From Accelerator Programme to Excelling: Mangwee’s start-up journey

  • January 06, 2022

  • Lusaka, Zambia

Malingose Kambandu
Communications and Knowledge Management Consultant


In April 2021, Zambian start-up fintech Mangwee Mobile Money was acquired by Zeepay, a leading Ghanaian fintech with operations in ten African countries. The news of this acquisition was encouraging to UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) because Mangwee was one of the first five fintechs in the FinTech4U Accelerator Programme run in collaboration with BongoHive Innovation Hub. The Accelerator Programme’s aim was to equip start-up fintechs that offer digital financial services solutions to underserved Zambians with the tools and resources to succeed when entering the market.

When the UNCDF Zambia Team visited Ghana on a learning and knowledge tour later in the year, they met with Zeepay Managing Director Andrew Takyi-Appiah and Mangwee co-founder Aston Njovu, who has been working from Zeepay’s Head Office to prepare for Mangwee’s relaunch in Zambia. Aston, excited to speak with the UNCDF Team, shared why he thought the FinTech4U Accelerator was critical to Mangwee’s success when refining their product and approaching potential investors. “With all the skills, exposure and resources gained through the Accelerator Programme, we thought we were ready and started pitching soon after completing the Accelerator because we were equipped and prepared to approach investors. FinTech4U helped us secure the deal with Zeepay. Throughout the programme, we refined our product, better understood our customer and the problem we were trying to solve. We also refined some internal issues such as our finances and our record-keeping and addressed our inadequacies. We would not have seen these things had we not spent a long time working closely with BongoHive and UNCDF.”

Aston Mangwee, Co-founder of Mangwee Mobile Money

It seems high praise for one Accelerator Programme to offer this much to start-ups and prime them for success. But Mangwee is not the only fintech that has received considerable investment after completing FinTech4U. Premier Credit, from the second cohort, raised an investment of US$650,000 in December 2020. These stories are not a complete surprise of course, because that is exactly FinTech4U was designed to do -- help fintechs succeed in the market. To date, 15 start-ups have completed the programme.

The FinTech4U Accelerator Programme accepted early-stage fintechs with a minimum viable product offering digital financial services (DFS) to underserved rural women and youth into the programme to address their product design and customer journey through human-centred design, how to better use their data, while offering advice on regulatory, tax and legal requirements. The start-ups were also connected with a network of mentors to offer support and guidance. All these elements provide the businesses with essential tools and resources to enter the market successfully and scale their business to underserved customer segments. Mangwee was a successful applicant to the programme because their product offering was to offer interoperable mobile money services off the Mangwee wallet, targeting young people. After refining their product and addressing various market constraints for their business, Mangwee was better-positioned as a product that could offer more to the Zambian market, thus becoming an attractive entity for Zeepay.

When they entered the programme at the start of 2020, Mangwee served 1,500 active customers, and by June 2020, they had more than doubled their customer base to 2,582 active customers and one registered agent.

“We found a like-minded partner in Zeepay who can help us accomplish the same dream,” says Bwalya Kampamba, Mangwee’s other co-founder.
Being part of Zeepay, enables the fintech to enhance their product to push remittances from all over the world to Zambia through the Zeepay wallet. This then allows customers to conduct person-to-person transfers, pay for insurance, levies, utilities and other services, making the wallet a much more valuable tool for customers.

During the learning and exchange visit with Zeepay in Ghana, Mrs Mirriam Kamuhuza, Director of National Payments Systems at Bank of Zambia commented that “A provider does not have to serve the whole customer chain, but can find their place in the chain and ride on that. Zeepay are in a really good place now with what they’ll be offering.”

Andrew Takyi-Appiah also looks forward to the Mangwee’s re-launch in Zambia as Zeepay, “When you build a product that’s solving a problem, it’s just a matter of time before it takes off. We are looking forward to a big bang in Zambia.”

Bwalya Kampamba notes that although Mangwee went through a two-week incubator with the Baobab Network, the longer, more in-depth experience with BongoHive and UNCDF was more enriching, and hopes that many other Zambian start-ups can participate in order to realise their potential and contribute to Zambia’s digital economy.

FinTech4U will be opening a new cohort for start-up DFS providers in February with the same aim to better equip new small businesses to enter and succeed in the market. Bwalya Kampamba is full of encouragement for these start-ups. “Any business that has a goal or product to do good in the country should try to be part of this programme. They need to go through the process of understanding how to develop the product and understand things that you cannot see on your own. The programme also gave us credibility by passing through the hands of UNCDF and BongoHive.”

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