Since its launch in early 2015, Mama Money has grown to 25 000 customers while contributing impressively to job creation. Founded by Raphael Grojnowski and Mathieu Coquillon, who met while travelling through Africa, it is aimed at reducing the costs for Zimbabwean migrants of sending money back home from SA.
The two decided to focus on the SA-Zimbabwe corridor due to the high volume of people and hence money being transferred from one to the other. SA’s remittance fees are some of the highest in the world. This creates a problem for migrants who come to SA, hoping to earn a living to provide for families back home. The costs of these transfers are often inflated. “Without an alternative, customers will continue to use the method available to them, regardless of the exorbitant cost and poor service,” says Grojnowski.
Since its launch, Mama Money has created 25 full-time jobs and more than 300 part-time jobs. Every staff member is Zimbabwean, most having started out as customers or agents before joining the team full time. “They come up with all our plans, initiatives and promotions. Because they are effectively the sending community, they have their fingers on the pulse of what is needed ‘on the ground’.”
Although flourishing as a business, Mama Money has experienced a few challenges. Prior to their launch, neither Grojnowski nor Coquillon had had any experience in financial services – all they had was a compelling idea and a firm conviction to produce a business that would fulfil a huge social need.
“There was a lot of anticipation before and right after the launch on how people would respond. It wasn’t easy at first. I think it took us about a year to get the formula right and find our groove,” says Coquillon.
Another more immediate problem the business faces is the cash shortage in Zimbabwe but this is something they believe represents an opportunity to promote the use of mobile technology with regard to money, banking and payments. This will ultimately see cashless electronic payment systems becoming the norm.
The duo are looking to launch similar money transfer platforms to Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the next three years their overarching goal is for SA to move from having the most expensive money transfer charges in the world to having the lowest.