Understanding the complex continental war to be the digital bank for the African consumer

Image credit: Alexander Andrews via Unsplash

In the centre of Gauteng Province, a reluctant winter sun paints the Roodepoort sky with the day’s first semblance of warmth. Amongst lush flora in suburban utopia — Fairlands, an apt name — the gentle whirr of the heating AC quietly dominates the room. A wall of pixels is the centrepiece of attention, as a business analyst sips her coffee and closely watches the graphs.

The city of Kampala, an hour ahead of South African time, is fast approaching the peak of mobile money usage for the day. Even a few minutes of downtime can be costly in a country…


Two very important days in your life as an African are the day you get your first phone and the day you open your first bank account. Are these days about to become a thing of the past?

I come from Malawi. A country where only 12% of the population have access to electricity, 36% have access to mobile and 19% have a bank account.

Percentage of adults with bank accounts | Image credit: World Bank

With about 62.1% of the employed workforce earning less than $3.10 a day, most people would only need the services of a bank or a telco after they have been earning for a significant amount of time.


A Nokia feature phone dialling a USSD code (Image credit: Rachael Wambua)

Every time you dial *XYZ# to check the airtime balance on your phone, you are using a decades old technology standard called USSD. For a very long time, that’s pretty much all it was used for, but now the game has changed.

USSD stands for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data and I suppose it never got a catchy mainstream alias because it never really took off

(I’m looking at you, Bitcoin).

Mobile operators (especially in Africa — where the market is primarily prepaid) typically use USSD for their internal applications such as balance checks, top-ups, data bundles and promotions.

More recently…


A Nokia feature phone dialling a USSD code (Image credit: Rachael Wambua)

Every time you dial *XYZ# to check the airtime balance on your phone, you are using a decades old technology standard called USSD. For a very long time, that’s pretty much all it was used for, but now the game has changed.

USSD stands for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data and I suppose it never got a catchy mainstream alias because it never really took off

(I’m looking at you, Bitcoin).

Mobile operators (especially in Africa — where the market is primarily prepaid) typically use USSD for their internal applications such as balance checks, top-ups, data bundles and promotions.

More recently…


Being a member of Generation Y is tricky. For those who may not be in the know, Generation Y basically refers to millennials, basically, persons reaching young adulthood around the year 2000. People like me-ish (If you consider 2012–16 close enough to the year 2000 to count.

It’s extra tricky (but statistically more awesome — I’ll explain in a minute) if you’re a member of Generation Y and born African. You may find yourself frequently torn between the principles and habits that you learned from your native culture and those you may have adopted from foreign influences.

It’s difficult to…


… my typical day in tech on the dark continent.

Home Sweet Home

Most days I wake up pretty late. 8am on a good day. The first thing I do is reach out for my phone. I check the time, and scroll through a series of notifications to find out whether or not a server just exploded, or more realistically, if a Russian bot finally discovered the SSH port of my production server and client emails have been down for 6 hours.

I passively run a web hosting business in my spare time for extra income. It’s not fun and it means I…


— African Tech Entrepreneur

Sometimes, I’m the biggest impediment to my own progress.

Photo credit: Kalle K (unsplash.com)

Three weeks ago, I wrote about my experiences as a tech entrepreneur in Africa. I had told my friends that I’d write a second post if I got 15+ recommends.

I didn’t really expect it to be “good enough” to go viral, but that article now has over 490 recommends and has been republished on Startup Grind. The republished article has picked up 50+ more recommends and is growing by the day. I guess I’m not doing too bad.


Sometimes I’m the biggest impediment to my own progress.

Photo credit: Kalle K (unsplash.com)

Three weeks ago, I wrote about my experiences as a tech entrepreneur in Africa. I had told my friends that I’d write a second post if I got 15+ recommends.

I didn’t really expect it to be “good enough” to go viral, but that article now has over 490 recommends and has been republished on Startup Grind. The republished article has picked up 50+ more recommends and is growing by the day. I guess I’m not doing too bad.


Sometimes I’m the biggest impediment to my own progress

Photo credit: Kalle K (unsplash.com)

Three weeks ago, I wrote about my experiences as a tech entrepreneur in Africa. I had told my friends that I’d write a second post if I got 15+ recommends.

I didn’t really expect it to be “good enough” to go viral, but that article now has over 490 recommends and has been republished on Startup Grind. The republished article has picked up 50+ more recommends and is growing by the day. I guess I’m not doing too bad.


On Building Technology while Young, Black, and in Africa

Being a startup founder anywhere in the world is incredibly hard, but in Africa, it’s a special kind of organized chaos.

This is my story — and it’s not pretty.

How Did I End Up Here?

I’m nearly 24 years old, and over the last 8 years, I’ve built and launched 3 technology companies in Africa across different verticals in two countries. The first one when I was 16 years old — I didn’t even know that it was a startup at the time, and it failed.

A few years later, I built a web technology startup, got very limited traction that reached a plateau, so…

Wiza Jalakasi

VP @ChipperCashApp • apprecentice investor • ex-strategy @usehover • ex-BD/expansion @africastalking • https://wiza.jalaka.si

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