Last week, Western Union partnered with MFS Africa to enable African individuals and businesses to accept payments from over 200 countries.
According to Kumar Shourav, Managing Director, Money Transfer Organisations (MTOs), MFS Africa, “Africa’s 54 countries are diverse not just in terms of population, development levels, growth rates, and stability but with payment infrastructure and regulations as well.”
Users can send money to their mobile wallets from anywhere in the world.
The service will initially be available in Madagascar before expanding to other African countries.
Here’s what I’ve got for you today:
- Are Nigerian SMEs redefining the role of PoS agents?
- How Blueroomcare is providing therapy to Nigerians
- Alerzo reduces its full-time workforce by 15%
Are Nigerian SMEs redefining the role of PoS agents?
In December 2022, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) instructed commercial banks to limit weekly cash withdrawals to ₦100,000 for individuals and ₦500,000 for businesses to reduce the amount of cash Nigerians use.
Since then, it has felt as if PoS agents have become a target.
Before this, in November 2022, a currency redesign process that took effect in February 2023 was announced, putting additional strain on individuals and businesses.
While virtually every industry in the country was affected, POS agents appeared to be hit the hardest.
Until the deadline for the use of old naira notes as legal tender, withdrawals at agent locations attracted a ₦100 fee for transactions below ₦5,000, while transactions above ₦5,000 but below ₦10,000 attracted a ₦200 fee.
However, as Nigerians have struggled to obtain cash in recent weeks, those fees have skyrocketed, with many agents charging up to 20 times their previous fees.
Consequently, the number of PoS transactions has grown, increasing month-on-month from December 2022 to January 2023 for the first time in five years.
While it may seem like they have been major beneficiaries of the change, many PoS agents have shut down their businesses because they can’t access cash.
But is this the end of PoS agents as we know them? Find out here: Small businesses are redefining the role of POS agents in Nigeria
How Blueroomcare is providing therapy to Nigerians
Nearly a billion people worldwide have some type of mental disorder, but getting the care and treatment can be difficult, especially in Africa, where access to therapists and mental healthcare is limited.
Even though mental health issues are becoming more widely recognised across the continent, it is still challenging to assist those in need because of stigma, a lack of funding, and inadequate resources.
For instance, Moses Aiyenuro, CEO of Blueroomcare — a mental healthtech startup — struggled with anxiety and depression in 2019. However, it wasn’t easy getting the mental health care he needed.
In 2019, Al Jazeera reported that one in every four Nigerians has a mental illness. Given the current state of the economy, where hunger, insecurity, and unemployment are on the rise, it appears more people in the country will become mentally ill.
Despite being one of the most effective forms of treatment for mental illnesses, therapy is often expensive and frowned upon.
Even when Moses found a therapist, the cost was prohibitive, and he had to miss work to attend appointments.
However, the Mental Health Act is changing the narrative, as it defines and protects the rights of Nigerians with mental illnesses.
I think this is a good time to revisit this: Mental Health Act 2021: Impact on health tech startups will be ‘mental’
However, Moses’ challenges in getting accessible mental healthcare prompted him to start Blueroomcare.
But what does the company do? Find out here: Nigerian mental healthtech startup, Blueroomcare, wants to provide therapy to everyone with a mental illness
Alerzo reduces its full-time workforce by 15%
Nigerian B2B eCommerce platform, Alerzo, has reduced its full-time workforce by 15%, leaving about 800 employees.
This comes after the company laid off about 5% of its full-time employees in September 2022. At the time, Alerzo had over 2,000 workers — half of whom worked full-time — in Nigeria.
According to the company, the first round of layoffs was based on performance and involved digitising some roles, including developing an internal enterprise resource planning (ERP).
However, it’s not clear how many part-time and temporary employees it laid off.
Alerzo digitises commerce and payments processes between FMCG suppliers and informal retailers. It claims it serves over 100,000 retailers.
Currently, the company says it wants to restructure and reduce payroll to increase profits.
The startup believes it can accelerate its path to break even more quickly and reach profitability by Q3 this year with the help of the payment licenses it has acquired, which will significantly aid the digitisation of its merchant base.
Alerzo announced that it’d pay out all contractual notice periods and give an extra one-month severance to workers who have lost their jobs. It also said it’d maintain HMO coverage — including for covered family members — through the end of 2023 and offer job placement and counselling services.
What I’m reading and watching
- Oddience is hiring a Senior Product Designer and Brand Storyteller. You can apply here.
- Google has announced that the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund is now accepting applications from Black founders across the African continent. Applications are open now and will close on March 26. Appy here.
- If you are a software engineer, creative designer, product manager, design researcher, or a techie looking for an internship role, please, check out this website.
Have a terrific Tuesday.
Victoria Fakiya for Techpoint Africa.