has indicated that part of its mission with the Alipay-powered super-app would be to offer bank accounts to approximately 11 million South Africans who do not have them. For this to happen, Vodacom would need a banking license or partner with an existing bank.

Beyond banking and payments, the super-app is expected to also offer what Vodacom calls "digital lifestyle solutions" such as streaming music, playing games and watching videos, e-news, cab-hailing and much more.

“Globally, we have seen an increase in the convergence of industries. Companies that invest in technology that enables them to understand their customer behaviour better and thereby offer personalised financial, business and lifestyle solutions to their customers are the ones excelling in this space. Through our partnership with Alipay, we look forward to applying world-leading digital technologies to facilitate merchant and consumer transactions from a digital wallet on their mobile device. Not only will consumers have the ability to easily and affordably transact, they can also keep track of their monthly spend with each merchant they transact with every day. With a significant number of large and small retailers in Vodacom’s partner and customer network, consumers will be spoilt for choice when it comes to making buying decisions that are right for them," said Mariam Cassim, Chief Executive Officer of Vodacom Financial and Digital Services.

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