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Interview: Vodacom's Mariam Cassim on the evolution of MFS

Vodacom's CEO of Financial and Digital Services, Mariam Cassim, joined Connecting Africa Editor Paula Gilbert for a video interview to talk about the evolution of Vodacom's mobile financial services (MFS) portfolio.

She spoke about how Vodacom's MFS business has grown over the past few years and the operator's two-pronged strategy of providing services to both individuals and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).

"We really believe the next wave of economic growth across the continent is going to come from SMMEs ... [it's about] how we ensure that we are continuously building products and propositions that are going to enable them to grow their businesses," she said of the focus on the small business segment.

In its latest results for the six months ended September 30, 2023, the operator said that revenue from financial services in South Africa grew 10.8% to R1.6 billion (US$85.65 million) due to a strong performance from its insurance business, which grew by 17%.

"We are a fully fledged underwriter. From what we have seen, we are still the only telco in the world that actually has its own insurance licenses, and this gives us a lot of flexibility and a lot of opportunities to create new products and differentiate from existing products," she said.

Cassim believes there is still "immense room for growth" in the South African market when it comes to mobile insurance offerings and fintech in general.

Growing its super apps

Vodacom launched its super app VodaPay in South Africa in October 2021, and it now has more than 7 million downloads and 4 million registered users in the country.

The app combines digital shopping and lifestyle and financial services on one platform for both consumers and businesses. Cassim said the super app now has over 100 mini applications on the platform.

"We see that 30% of customers who come [to the super app] to buy telco products are actually purchasing other things outside of telco – be that doing a bill payment or purchasing something in our e-commerce environment. It's significantly shifting that behavior," she said.

She spoke about some of Vodacom's financial services products across payments, lending, insurance, savings and investments.

She also said Vodacom will soon be launching a virtual bank card in partnership with Visa.

The conversation also covered why Vodacom has three super apps across its African footprint – VodaPay in SA, Vodafone Cash in Egypt and M-Pesa in Kenya and Tanzania ndash; and how the apps have different functions and focuses across those markets.

On the group's fintech strategy going forward, she said: "The past five years have been the build phase ... the next two years is all about scale."

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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