ST Women in Technology - 70

home base in the rural towns; thus, investing
both in the city and rural town is a cultural norm.
As a result, they have a constant need to send
money to these places where they hope to retire
and where some of their family live. For them,
M-Pesa offered a great low-cost channel to get
their money out to their rural home towns. In
South Africa, on the other hand, there is access
to financial services-for example, ATMs-
across the country, making it easy to transfer
money. Furthermore, we don't have the deeply
imbedded two-home culture of East Africa. For
us, M-Pesa was an ingenious application, but it
didn't solve a problem.
In this respect, financial technology innovation
in a developing market is no different than in
a mature market: You can't really talk about
disrupting the market without starting from
understanding who the customer is and how
you get access to that customer. It's the same
with any industry, whether you are talking
about finance or consumer products or even
agriculture: If you start with the technology,
you'll probably fail. If you start with the
customer, you're much more likely to succeed.

WE ALL HAVE A VOICE IN OUR
HEADS THAT TURNS UP ONCE IN
A WHILE SAYING, YOU CAN'T DO
THIS, OR YOU CAN'T DO THAT.
SOMETIMES I STILL HEAR IT WHEN I
WALK INTO BOARDROOMS. THAT'S
THE ONE VOICE YOU SHOULD TRY
TO IGNORE.

70

thousands. And while they are social groups
who meet regularly to eat, drink and connect,
they operate in a formal savings and investment
culture, with constitutions, membership rules,
and investment guidelines. Meetings are fun, but
money matters are taken very seriously.

I STAND STRONG TODAY ONLY
BECAUSE I HAVE REFUSED TO LET
THAT VOICE IN MY HEAD TAKE
AWAY MY STRENGTH.

Interestingly, the conventional wisdom used to
be that stokvels would become a thing of the
past as banking technology improved, but it
hasn't worked out that way. In the one I belong
to, we don't even collect the money anymore-
we handle all the cash by electronic transfers-
yet we still get together. Even today, one in two
black South Africans belongs to a stokvel, and
now our Millennials are joining too! The banks
completely underestimated the value of the
social component, both as an end in itself and as
a motivator to keep working toward your goal.
In fact, I think stokvels are informing a lot of
banking innovations now here in South Africa. If
you look at the savings products or the online
budget programs out in the market today,
the ones that work well have integrated some
lessons from the structure of the stokvel.

For example, if you were to develop a financial
services product in South Africa, a logical place
to start would be with the stokvel, South Africa's
traditional saving circle.

Paying attention to the culture can also give you
ideas for new products you can take outside
your home market. For instance, at my firm,
we've designed a crowd-sourced innovation
platform, the Innovation Café, which was inspired
by the way Africans traditionally discussed issues
around the fireside before taking them to their
community elders for their judgment.

A stokvel is a group of people who come
together to pool resources to work towards
a goal, such as paying school fees, building a
home, or taking a holiday. Everyone in the group
needs to share and contribute, so there's a bit
of peer pressure and healthy encouragement.
Stokvels range in size from a few members to

Like the fireside, the Innovation Café is a flexible
platform that gives every single person who
participates the opportunity to come up with
ideas, get feedback on them, and eventually,
after the ideas are improved and rated highly
by the café's participants, take them to the
company's executive team. The essence of the



ST Women in Technology

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ST Women in Technology

Contents
ST Women in Technology - Cover1
ST Women in Technology - Cover2
ST Women in Technology - 1
ST Women in Technology - Contents
ST Women in Technology - 3
ST Women in Technology - 4
ST Women in Technology - 5
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ST Women in Technology - Cover4
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ST Women in Technology - Poster 1
ST Women in Technology - Poster 2
ST Women in Technology - Poster 3
ST Women in Technology - Poster 4
ST Women in Technology - Poster 5
ST Women in Technology - Poster 6
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