Home Business Financial Inclusion and Securing Payment Transactions in Africa

Desire, we have been talking a little bit about different aspects of payment solutions and the financial sector in general in Senegal and other African countries. With your experience as consultant and project leader for GIM-UEMOA – a regional regulator body of electronic banking for West Africa, you have an in depth understanding of the conditions, obstacles and opportunities for banking in Africa. Could you give us a short description of how your work for GIM-UEMOA lead to the founding of SEWA?

GIM-UEMOA is the regulator of electronic banking in the WAEMU zone and the interbank electronic banking switch of the banking community. GIM included at the time 108 member banks when I joined it in February 2011 as SPOC of Supernet Technologie Africa, the provider of the technological platform of the GIM-UEMOA mobile banking solution named GIM-Mobile.

GIM UEMOA, which is in charge of promoting financial inclusion through the development of electronic transactions solutions for its members, has deployed a mutualized electronic transactions platform for its members who do not have their platform. This has allowed bank customers to access a credit card at a lower cost. But after several years, the GIM realized that the penetration rate of the bank card did not exceed 3% within the population of the zone. At the same time, it was found that all households had at least one telephone.

Picture: Sewacard Industrie, Rufisque, Senegal. Copyright: Sewacard

The idea of a more inclusive mobile payment solution than the card was quickly found. An Indian solution was preferred by GIM-UEMOA because of the similarity of development and living standards of unbanked populations in Africa and India. We thus developed and completed the deployment of the GIMMobile in production in 2014.

To ensure the availability and accessibility of GIM-Mobile, we had the choice of a multi-channel application (Wifi, GPRS, USSD, SMS, …) But the simplest and most democratic channel was the USSD of the telecom operators, which we did not really succeed in implementing because of the unwillingness of the operators to see GIM-Mobile as a competitor to the operators’ mobile money offers.

As GIM-Mobile Project Manager, I ended my mission at GIM-UEMOA after having coordinated the implementation of pilot banks in Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire and the training of back office and front office staff.

Beyond the obstacles to the democratization of GIM-Mobile for the implementation of the USSD channel, the mission to promote financial inclusion at GIM-UEMOA faced several other important challenges that had to be addressed. I, therefore, had the idea of developing my own electronic banking platform to address these challenges. A financial transaction platform based on prepaid bank cards that I named SEWA which means : The family, the community in Central Africa, the good service in India, the treat you give to the one you love in Cote d’Ivoire, and so on.

What services and platforms does SEWA provide and in which locations and could you give us a short introduction to the company?

When I left GIM-UEMOA, I recruited a team to develop the SEWA platform. I then created with some friends a company to operate the electronic payment platform. The company SEWA GROUP SA was thus created in Abidjan in 2014 with a branch in Dakar which obtained a banking agreement to operate legally. We then created in Abidjan a commercial subsidiary SEWA Business & Services SA in charge of the commercial exploitation of the services of the SEWA platform and Senegal an industrial subsidiary SEWACARD INDUSTRIE SA in charge of the production of bank cards and multiservice cards and electronic payment terminals.

Picture: SEWACARD Industrie Copyright: SEWACARD

A- SEWA BUSINESS & SERVICES SA is a company under Ivorian law created in November 2016.

The company’s purpose is:
1. The implementation of technological solutions for electronic financial transaction services,
2. The distribution and commercialization of electronic banking products and services, Mobile Banking, and E-Banking.

A subsidiary of the Fintech SEWA GROUP, SEWA BUSINESS & SERVICES is an integrator of banking and local financial services. The company offers digital financial solutions addressing the following issues and challenges
– Financial inclusion
– Inclusive insurance (E-Insurance)
– Electronic banking (E-Banking)
– Digitalization of payments and collection of funds, etc.

Wishing to mark its commitment to the development of financial inclusion in rural areas and more specifically for farmers, the company has, from the beginning, been associated with major projects in the agricultural sector.

By joining forces with our microfinance partners through the SEWA EBanking solution, we have been able to transform our SEWA Authorized Points of Service into advanced digital branches for financial institutions.

This allows farmers to securely access basic banking services from their homes:
– Bank account opening
– Cash deposit/withdrawal to a bank account
– Deposit/withdrawal to bank account via SEWA bank card
– Request for bank credit

You can read the full article in the Outsourcing Destination Guide Cote D’Ivoire & Senegal, which is available for free download at www.outsourcing-destinations.org

About the Author: Mr. Desire Tohouri is a computer engineer, expert in mobile financial services, inclusive finance, and electronic banking. He is the CEO of SEWA GROUP SA, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of SEWACARD INDUSTRIE SA in Senegal, and also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of RICHILD INVEST SA in

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