Empowering the unbanked and unconnected – Fintext revolution transforms the commerce landscape in emerging economies

Co-Founder & CEO, BAIA Group, Michael Wallis-Brown delves into the challenges with cash-based transactions in the emerging markets


Economic challenges mount for emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs)—including continued COVID-19 outbreaks, elevated inflation, record debt levels, and rising income inequality. The global cash economy is a US$19 Trillion opportunity, with most transactions between smallholder producers and buyers still carried out with cash payments.  In fact, in Africa 95% of transactions are cash, the risk to all stakeholders is high as it makes them vulnerable to errors, fraud and theft.

The dynamic nature of emerging markets creates challenges that have never confronted the developed world, but also opens opportunities for innovation and growth. Increasing convergence and integration between e-commerce and mobile technology have radically changed the shape of the payments marketplace. Yet most commerce interactions in emerging markets are still being made face to face with cash, and even though we see the shift to electronic and digital methods happening in some countries cash is still the predominant form of payment and won’t be changing anytime soon, regardless of all the hype around the latest ‘super apps’.


Michael Wallis-Brown

The Digital Divide

This is for good reason as almost 50% of the global population lack mobile internet and are left with the only option of face-to-face commerce. A third of mobile users have a feature phone and 2G connectivity and messaging is the only way to communicate and do commerce. In fact, 3.2bn of mobile users own a messaging app capable device.

The Chat Commerce market has seen significant growth over the last few years and is viewed as the third big wave of digital commerce and is on the tail of eCommerce and App Commerce markets. With 7.7 billion users compared to 4.7 billion internet users, Chat is the largest digital platform in the world valued at a $80+ billion Total Addressable Market (TAM), which together with the cash economy, positions BAIA for significant growth in the next few years.  We are seeing more and more consumers active in their chat apps and the need for brands to move beyond desktop, mobile websites, branded apps, and email, has become ever more prevalent.  This in turn has seen more and more businesses leverage chat messaging as the preferred channel to engage with customers for support, engagement, and now payments.

There is a huge opportunity here to serve the growing appetite in the market as the current infrastructure in emerging markets for commerce is inefficient.  The lack of payment trails with face to face, analogue and cash-based commerce, to lack of data capture within the unstructured and informal market down to a lack of trust and reliability with unverified and undocumented processes.

Supporting Agents, Buyers and Sellers to master their market through collaboration to gain deeper insights and to smartly connect and safely transact with trusted connections using messaging is paving the way forward.  By enabling large businesses and SMEs across the globe to notarise ‘face to face’ transactions in informal markets via messaging helps provide businesses with a trusted and reliable commerce solution for the hyper local, cash-based, messaging enabled markets that are prolific within emerging economies and will without a doubt help these businesses prosper.  Helping empower agents (gig workers) across the board by ensuring they have all necessary critical information at their fingertips to maximise their productivity, increase their profit and ease of transaction and most importantly, know that every product and sale is one hundred percent secure is a vital lifeline for business to thrive.

Baia is a collaborative commerce platform powered by a messaging interface with unique optimisation technology at its core (BAIAs secret sauce). The innovation behind the solution enables data capture and tracking across the whole supply chain of agents, goods, services, assets, and cash; supporting agents, buyers, and sellers alike to master their market with deeper insights into information or opportunities to smartly connect and safely transact.  At Baia, we spotted an opportunity to create a middle ground – a trusted mediator without intrusion, that enables a digital ledger of every exchange, agreement, and negotiation as well as comprehensive customised dashboard that tracks the KPIs and bespoke metrics that matter most to the user, while constantly supporting the entire process through a powerful computation tool that delivers a verifiable increase in productivity.

By bridging this gap between online and offline transactions, traders and agents across all emerging markets have all necessary critical information at their fingertips to maximise their productivity, increase their profit and ease of transaction and most importantly, know that every product and sale is one hundred percent secure.



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