Kenyan start-up, First Choice Global (FCG), has broken new ground in the financial services industry by providing an instant, free, money remittance service to Africans working internationally.
For most of FCG’s customers, conventional banking facilities or money transfer systems are prohibitively expensive. The transfer process takes days. And, frequently, recipients of the transfers either have no bank account or must spend already limited resources getting to a bank to access their cash.
FCG has resolved these issues by creating an app, SAWAPay, that can be linked to a credit card or bank account in the United States. The person wanting to transfer money simply enters the recipient’s phone number and an amount and presses send. The money is received in Kenya in seconds.
On the Kenyan end, FCG’s solution uses a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing, and microfinancing service. It allows users to deposit money into an account stored on their phones, to send money, using PIN-secured SMS text messages, to other users – including sellers of goods and services, and to redeem deposits for cash. It uses a network of agents that include airtime resellers and retail outlets acting as banking agents.
FCG’s SAWAPay solution therefore makes it possible for people in remote, rural areas without access to formal financial services and the unbanked in urban environments to receive cash directly from relatives in the diaspora. The service is free to customers.
FCG’s challenge, however, was finding a cloud provider willing to support an unknown product created by a start-up and serving an untested market. The company also needed a cloud provider trusted by the global financial services industry, that had a local presence in Kenya, and, specifically, could guarantee data sovereignty in America where FCG had developed partnerships with currency exchange firms.