by Joanne Carew

10 up-and-coming South Africa fintechs shaping financial services now

Nov 04, 20209 mins
Financial Services IndustryStartupsTechnology Industry

A new generation of South African start-ups are leveraging emerging tech to boost inclusion across the financial services industry, and lower the cost of transaction services for businesses.

south african rand currency colorful bank note money nelson mandela by fotopoly gettyimages 5376854
Credit: fotopoly / Getty Images

The financial sector in Africa — which has a huge unbanked population and a young demographic hooked on mobile phones —  is ripe for disruption, and a new generation of creative South African fintech start-ups is taking the lead in offering innovative  services to enterrprises and consumers alike.

The financial sector in Africa is responding to real-world conditions by offering services such as mobile banking, and various technologies that lower the cost of access to transaction services for enterprises. In 2019, African tech start-ups broke records. The African tech sector’s attractiveness to investors is the highest it has ever been, with much of the interest being directed towards ventures within the financial services sector.

Financial inclusion secured the top spot when it comes to deal volume and value last year, with ventures that improve access to financial services being awarded over 54% of total investment, according to a report by Partech Partners. An investment summary report for 2019 from London-based research firm, Briter Bridges, also noted the trend, highlighting South Africa as one of the top investment regions.  

South Africa already has fintech success stories

Fintech is, generally speaking, technology that is applied to financial services or the management of transaction operations in businesses. While a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including most recently Mauritius, are trying to lay the foundation for a thriving fintech start-up scene, South Africa already has a number of fintech success stories. These include the likes of Yoco, Tyme Bank, Jumo and Luno. These brands are at a more advanced stage than other start-ups, having successfully partnered with big corporates, grown a large customer base, attracted big investments and challenged the industry status quo. But there are also a variety of smaller fintech ventures looking to grow.

Rand Merchant Bank’s SA Fintech in Motion Report for 2019 outlines how digital innovations have fundamentally altered the way we communicate, transact and access information, spawning entirely new business models. And the opportunities that these forces are creating are set to shape the future of financial services.

According Dominique Collett, a senior investment executive at Rand Merchant Investment Holdings (RMI) and the head of AlphaCode, an RMI incubation, acceleration and investment vehicle, South African fintechs are embracing emerging technology, social media and a changing consumer base to create new business models and change the financial services landscape.

“SA’s financial services sector is undergoing a process of unprecedented change brought about by the disruptive impact of fintech challengers and the emerging technologies powering their business models,” says PwC, the world’s second-largest professional services firm.”Fintechs are redrawing the competitive landscape and blurring the lines that define players in the financial services landscape.”

Below is CIO Africa’s top 10 list of up-and-coming fintech start-ups to watch — smaller than some of the more well-known financial services start-ups, but making inroads into the consumer and enterprise markets with new mobile apps and innovative niche services.

Top South Africa fintech start-ups to watch

Bank Zero

Year Founded: 2018

Headquarters: Johannesburg

CEO: Yatin Narsai

What they do: Bank Zero is SA’s newest bank. It’s an exclusively digital mutual bank that offers a mobile app and promises free basic banking with charges only for additional extras.

Competitors include: TymeBank and Discovery Bank

Customers: Both businesses and individuals.

Why they’re a fintech start-up to watch: Bank Zero is South Africa’s first digital-only bank. This fintech is the brainchild of venture capitalist and tech entrepreneur Michael Jordaan and banking innovator Yatin Narsai, who worked together to transform First National Bank into the most innovative bank in the world.

Mama Money

Year Founded: 2013

Headquarters: Cape Town 

CEO: Co-founded by Mathieu Coquillon and Raphael Grojnowski.

What they do: Mama Money is a cross-border, money-transfer service allowing migrants to send money from South Africa to their home countries. Mama Money tackles the high cost of international money transfers and currently operates in 12 countries.

Competitors include: Meerkat and TransferGalaxy

Customers: Migrants keen to send money home to support their families.

Why they’re a fintech start-up to watch: Earlier this year, Mama Money partnered with Western Union to allow customers to send money to their loved ones around the world via Western Union’s Global Network.


Year Founded: 2014

Headquarters: Cape Town

CEO: Trevor Gosling

What they do: LulaLend makes use of proprietary credit scoring technology to provide quick decisions, fast funding and transparent pricing to small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).

Competitors include: Rainfin and JUMO

Customers: SMEs located in South Africa that have been in business for over a year with an annual revenue higher than 500,000ZAR (US$30,000).

