Digitalization is transforming the world in an irreversible manner. From business operations to work environment to societal elevation, digitalization has been a game changer for all. Digital solutions are putting economies on a path toward green, resilient and inclusive growth. What’s more amazing is how it’s helping developing and underdeveloped nations like Africa. Building a digital future is integral to ensuring viability in the committee of continents, and digitalization is the key to opening new doors for rapid economic growth, innovation, employment, and access to services—pathways that were previously unattainable.
Inspired by the prospects, two young entrepreneurs, Oumar Rafiou Barry (Founder and CEO) and Abdoulaye Bah (Co-Founder and CTO), are striving to strengthen Africans’ quality of life through innovative financial products. BNB Technologies Inc., their fintech brand, unites all African financial institutions to enable interoperable cross-border payments. The following article spotlights their vision and what they seek to achieve through their brand.
INCEPTING A NECESSARY TRANSFORMATION
Oumar and Abdoulaye has over 25 years of honest and sincere friendship. While pursuing their graduation in separate colleges in Canada, both of them were working as well. However, it was quite costly and inconvenient to send money back home to support their families through prevalent channels. This served as the impetus for the launch of EZ Money Transfer, which enables Guineans living in Canada to send money home at a low cost. However, they soon learned that consumers had to travel, stand in line for hours, or even spend the entire day before they could get paid. They sought to develop an exclusive payment network in West Africa that permits last mile payments in order to alter and improve the procedure. Therefore, in 2014 they established BNB Transfer Corp. to develop the last mile payments for over 20 remittance companies, including Western Union, Ria, MoneyGram, Small World, etc. The company is currently processing about a half billion dollars in transactions per year.
Although this was a remarkable breakthrough, there were still a lot of unmet needs before Africans could have access to secure, reasonably priced financial services. And, as natural problem solvers, the duo launched BNB Technologies in 2022, a B2B focused fintech that is developing Africa’s payment rails by merging mobile money (e.g., MTN, Orange) operators, banks (e.g., UBA, Ecobank), and merchants in one platform and employing blockchain technology to enable interoperable local and cross-border transactions. The platform fills a gap in the financial system by eliminating the slow, cumbersome processes and a lack of interoperability, which dehumanise the value of digital payments by raising costs on both ends. The platform is tackling both challenges and aiming to accelerate the digitization of the African financial sector.
LEADING WITH A ‘FUTURIST’ MINDSET
Oumar and Abdoulaye are driving an essential “wind of change” for the African people via BNB Tech. Statistically, the country’s digital payments market has grown over the last two decades, with the emergence of many incumbent players solving client issues. In 2020, Africa generated $16T in payment transactions, where only 5-7% were from digital channels. This demonstrates that despite the “digital boom,” Africa’s fintech sector still has numerous unexplored prospects for long-term, robust growth. The duo aims to take the initiative in leading this transition from the front, and close the remaining gaps in the country’s financial industry.
This exemplifies the futurist thinking of both entrepreneurs, who push the envelope and explore all options rather than choosing a direction and sticking with it. They have a voracious desire for knowledge and are lifelong learners. This fosters their ability to think on different cases, dissect what doesn’t work, and reframe and enhance their capacity to fathom novel concepts and ideas.
STRONG BACKING OF R&D
BNB is designed for the unbanked and underbanked with the goal of consistently improving the financial health of Africans. It works directly with banks and telcos in an effort to ensure a seamless experience and strengthen client relationships and increase long-term value. The process is backed by a lot of R&D practices. Every new product launch or improvement in existing ones adds to the competitive edge of the firm to break into new markets. Their R&D investments led to introducing new and improved innovations that can level up efficiency while reducing costs. It also helps in keeping up with shifting customer demands.
The investments in R&D also have an integral role in staying abreast of technological upgrades. Technology is evolving at lightning speeds. And BNB is built on values of learning and innovation that keeps it continuously optimize its performance, products, services, and workflow. The continuous R&D allows BNB to adapt and evolve, and even break grounds if necessity needs it to.
THE INNOVATIVE TRIBE OF BNB
Innovation in a firm comes from a combination of tangible and intangible, and a mix of internal and external sources. For BNB, it’s nothing unlike. Here people interact with each other and focus on being creative and collaborative, which can translate into the firm’s success. However, it isn’t easy to inspire a fusion of challenge and support to bring out their best. Nevertheless, Oumar and Abdoulaye love challenges and nurturing individuals to surpass their expectations is personally rewarding.
While the duo are the authoritarians of BNB, they use their influence to encourage employees to excel and not be comfortable. This enables the team to look beyond their horizons and take risks as required. Both the leaders love inspiring innovativeness and drive approaches so that employees can bring out the desired results with an unorthodox approach.
GROWING EXPONENTIALLY & RESILIANT WITH TIMES
Oumar and Abdoulaye’s passion to drive financial transformation ultimately sets a paradigm of innovative leadership, which is critical to growth of the African economy. Everything they do displays their entrepreneurial spirit, whether they are bringing new products, forming collaborations, or preserving an inspiring culture where individuals are free to share their ideas and learn from their failures. The transition from EZ Money Transfer to BNB Transfer Corp and now BNB Tech demonstrates their learning mindset and commitment to their mission.
It goes without saying that their efforts have earned them many landmarks. Today, they’re a family of 160+ members. The leaders’ drive and entrepreneurial spirit is empowering an expanding network with over 50,000 locations. The innovativeness of the platform has also incurred multiple success stories. “I’m always ecstatic whenever I hear an agent talk about how they are able to support their family, and send their kids to school as a benefit of being our partner, it helps us power through the rocky times as founders,” says Oumar. Even though they have barely scratched the surface, their trajectory certainly projects their potential to become a unicorn in near future.
Going forward, the dynamic duo is emphasizing on learning to break grounds through better teamwork. In Abdoulaye’s words, “It’s all about learning to let go, and trusting that our team “has it”.” It’s mainly about providing critical thinking and a strategic approach to boost the firm’s performance. The leaders are working on fostering more trust, inclusion and mindfulness for their team as those are critical ingredients of an innovative culture. In the end, witnessing a team thrive and feel pride in their own success makes it all worthwhile!
PEARLS OF ADVICE
Oumar: “You should find a business venture that you really enjoy and focus on that. If you don’t like it, don’t even try. I believe the most successful entrepreneurs are addicted to what they do.”
Abdoulaye: “Always keep your eyes open for new opportunities because new ventures are created out of existing consumer problems, so keep your eyes open for business opportunities at all times.”