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RCS: Empowering MNOs to Compete Against OTT Players in Lucrative A2P Messaging Space

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By Filip Filković, Regional OP Manager, West Africa at Infobip

As Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms such as WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram continue to gain popularity, SMS messaging still has its purpose and works well for certain types of messaging as a Person-To Person (P2P) communication channel. But with the growing demand for an upgrade in SMS experiences to accommodate Rich Conversational Messaging (RCS) capabilities, branding, security and trust, RCS is gradually taking root, leaving Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) with few means to fight back in this segment. At the same time, OTT channels are also becoming dominant in the enterprise communication space, given their prevalence and rich media capabilities, as well as largescale P2P adoption.

Filip Filković

Filip Filković

However, Rich Communication Services (RCS) may provide a solution for MNOs to compete with OTT players and claw back some of the revenue they have been missing out on in both the P2P and the lucrative Application-To-Person (A2P) messaging space. RCS is a rich media capable communication protocol that is an evolution of SMS as a native messaging channel, provided by Google in collaboration with MNOs.

With RCS, mobile operators are able to provide their subscribers, as well as enterprises, with a messaging system that has the capability of sharing and receiving content such as images or videos without the need to download a separate messaging app. With many enterprise-focused features such as chatbots or carousels (content slideshows), brands are able to provide a convenient customer engagement channel for various use cases, ranging from tech support to purchases, as part of the conversational commerce paradigm.

Engaging communication experience

Since its launch in 2018, it took a while for telcos to adopt RCS and for enterprises to embrace it as a means of creating a more engaging customer communication experience. However, it is safe to say that RCS is now an established business communication channel.

At the same time, while OTT messaging apps have become the norm in P2P communication, RCS’s rich media capabilities can provide a foothold for MNOs not only in the business communication space, but also in the P2P market where OTT players currently dominate. Therefore, RCS is fast becoming an important part of telcos’ enterprise digital portfolio.

With that said, RCS still lacks wide P2P acceptance, as it is far from being the top choice for P2P communication. Yet, promoting RCS as a channel for P2P communication can add to the efficiency of A2P campaigns by the mere fact that more people would be using the channel and are more likely to respond, further growing already robust engagement stats.

A good first step for MNOs would be to start using RCS as a communication channel for their subscribers, providing tech support, sending statements and invoices, responding to purchase enquiries and other use cases to familiarise users with the channel and its features, while also allowing them to get hands-on experience with it.

No installation needed

A distinct advantage for MNOs is that their customers do not need to install any additional apps, as the messaging app that is native to most Android platforms just needs to be enabled for RCS. The adoption of smartphones and greater internet penetration in recent years means that RCS is likely to gain greater traction among P2P users. This means that the sooner MNOs start using the channel to communicate with their subscribers, the sooner it is likely to see widespread adoption.

Establishing partnerships with Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) providers can go a long way to driving RCS adoption, as CPaaS providers have been at the forefront of bringing RCS to enterprises in conjunction with MNOs, and have a range of tools for crafting customer journeys and managing channels. As such, telcos can avoid the complexities of developing CPaaS-level tools and services by partnering with CPaaS players, and instead focus on their core strengths – that of building an RCS element into their networks.

The future of business messaging lies with RCS messaging – it is what consumers want, it is

what enterprises will need to provide, and will ultimately benefit from it as the engagement it offers is superior to that of any other digital channel.


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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University. Dear Reader, Your support matters. But we believe that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. That is why, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and finance and how they affect lives. Our incisive and analytical view of how technology news affects the daily life help individuals and organizations make up their minds. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Kindly support our effort to deliver technology and finance journalism to everyone in the world. Donate as little as N1,000. Bank transfers can be made to: UBA Plc 1017156876 Communication Week Media Ltd

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Why Debt Financing is so Important for the African Business Market

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By Nathaniel Nyika, Chief Investment Officer at Norsad Capital

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the beating heart of Africa’s economies. According to the World Economic Forum, as engines of growth, SMEs are responsible for around 80% of the continent’s employment, ultimately helping to reduce poverty and income inequality, enabling the establishment of a new middle class and driving demand for new goods and services.

That’s why creating an enabling environment for SMEs to access finance will enhance their ability to not only contribute to Africa’s labour force, but also facilitate the continent’s development and economic growth while driving the innovation needed to help solve the socio-economic issues it continues to contend with.

