EvMak Tanzania: Evans Makundi Discusses Software Development and Payment Integrations – Marcopolis

Interview with Evans Makundi, Managing Director at EvMak Tanzania Ltd

Can you describe your scope of business? What is your competitive advantage?

We are focused more on software development, helping mostly the non-governmental organizations but also the government organizations as well as the Ministry of Health, focusing on developing their software, enhancing their sub sales and billing integration on the payment side, and anything else related to software development. We have other small SMEs as well. Some of the biggest clients we have are NGOs like Amref, PATH, and the Aga Khan Foundation. In the payment industry, we have a third party that we are connecting with right now. In Tanzania now, we are connected with Uber and people can do their payment through us. We are connected with Emirates, Qatar Airways, Kenya Airways, Bolt (previously called Taxify) which is a service like Uber, and KiKUU which is one of the major ecommerce platforms in the region and is available in 10 countries in Africa.

Are you also using cloud hosting?

We have side services such as cloud hosting and bulk SMS that we have been running for over eight years now in our company. They have been slowly growing organically. Our main projects and focus running the company are software development and payment integrations.

One of our major success stories was when we started the payment gateway called EvPay which was more profitable than any other product that we have done in the last 10 years that we have been in business.

What makes you stand out as a software development company in Tanzania?

Because we were previously a small company and we were expanding, we were more flexible than other companies in Tanzania in terms of solutions and looking into customer requirements. Because we had a vast array of young developers, the technologies we used were more advanced than the people who are using legacy technologies. That is one of our major advantages and one of the reasons why people are moving from other companies to us. On the payments side, it is the same. People are integrated with major payment solutions in Tanzania, but they are moving from those big groups to us because we have invented this new payment method that is easy and can let someone checkout on their ecommerce site in less than a minute compared to other people who will spend half an hour.

What is your general assessment of the technology industry in Tanzania?

The Tanzanian market is still ripe. It is still growing and it has been one of the biggest advantages on for us because people are getting more familiar with technology. Organizations are getting more familiar with digitizing their content and their solutions. We can see a lot of opportunities going forward. Now, the internet penetration in Tanzania is 26%, and with the government strategies coming in, we are expecting to increase it to 80%. It is an advantage and an opportunity, and our technology and our digital solution will be used more in the coming years in Tanzania and even in Africa in general because we are expanding to other countries. We have started in Malawi, and we are going to Zambia as well.

What are your expectations as to growing within Tanzania and outside of Tanzania?

In Tanzania, we are growing steadily. We have had fast growth over the past few years, so our focus is growing here as well as in other countries. In other markets, for example, Malawi, the internet penetration there is 16% and it has been growing over the years. We think that in the next five years, we will be growing both in Tanzania and other countries.

Did COVID-19 have an impact on business for you? What strategies did you implement to overcome these challenges?

When COVID began, people were scared. A lot of businesses in Tanzania were doing things manually so people wanted to digitize their solutions quickly and they were going all overlooking for solutions. For us, this was a positive effect from COVID. We acquired more clients. We closed our offices and started working from home and a lot of inquiries were coming in. We have lost clients as well because some businesses closed, but the positive growth was more than what we lost.

What are some success stories you have achieved since the company’s inception?

We started our company 10 years ago. We were engaging in software development and providing IT solutions. Six years ago, we started working with Amref. One of our major success stories with them at that time was that we were engaged in a project where we were helping to combat mortality. We were developing and enhancing one of the major Tanzanian immunization systems. It was one of the best projects we have done so far because we were both benefiting financially and getting to help Tanzanian infants. Another one of our major success stories was when we started the payment gateway called EvPay which was more profitable than any other product that we have done in the last 10 years that we have been in business.

What distinguishes your payment gateway from other platforms? What are the advantages to using your system?

In the last 3 years, the MNO (Mobile Network Operator) money network organizations like Vodacom have developed a new way of finishing their payments quickly that takes less than 10 or 15 seconds. We have adapted that and built around that ecosystem that will enable a client to finish their payments easier than other payment gateways that mostly rely on instructional payment checkouts where they get a reference number, go to the mobile network, pay there even if it is in a day or two, and then come back with the reference and then they revert. If you look at someone like Uber or Emirates who wants to issue tickets instantly, they will obviously come to our solution more than other big players because with our solution the response time will not take more than a minute to finish the payment.

Is your system being used with Uber in Kenya?

We are only integrated in Tanzania. We have not gone out of Tanzania for payments. But in Tanzania, we are the only one that is providing that solution.

Do you have competitors that provide a similar solution outside of Tanzania?

In Nigeria, they provide this same solution as well. It is the same solution that we want to provide in Malawi and Zambia where it is currently not available. The only competitor that we know of is in Nigeria, which is one of the biggest markets in Africa.

What is the name of this solution?

The solution is called USSD Push Payment. At the moment, it is only us that is providing that solution, but nothing can stop others from starting. One of the reasons why we are expanding to Malawi and Zambia is because this USSD Push Payment solution is of one of the biggest competitive advantages we have. In Tanzania now, even through the minimal promotion that we are doing on our solution, a lot of people, for example, those who went through Emirates to buy tickets, come and ask for a solution and leave other payment gateways just so they can get this fast checkout that we are providing.

How many people work for your company?

We have a very small team of only 10 people. We are doing another interview and we will add 2 more people in customer service.

Do you plan to implement other payment solutions such as those based on QR codes being used in Ghana?

We have tried QR code payments. It does not work very well here because more than 70% of Tanzanian phone holders are using feature phones not smartphones. Only 30% are using smartphones. That is the reason why we opted for USSD instead of QR.

What is your vision for the company in the medium term, three years’ time? What would you like to have achieved?

In 3 years, our focus will still be on expansion to other countries in Africa. If we manage to get a joint venture with someone who has more experience, that will be great for us and we will reach our vision and our goals sooner than expected.

Have you partnered with any IT companies in the East African Community such as Kenya or Uganda or Rwanda?

In Kenya we have a few partners. One of the biggest partners we have in Kenya is Cellulant. We have Virtual Pay as one of our partners but it is more that we are lending services to them and they are lending services to us. It is not a joint venture. Kenya has not been on our priority list. I have been to Kenya several times and have tried to explore business there. In Kenya, the competition is extremely high because people there are far ahead of us. So, we are looking at other countries that are similar to us or that are below us where we can provide solutions.

What is your inspiration? What drives you to do what you do?

I do not think I have a philosophy. What inspired me over the years is that I have been growing steadily coming into the technology industry. I am a person who likes traveling a lot and discovering new things. Technology has given me something that I can work on and discover things every day and how to innovate around what exists right now. One of my biggest goals is to make Tanzania understand technology, to help Tanzanian technology solutions. There are big players coming here trying to provide a small solution and then the quotation will come to an exorbitant amount for a very simple solution like a loan automation system or loan appraisal or loan origination. I want to help Tanzania grow in technology without spending a lot of time creating simple solutions like loan origination. An organization might be stuck for a year doing a project when they could have accomplished something five times bigger than that. In Tanzania right now, we are at the point that we can do a lot as long as people who are leading this technology train are more focused on growing rather than creating small solutions and small applications along the way. Previously, I had over 10 mobile applications online on the Google Play Store but I removed all of them because I came to realize that what I was doing was living off creating small solutions like creating a news app and a video subscription app which was not really helping Tanzania to grow in technology.

For more information, please visit: https://evmak.com.

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