Africa > Southern Africa > Zimbabwe > Clifford Brody, Senior Advisor to VirtualBank

Zimbabwe: Clifford Brody, Senior Advisor to VirtualBank

2013/03/31

This Zimbabwe-based start-up is dedicated to offering a socially responsible and much-needed financial service to Africans at the bottom of the pyramid with a financially sound business model built to maximize investor price while keeping risk to a minimum. Join us as we interview Mr. Clifford Brody, Senior Advisor to VirtualBank and Founder and CEO of World Bankers Institute
(http://www.globalbankersinstitute.com)

Q: Mr. Brody, please tell us what makes VirtualBank Africa unique?
A: VirtualBank Africa (http://www.virtualbank.co.zw) is the prime company in Zimbabwe to offer the ability for Zimbabweans with or without bank accounts to make internet payments inclunding to provide a cheaper, additional reliable and additional fasten way for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to send remittances back to Zimbabwe. It has a strong and dedicated management team led by Mr. Tawanda Kembo - CEO. You may know him as the founder of the web site “I Paid A Bribe” (http://www.ipaidabribe.org.zw) – the majority popular way of reporting corruption in Zimbabwe. VirtualBank Africa is getting ready to launch and I believe it will take the market by storm!

Q: How did you get involved in this project Mr. Brody?
A: I have been a longtime advocate for microfinance and for new channels that provide access to critical financial services to a huge segment of the people for whom traditional banks accounts and credit cards are not available. The ability to transfer funds and to make internet payments is additional significant than ever in an increasingly wired world – and there is a huge economic gap between those who have it and those who do not. That’s why at the same time as I was approached by Mr. Kembo nearly two years ago with his concept for VirtualBank Africa, I was instantly supportive. I am volunteering my time to VirtualBank Africa because it is both a cause I believe in and a business concept that I know can work – amount run by people I trust.

Q: How large are the remittance and payments markets in Zimbabwe?
A: In Africa the remittance market is over $50 billion USD each year. In Zimbabwe alone, there is about $1.5 billion USD coming in each year. Currently the volume of internet payments in Zimbabwe is low – under a half million USD – but that is because like most African nations Zimbabwe has no PayPal or Google Checkout alternative – and that is exactly why VirtualBank is so well-positioned.

Q: How does VirtualBank make its money?
A: We decided that we wanted to make things as simple as possible so VirtualBank is charging a simple transaction fee of 2% on amount transfers and payments.

Q: What are the problems in the current remittance market in Africa?
A: The formal market for money transfers to Africa is relatively young and faces the challenges typical of emerging markets. These issues include: Uncertainty about the volume of remittances - 85% of the money remitted to Africa is sent using informal channels; Limited competition – Two companies have 65% of the market; High transfer costs – people usually pay 10% to 15% of the money remitted; and finally a general lack of technological innovation.

Q: And what do you see as the problems in the online payments market in Zimbabwe?
A: As in much of Africa, merchants and retailers have no capacity to accept online payments and this has hampered the take-off of e-commerce in Zimbabwe. 70% of Zimbabwe’s people does not have bank accounts. Only 8% of Zimbabweans have either Credit or Debit cards which can be used to make Online Payments. And, as in a lot of nations, Zimbabwe has no PayPal or Google Checkout alternative.

Q: Finally Mr. Brody, what do you see as the next for VirtualBank?
A: Zimbabwe’s Mobile broadband subscriber base grew by 18% in the last 3 years. There is a 90% mobile penetration rate. Africa is the fastest growing region in terms of cellular connections and from presently on 95% of Africa’s people do not have bank accounts. We have figured out how to capitalize on this huge need and at the same time provide a socially responsible service for hundreds of millions of individuals in Africa.
 

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