However, despite Africa’s booming startup ecosystem, which boasts a value of $6.6 billion, the continent’s SMEs still find it challenging to secure equity funding (source of information). In addition to this, rising geopolitical tensions, global economic volatility and record inflation highs have created a more competitive fundraising environment, with investors becoming more risk-averse. This could spell even greater trouble in access to financing as Africa has long been perceived as a high-risk environment for investors as a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the continent as a homogenous entity rife with political instability, weak infrastructure, and other challenges.

It is clear that SMEs have a significant role to play in helping to realise Africa’s economic potential. But, in order to turn this potential into reality, there needs to be a shift away from traditional equity funding towards a more debt-focused approach.

Removing the negative perception of debt.

There is a lot of power in debt. Debt is how the world creates wealth and at moderate levels it can improve welfare and enhance growth. As such, debt financing offers SMEs the ability to receive funding without having to dilute equity. Essentially, the lender gains no control over the business and once the debt is repaid the relationship with the lender ends, unlike traditional equity funding where the business sells a portion of its equity in return for capital.

Additionally, it is a lot easier for SMEs to forecast their expenses as a loan payment is consistent while interest on said debt financing can often be tax-deductible.

Filling the funding gap by embracing venture debt

Over the last couple of years, Africa’s SME ecosystem experienced significant growth in spite of global economic uncertainty, attracting record amounts of funding against the global trend of a funding decline. According to the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA), funding for African startups were on track to hit record levels as venture capital deals reached $3.5 billion in the first half of 2022 alone – more than double the amount raised in the same period in 2021.

This year, however, Africa’s startup investment landscape faced significant headwinds as venture capital decreased by a whopping $1.4 billion (43%) in the first six months of 2023. (source of information, it’s important to state because it involves numbers and we cannot say we own the information as Norsad)

In this challenging financing landscape, venture debt (a type of loan aimed at early-stage, high-growth companies with venture capital backing) could prove to be particularly important for Africa’s SME ecosystem and the continent’s growth as a whole.

Unlike with other types of lending, SMEs will not need to showcase any positive earnings or cash flow in order to receive venture debt funding. As such, access to finance is exponentially improved in comparison to traditional equity.

Able to be used as performance insurance, funding for acquisitions or capital expenses, or to bridge the gap between venture capital rounds and carrying strong and stable interest rates, venture debt is extremely attractive for both SMEs, fund investors and development finance institutions alike.

With around 51% of all Africa’s startups and SMEs in need of more funding than they can currently access, Africa’s potential for growth is becoming stuck in a state of stagnation. Improving access to funding will help to equip SMEs with the tools and resources needed to innovate, create and discover in ways that entire communities stand to benefit. Venture debt offers the continent a well of potential to empower SMEs to bring their groundbreaking ideas to life and drive Africa’s growth, development and competitiveness.


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Beyond doing good: Why ESG makes great business sense for African fintechs

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By Funmi Dele-Giwa, General Counsel & Head, GRC at MFS Africa

If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance you’re already familiar with the acronym ESG. Standing for “environmental”, “social”, and “governance”, it’s a constantly evolving standard that emphasises the importance of doing business in a way that positively impacts the environment, society and stakeholders.

Funmi Dele-Giwa

Funmi Dele-Giwa

In essence, it’s the idea that companies can grow and profit while doing good and it encourages businesses to be more transparent about how they add to or create value for their society, community and/or stakeholders.

While ESG has its critics (on both sides of the aisle), its philosophy has gained near-universal acceptance in investor circles. In fact, a 2022 study by asset management firm Capital Group found that 89% of investors consider ESG issues in their investment approaches. Additionally, there are around US$2.5 trillion in ESG assets under fund management. And with rising interest rates putting a dampener on investment (including in Africa), scoring well on those metrics may become more important than ever.

But for African fintechs the case for ESG goes beyond becoming investable. Implemented properly, the principles behind ESG make a great deal of business sense. As an illustration of how much of a boost it can be to a business, a study by accounting firm Moore Global found that companies with strong ESG principles saw their profits grow 9.1% in the three years between 2019 and 2022. In other words, the fintechs that get ESG right won’t just have an easier time attracting investment, they’ll also be better poised for growth, sustainability and profitability.

Why ESG works

Before looking into how African fintechs can put together the kind of ESG frameworks that encourage growth and investment, it’s worth taking a deeper look at why it makes good business sense (outside of the already strong investment case) to invest in ESG.

