Africa’s Most Fearsome Fintech Competitor

Africa’s Most Fearsome Fintech Competitor

I delivered a presentation to a South African client today via video. It is a fintech company, and I was tasked to offer the state of the fintech industry in Africa. Everything went fine (no tension) until I went into latent competitions of the near future. We examined them across different nexus. One is really fearsome.

Yes, one of the major latent future competitors is not really the fintechs getting licenses from the Reserve Bank and its agencies (like Central Bank in Nigeria and units). Rather, the biggest threat on the web payment is OPERA for the firm and most African fintech firms.

(USSD, mobile money and things like MPESA are not popular in South Africa. Typically, areas with pre-existing fairly mature infrastructure do not need such “leapfrogging” as what was available is just good enough for people to bother. That explains why no one would pay huge attention to MPESA in U.S., Germany and Canada.)

Opera’s strategy is brilliant for the firm, but it will put it in the crosshairs of many local companies. As more Africans use Opera, most local companies can experience erosion in their brands. Yet, it is also possible that Opera can move in the path of aggregation where it can make it easier to find leading payment, ecommerce and other partners through its browser. But no matter what happens, I do expect massive dislocation as Opera becomes a platform with commercial activities happening at the level of browser. It will be very interesting: Opera needs a business model to make money.

Opera is evolving as a web operating system in Africa. This company has a promise to automate out the need for most financial services to go beyond a browser. Why launch a web app for payment when that is available right in the browser? Yes, if your browser can enable you to make that payment, there is no need of visiting a fintech website to do so. And when you notice that Opera is really popular in Africa, you get the picture why this company can redesign the sector.

Across the continent, the trajectory is that Opera will build platforms with capabilities to abstract away most internet services at the level of its browser. My thinking is that Opera will increasingly make it easier for the bulk of its customer base to do more on its platform, thereby saving them more money in visiting the main Internet. Technically, your Internet can end in Opera because it will allow you do most things there. Simply, Opera is transmuting as an aggregator right at the browser level.

Because Opera is engineered to save you money when you browse, keeping you to its platforms makes a lot of sense. You do not have to visit websites where you spend too much mobile credit if you can get your news, games, financial services, etc delivered by Opera at the browser level [Opera technology minimizes the consumption of mobile credit]. It is investing $100 million in Africa to do just that.

Now, the company wants to add crypto-wallet at the browser level, enabling the transition to Web 3.0 and web decentralization at scale. If it enables that, it may be winning Web 3.0 payment even before it begins in Africa. This is why this company is at the payment forefront even though most refer to it as a browser.

In a first for the company, Opera is launching new browser software that has a built-in cryptocurrency wallet.

The browser maker said Wednesday that its “new version of the Opera browser for Android… combines easy-to-use crypto wallet functionality with support for the Ethereum Web3 API.” The browser is currently in private beta, which the company is now inviting new users to join.

This means users no longer have to open a new web browser or download a separate extension to send, receive and pay in cryptocurrency – now they can do so directly from a toggle on their browsers on mobile Android devices.

It is an especially useful announcement for developers of decentralized web applications – more commonly known as dapps – given that the new browser functionality indicates users can now more easily interact with dapps being built on the ethereum network.

The Opera crypto wallet and general payment tool would be the grand-king of the consolidation of payment interfaces in Africa and could become ubiquitous that if you are not in it, you may be hidden in the “dark web” of African web payment. That is a threat to anyone doing fintech/payment in the continent.


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