The pursuit of greater electronic payment adoption among South African merchants received a significant boost with the announcement of a partnership between leading African fintech holding company Crossfin Technology Holdings and global fund manager Apis Partners LLP.
According to Anton Gaylard, COO of Crossfin, the partnership with Apis will create an enlarged payments operating company aimed at transforming the Southern African payments acceptance market, driving financial inclusion to SMMEs and informal merchants alike. “Two established payment businesses will form part of the new operating company: Innervation, a pan-African payment and switching business providing integrated payment, card issuing and value-added services to retailers; and iKhokha, a provider of low-cost card payment acceptance devices aimed at small businesses and informal traders that has recently established a retail footprint through a partnership with Massmart. Collectively these businesses are present in more than 25 000 till points and at more than 14 000 merchants across the country. We also have a solid pipeline that we’re well on the way to executing on.”
Commenting on the partnership, Matteo Stefanel, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Apis Partners, said: “Apis is delighted to be partnering with Crossfin, with their deep local experience, strong technology capabilities and history of growing entrepreneur-led business models. We believe this is an ideal complement to Apis’ expertise in global payment businesses, broad international experience and history of delivering value to investors. We look forward to this partnership unlocking significant value for Apis, Crossfin and their respective investors over the coming years.”
The Consortium of Apis Partners and Crossfin aims to use the initial platform of iKhokha and Innervation as a base to drive further consolidation in the payments acceptance market across Southern Africa and beyond. Udayan Goyal, Apis Partners Managing Partner and Co-Founder, highlighted that “both parties bring a deep and established pipeline of opportunities to this partnership and we are excited by the scope to provide unique solutions to SMMEs across South Africa that have in the past not been adequately served by the formal financial system.”
The Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise sector (SMME) is critical to economic growth, but lacks payment adoption
South Africa is home to more than 1.5 million sellers (excluding unregistered informal traders). The SME sector contributes nearly half of the country’s GDP and is expected to account for 90% of all new jobs created by 2030, according to the National Development Plan of South Africa. However, there remains a significant disconnect between merchants and electronic payment providers, evident in the fact that, while three-quarters of South African adults – 27 million people in total – have bank cards, a mere 6% of merchants accept electronic payments.
“Through market research conducted by iKhokha, we have identified that the main contributors to this shortfall are high bank fees, expensive hardware, slow application times and high decline rates,” says Gaylard. “It is our vision to address this shortfall by providing electronic payment solutions that don’t carry the high fees inherent to the industry, easing the way to broader adoption by merchants in both the formal and informal sectors.”
“We see the partnership between Apis and Crossfin as a very positive development for both ourselves and the other portfolio businesses,” adds Matt Putman, CEO and co-founder of iKhokha. “Access to significant capital support will allow us to rapidly accelerate iKhokha’s growth in both customer acquisition and product set. The partnership will also enable us to plug-in to Apis’ global network and leverage their extensive international market knowledge, which we are very excited about.”
“We’re working collectively with Crossfin to facilitate the electronification of South Africa’s payments industry,” says Stefanel. “By enabling the acceptance of all types of payments in a secure and safe manner, we aim to bridge the acceptance gap and reduce the significant shortfall in the amount of electronic payment acceptance devices in the country. We see this as the best way to support the growth of the SMME sector, which is the primary job creator and a key economic driver in the South African – and the overall African – market.”
Crossfin CEO Dean Sparrow adds that the partnership unlocks compelling synergies with Apis’ investments in other high-growth markets. “In Apis we have found a group of like-minded investors with global domain knowledge and expertise in financial services and fintech in emerging markets. Their valuable international network and strong capital backing will play an invaluable role in the development of a more inclusive and supportive payments sector for SMMEs in the formal and informal markets, in South Africa and beyond.”
Crossfin’s portfolio companies currently process more than $4 billion in point of sale transactions and $500 million in mobile transactions annually across more than 9 000 retail stores with over 90 000 point of sale lanes in 7 African countries. For more information, please visit www.crossfin.co.za