Why they’re a fintech start-up to watch: The B2B digital lender was recently recognised in the 2020 Inclusive Fintech Awards. The awards are given out to just 50 fintech start-ups from around the world that are making an effort to provide financial services to underserved communities.


Year Founded: 2000

Headquarters: Cape Town

CEO: Pieter de Villiers

What they do: A global player in mobile communications and chat commerce, Clickatell offers real-time customer engagement and transaction platforms designed to enable businesses to connect, engage and transact with their customers via mobile chat and other digital channels.

Competitors include: Infobip

Customers: Ranging from Fortune 500 organisations to well-known consumer brands and SMEs.

Why they’re a fintech start-up to watch: The company has a well-established track record and has been in the business for two decades. Clickatell serves over 15 000 customers and has connected to six billion mobile phone users in over 220 countries and territories worldwide.

 Livestock Wealth

Year Founded: 2015

Headquarters: Johannesburg

CEO: Ntuthuko Shezi

What they do: Livestock Wealth is a crowdfunding company that focuses on funding for cattle. The company connects investors with farmers that need funding using cattle as a form of investment.

Competitors include: SwiftVee

Customers: People with no access to the land, time or skills needed to own livestock and run a professionally managed farming operation; including big retailers like Woolworths.

 Why they’re a fintech start-up to watch: The livestock crowd farming platform recently expanded its offerings to include a shared farming project that buys, cares for and sells free-range, grass-fed beef.


Year Founded: 2014

Headquarters: Johannesburg

CEO: Ralph Pecker

What they do: Paycode provides financial service access to the unbanked by giving them a biometric identity. In doing so, the fintech is opening up the world’s financial systems to everyone.

Competitors include: Veridium

Customers: The unbanked living in the world’s least developed markets.

Why they’re a fintech start-up to watch: Like LulaLend, Paycode was also selected out of 403 applicants as a winner at the Inclusive Fintech 50 Awards for 2020. The fintech start-ups named on this year’s list were chosen based on criteria including inclusiveness, innovation, scale potential and traction. 


Year Founded: 2015

Headquarters: Cape Town

CEO: Tobie van Zyl

What they do: Yet to officially launch, Bettr is building an alternative banking service for low cost, everyday transactional use. The digital banking app won’t actually provide products but will adopt a marketplace business model to connect their user community with the products that best meet their needs.

Competitors include: Bank Zero, Tyme Bank

Customers: Aimed at tech-savvy Generation Z and millennial customers.

Why they’re a fintech start-up to watch: A technology company that aims to do banking differently, Bettr’s “marketplace” business model means that consumers will have access a range of products and services and don’t have to pay various fees to transact with multiple different banks.

Peach Payments

Year Founded: 2011

Headquarters: Cape Town and Johannesburg

CEO: Rahul Jain

What they do: Peach Payments build online payments systems for Africa.  The fintech allows businesses to accept payments via their websites and mobile apps.

Competitors include: PayU, Ozow

Customers: The payments platform is available for entrepreneurs, SMEs and large enterprises in South Africa.

Why they’re a fintech start-up to watch: The company currently services between 1,500 and 2,000 merchants — including three of South Africa’s four big supermarket groups —and is signing up 200 to 300 new merchants every week. Peach Payments recently raised additional capital to fund their African expansion.


Year Founded: 2019

Headquarters: Offices in the UK and Cape Town, South Africa.

CEO: Simon Dingle

What they do: Providing an open banking hub, the app allows users to see all their assets in one place. The platform offers real time market data so it’s possible to track your assets, no matter what you are or where they are.

Competitors include: 22seven

Customers: Described as an “investment tracker for people who hate spreadsheets”.

Why they’re a fintech start-up to watch: Looking ahead, the Lettuce team are building tools to allow users to automatically rebalance their investments and buy and sell assets.

The People’s Fund

Year Founded: 2017

Headquarters: Johannesburg

CEO: Luyanda Jafta

What they do: The People’s Fund is a purchase-order crowdfunding platform for businesses that have orders with government and enterprises but need capital to deliver on these orders. The platform allows everyday people to participate in the growth of entrepreneurs, which makes it easier for entrepreneurs to get access to funding.

Competitors include: Thundafund, Jumpstarter

 Customers: The platform is exclusive to black-owned, innovative businesses.

Why they’re a fintech start-up to watch: The fund attempts to fill a gap in the financing of SMEs, helping entrepreneurs to buy assets they need. The range of campaigns they support is diverse from funding hives for a bee-keeping company to buying a vehicle refrigeration system for a chopped vegetable delivery service.