The money remittance industry sees over US$34 billion sent to sub-Saharan Africa each year, accounting for an average of 5 per cent of GDP on a country-by-country basis. However, for those sending and receiving money, the systems in place are inefficient and time-consuming.
But fear not, Ugandan startup Remit.ug is changing that.
Remit.ug is leveraging the benefits of online and mobile money technologies to make remittances simple and immediate, regardless of urban or rural location.
The Remit online platform allows money to be sent with the click of a button, with funds delivered straight to the recipient’s mobile phone allowing money to be cashed out at local neighborhood mobile money agents, instead of requiring a recipient to spend time and money taking trips to traditional money transfer agents.
“With the established money transfer companies, sending money happens at a physical agent location, so you have to take out cash and drive to the agent, produce IDs and then you get to send the money,” explains Remit co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Stone Atwine.
“Then the recipient is in trouble if they live in a rural area. I used to send money to my grandma and she would have to take a 60 minute bus trip just to cash out. It costs more to get there and cash out,” he says.
“Now, when I’m away from home I just go to Remit and send her money. She gets it as soon as I press the send button on Remit and she cashes out at a mobile money agent who is five minutes away from her farm by foot.”
According to Atwine, Remit’s key disruption to the remittances market is this ability to transcend physical location, through the use of mobile money.
“Africans, especially in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, have actively embraced mobile money and almost all adults use mobile money […] Many people do not have access to cash out at physical locations which are usually at bank branches or forex bureaux. In Africa, we get mobile phones and digital financial services more than anyone else,” he says.
Though currently only available in Uganda, the service is soon launching across East Africa, and thereafter, Atwine hopes to expand across Africa.
“We’ve got Kenya wrapped up from a technical point of view […] We have ongoing discussions in Rwanda and we are heading into Tanzania soon.”
Disrupt Africa reported Remit.ug was one of the 12 startups to participate in the recently concluded East African fintech for agriculture accelerator programme hosted by Village Capital; while the startup also took part in last year’s Seedstars World competition.
“Both Seedstars and Village Capital have been very useful to us at a networking level. For Seedstars, the final in Geneva exposed us to fellow entrepreneurs and mentors from all around the world. And most of these are going to be life-long friends and business acquaintances,” Atwine says.
“For Village Capital it was a bit different, we were looking for ways to structure our service to help rural farmers in Africa and we learnt a lot from the programme. It was like a mini MBA in fintech for agriculture.”