One of the most powerful is the African environmental context. According to the Africa Development Bank, for example, Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change. Any fintech that understands this and works to ensure that its operations are sustainable isn’t just helping mitigate the effects of climate change on the planet, it’s also helping ensure a future environment in which it’s more likely to survive and thrive.

Of course, ESG isn’t just about the environment. Its second social pillar has an equally important role to play. For fintechs this can look like ensuring that they hire diversely, support MSMEs, and contribute positively to employment in areas where it’s needed most. But perhaps even more importantly, it also includes financial inclusion.

Choosing to hire diversely has obvious societal benefits: for example it means that previously marginalised groups are able to participate in the economy at much higher levels. But it also comes with significant business benefits. And the higher up the organisation those hires climb, the greater the accrued benefits are. According to the Boston Consulting Group, companies with above average diversity in their management team report 19% higher innovation revenues than those with lower diversity.

Supporting micro, small, and medium-sized businesses also benefits fintechs. For starters, they make up a large customer base (particularly for B2B-focused fintechs) on the continent. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are approximately 44 million SMEs. These enterprises not only serve as the engine of many economies across the African continent, but they also represent a segment historically ignored and under-served by the more traditional financial services players. By providing products and services which speak directly to the pain points of micro and small enterprises, fintechs can not only tap into a fast growing and profitable segment, but can have a positive impact on the overall economic development and prosperity in the country in which they operate.

Growing financial inclusion in the region, meanwhile, is absolutely critical. At present, just 43% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have a formal bank account. That makes it difficult to access things like vehicle, home, and business loans that can be used to grow income. It also means that any savings the unbanked have can’t be used for wealth generating investments. Across the region, fintechs are helping people overcome those barriers by expanding financial services such as digital banking, microfinancing, and digital payments to people who wouldn’t previously have access to them.

The final pillar within the ESG framework, focuses on governance and this is often an overlooked and misunderstood pillar. I am an avid advocate and loud champion of strong corporate governance workings, but I am often asked how strong governance arrangements actually help an organisation thrive and grow.

Many people equate good governance with rigid structures and bureaucratic processes, but I respectfully disagree with these assertions. The truth is that a solid corporate governance foundation, coupled with the right corporate culture, has exactly the opposite effect. It frees an organisation from confusion and unnecessary work. It allows for decisions to be made more freely by people who have been empowered to take decisions. It ensures that key decisions are placed with and taken by the most appropriate individuals within an organisation. And it allows for a dynamic, organised, and agile organisation.

Examples of good governance practices every fintech should have in place include transparent decision-making processes, ethical behaviour, and accountability to stakeholders. This, in turn, helps build trust with customers, investors, and (increasingly stringent) regulators; fostering long-term sustainability and growth.

Building the right frameworks

Of course, claiming to be ESG compliant and having an effective ESG framework are two different things. While there are a variety of approaches that can be taken in doing so, at MFS Africa we take a three-pillared approach that focuses on “setting”, “measuring”, and “reporting” the impact we have in local communities and across the Africa continent.

During the “setting” phase, we outline the parameters which will guide the organisation in its ambition to build a strong impact-driven organisation with a clear ESG approach. Having done that, we measure against those parameters and then report transparently on those measurements.

While each organisation should tailor its ESG framework according to its individual needs and context, we’ve found this model to be the one best suited to us. It’s helped us grow to be the kind of organisation that can connect more than 500 million mobile money wallets across 40 African countries, supporting over 300,000 agents and providing access to financial services for millions of Africans.

A policy worth getting right

Ultimately, despite dire predictions from the extremes of the political landscape, it’s unlikely that ESG will go away soon. Even if the label disappears, it’s now so entrenched in the way that investors do business, that it’ll remain an important consideration. And that’s because the companies that do ESG well share many of the hallmarks of good, investable companies. As the African fintech sector continues to grow, its participants should ensure they’re taking a proactive and positive approach to ESG. This will transform the sector beyond “doing” good to “being” good – good for the economy, good for society and good for stakeholders.


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Kiddwaya Becomes BBNaija All Stars Second Head of House as Angel Secures Black Envelope Immunity

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New Monday, new HOH game, Black Envelope search and nomination show, culminating into the ultimate drama showdown.

