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Thursday, Aug 22nd

Tech heavyweights join Clickatell

Tech heavyweights join Clickatell South African-born and Silicon Valley-based global customer engagement company, Clickatell, has confirmed that technology heavyweights Michael Jordaan, Willem van Biljon and Ryno Blignaut have been appointed to the company's board.

In a statement the company explained that it has made the appointments as it enters the next phase of growth and global expansion.

Clickatell CEO and founder, Pieter de Villiers said,"Our new appointments are a mix of technologists and financial services experts. Michael Jordaan has first-hand knowledge of the needs and challenges of mobile banking through his investment in the app-driven bank, Bank Zero. We will benefit from the tremendous insight offered by Willem. His experience scaling up infrastructure and serviceability at global technology companies is vital for us at this stage of our business. Ryno understands the complexities of global regulations across multiple geographies and has experience managing a global business footprint."

The appointments come at an opportune time as Clickatell plans to build on a 30% year-on-year organic growth across its regions of global operations.

"We see chat banking and chat commerce growing rapidly around the world. Our board's collective global experience along with our leadership team's on-the-ground emerging market success gives us an edge enjoyed by very few companies," de Villiers added.

According to information supplied by Clickatell Jordaan, former CEO of South African bank FNB, now heads up private investment company Montegray Capital and lends a strategic hand to various businesses, including as Chairman of credit bureau CompuScan, Director and shareholder of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Chairman of Wines of South Africa and as director and shareholder of the listed data network RAIN.

Tech heavyweights join Clickatell

Clickatell adds that entrepreneur and technologist, Willem van Biljon, co-founded Mosaic Software that developed the Postilion payment system, the first high-end payment transaction switch for commodity hardware and operating systems.

He later joined Amazon where he led the team that developed Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), now Amazon Cloud.

Van Biljon has worked extensively with online retailer Takealot.com where he served as CTO and currently as advisor.

Ryno Blignaut has 23 years of financial experience. He currently serves as President, Chief Financial and Administrative Officer at Restoration Hardware (RH). He also served as the Chief Business Officer of Wheels Up, a private aviation company.

Blignaut was the CFO and Chief Risk Officer at Xoom Corporation, an online and mobile money transfer company. He was instrumental in Xoom's 2013 public offering on the Nasdaq stock exchange and its subsequent $890 million acquisition by Paypal in 2015.

Africa's e-commerce challenge

Business operators focused on Africa's e-commerce market say currently, e-business on the continent remains a challenge.

They cite lower literacy and internet penetration levels as impacting on growth.

Recently MTN's Herman Singh spoke of Jumia and said the growth of the platform across the continent is comparable to, if not more impressive than Paypal.

He said, "Africa's e- and m-commerce opportunity has a potential client base of 400 million internet users, and a rapidly emerging middle class expected to grow by 54% between 2020 and 2030 and decreasing data costs in some countries (43-45% decrease in the lowest data plan in both Egypt and Nigeria between 2016 and 2017." Additionally, in building out financial ecosystems - stores that offer a diversity of products or even online "malls" - Africans will no longer be limited by their location, as long as logistics and payment issues can be solved. Singh stated that Jumia has created a network of over 4000 logistics partners in order to work across the 15 countries they had been working in. And payment by cash at this stage was still commonplace, causing significant challenges.

With respect to payment, enterprises on the continent are seeing the opportunity as well as global merchants now eager to be active in Africa, but need to understand and fast-track the regulation - or lack thereof - across infrastructure issues, handling of cash, wallets and alternative payment methods that they are not accustomed to. They want a one-stop payments provider to get them to these markets so they don't have to deal with the complexities.

Karen Nadasen, Country Manager of PayU South Africa, the country's leading payments provider, explains that the role of a 'payments intermediary' will be critical, having already dealt with the complexities in these countries and created its own relationships, partnerships and agreements but underpinned by the credibility, infrastructure and proven results of a global brand.

Nadasen says: "Global Enterprises do not have the time to make mistakes. Hyper-localisation means we are knowledgeable about the markets we are in and "speak" the local language. This is particularly important with regards to licensing. As we know, some markets in Africa are not as regulated as SA, but this is starting to change. Our partnerships in SA, Kenya and Nigeria have been an essential springboard as we branch out through these "hubs" to cover the rest of Africa."

The opportunities will be compounded as Sub-Saharan smart device growth is now the fastest in the world. As literacy levels increase, amidst Africa's new dawn, digital services such as microfinance will improve lives and enable people to do business, while marketplaces will bring products and stores to people so they can make purchases – assuming enterprises like Jumia continue to expand the delivery network and solve logistics challenges.

"From an African perspective, we use our single integration point for merchants to springboard into Africa using our global infrastructure - leaders in emerging markets in India, Eastern Europe, and Latin America - and then hyper-localising the expertise through our groundwork in Africa, offering cross-border execution on payments, compliance and fulfilment. It's our experience across these emerging markets that has allowed us to deliver a user experience that works in these types of market, keeping it simple and accessible."

In his "What it takes to win" conclusion, Singh outlined why Jumia has been Africa's most successful online case study to date. He attributes the company's explosive growth to ten factors - establishing a community of users, building trust, access to the channel itself, a robust payment and micro-payment partner, fulfilment and logistics, merchandising, location and maximising customer insights.

Research firm Statista estimates that the ecommerce sector in Africa' s 54 countries and 1.25 billion people generated US$16.5-billion in revenue in 2017 and forecasts revenue of $29 billion by 2022, despite internet penetration lying at only 35 percent. The potential most certainly exists.

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