If necessity is the mother of invention, then solving a common problem is its father.
Ukheshe’s origin story started with a seemingly simple question: How can I pay someone when I don’t have cash, and they don’t have a bank account? Bringing electronic payments to the unbanked is a deceptively humble proposal with profound implications for financial inclusion across the globe where socioeconomic inequalities persist to the detriment of growth and innovation.
Meaning cash in isiZulu, Ukheshe began as a smartphone app and QR card with the aim of making it easy for South Africans to pay it forward in everyday situations. Whether tipping a car guard, paying a domestic helper, or assisting someone in need. It was a powerful idea whose time had indeed arrived: Ukheshe caught the attention of Mastercard via its startup engagement program, Start Path, before moving on to its prestigious Engage program.
As Ukheshe grew, a broader issue became more apparent: it’s not just that many people are unbanked; many financial institutions don’t have the digital means to engage with their customers in new and convenient ways. Ukheshe saw a clear opportunity to make an even bigger impact as a B2B provider of bespoke payment solutions that enable banks, telcos, and fintechs to provide payment services to their customers. In early 2020, Ukheshe was a small but formidable team of 12 people, a number that quickly grew as the pandemic hastened the digital rush. It was serendipitous timing for Ukheshe because it already had the technology and capability as a fintech enabler in the Banking-as-a-Service space.
With a string of successful partnerships under its belt and as the winner of the IITPSA Technology Excellence award in 2021, Ukheshe set its sights even higher. Long before embedded finance became the next big buzzword, Ukheshe’s Eclipse API made it possible for companies to integrate payments, transactions, transfers and other digital solutions into their businesses in a seamless way without the associated development and compliance costs.
The Power of the Platform
The goal of the platform is to provide a set of powerful APIs covering everything from digital onboarding, digital wallets, issuing, acquiring and cross-border remittances, along with a host of other capabilities.
Today, Eclipse is far ahead of the competition. It provides the opportunity for our banking, telco and fintech customers to make their business ideas come to life. We enable our customers to open up the accessibility of financial services and contribute to their goals of driving financial inclusion. Once customers integrate into Eclipse, the sky is the limit, as additional functionality can be added seamlessly at a later stage.
Series A Funding and Global Reach
With assistance from Royal Park Partners, at the end of 2022, Ukheshe International, the UK-headquartered division of Ukheshe Group announced the conclusion of an investment agreement with DPI and Fireball Capital – its biggest and most significant success to date. Ukheshe has begun accelerating its international expansion plans, serving customers across 8 countries. With offices in UAE, India, Mauritius, South Africa, and Kenya.
Since its founding in 2018, Ukheshe has scaled rapidly, and today serves over 100 customers across different sectors, including banks, fintechs, mobile network operators, and other small and medium-sized businesses. Now Ukheshe’s mission is to transform the lives of individuals by facilitating access to critical financial products and services that support the growth and prosperity of communities globally.
As innovation continues to disrupt established players and drive growth in emerging markets, Ukheshe has the opportunity to continue pioneering solutions to critical problems, provide value for customers, and support communities in markets where technology has the power to make the biggest impact – and pay homage to its founding notion of responding to a seemingly simple question with an extraordinary answer.