This week, Biggie switched up the game, going from one housemate per round last week to four teams of five housemates each. At the end of the first round, each team had two people qualify for the second and final round.

Team Fantastic Five, consisting of Ike, Pere, Kidd, Cross, and TolaniBaj, faced the HOH challenge first, with Kidd and Ike emerging as their qualifiers. In the first round, there were five basins filled with many plastic balls and opposite the filled bowls were seesaw beams. The housemates had to walk on the seesaw beams to transfer the balls from the basins to the shallow container at the end of the beam. The housemates were not allowed to use their hands to touch any part of the beam except the start point, which was clearly marked.

Biggie also noted that if any housemate touches any other part of the beam, it is considered a failed attempt, and they must start all over. He added that if the plastic balls fall out of the shallow container at the beam’s end, they must be returned to the basin, and the housemates must start again.

They were allotted 30 minutes to move the balls from the bowl to the end of the beam. The first two housemates to successfully transfer four balls and then return to the starting point would automatically qualify for the next round of the game. In the absence of the challenge completion by any housemate, the housemate with the most balls in their beam bowl will be declared the qualifier. Big Brother would decide on a sudden-death game if there was a tie. There were no sudden death games.

Team Veto Five – Whitemoney, Neo, Doyin, Princess and Ilebaye – went second. Neo and Ilebaye qualified after successfully transferring all four balls. Mercy, Frodd, Angel, Venita and Cee-C were a part of Team Five Star, which saw Frodd and Venita qualify for the next round after 30 gruelling minutes. Adekunle, Alex, Soma, Seyi, and Uriel’s Team Blizzard also struggled to finish the game in 30 minutes. Still, Soma and Adekunle qualified for the final round.

After the 4 teams had taken a turn, Big Brother announced that the Head of House game would pause for a while, introducing the black envelope challenge. The rule is simple – find the black envelope hidden in the house. One housemate can only have one envelope, but the search has to start after Biggie’s signal. Kidwaya, Neo and Angel found the envelopes. While Angel’s noted that she was immune from the week’s nomination, Kiddwaya and Neo had a message to have better luck next time.

Luck would come to play as the HoH game continued. Ike, Kiddwaya, Neo, Ilebaye, Frodd, Venita, Adekunle, and Soma, who passed the first challenge, headed to the final round. Big Brother announced a little twist in the game, explaining that the housemates are to put five balls in the shallow container in ten minutes, while other rules remain unchanged. After an intense round that saw Neo and Kiddwaya successfully transfer five balls in 10 minutes, the housemates had to head back into the lounge.

Afterwards, Big Brother announced Kiddwaya as the new head of the house. He received the chance to choose four BFFs who would share his lounge. He chose Tolanibaj, Uriel, Pere and Neo to be his BFFs for the week.

The HoH announcement led to the nominations. Big Brother announced that the nominations are taking a new turn until he says otherwise. He called the game ‘Pardon Me Please’. The voting style will see the housemates list who they want to give possible immunity for the week. They are not allowed to state their names, the HOH name or that of the Black Envelope winner’s. There will only be one winner. If there is no clear winner, Big Brother will declare the game inconclusive as Biggie will not recognise the tie.

Soma received the most nominations with eight nods. Ilebaye received two. The housemates nominated Ike, Venita, Cross, Neo Energy, Doyin, Mercy, Ceec, Uriel, Tolanibaj and Adekunle once. Big Brother announced that an emotional Soma is immune from possible eviction since he won the first-ever PMP game.

Every other housemate apart from Soma, Angel and Kiddwaya is up for possible eviction. Their continuity in the game depends on the viewers’ votes, and voting portals are now open until 9 pm on Thursday. Viewers can vote via the MyDStv and MyGOtv apps, mobile or website. Depending on their subscription, all DStv subscribers are liable to up to 10,000 votes (Prestige subscribers) or as little as 200 votes. GOtv subscribers, on the other hand, get between 200 and 750 votes (GOtv Supa+) based on their subscription.

Until the eviction show on Sunday, viewers can enjoy BBNaija All-Stars on the 24/7 channel – DStv ch. 198 and GOtv ch. 49. Remember, if you are away from home and don’t want to miss a minute of the action, you can catch up with your favourite All-Star housemates on the DStv app or Showmax.

Moniepoint Nigeria is the headline sponsor for the BBNaija All-Stars Edition and HFM – forex and commodities broker is the associate sponsor.


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