How NALA Became The Top Mobile Money App In Africa

by StartupWorld Staff         

Tanzania, the Sub Saharan country, like many other African countries, is not a region with high internet connectivity. Until 2017, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) service was the only option for money transfer through a smartphone. In Tanzania, smartphone usage is growing fast despite the poor internet connection. Benjamin Fernandes, a mobile money expert brought a new offline money transfer system named NALA to solve the issue.

The Context of Mobile Money in Tanzania

Tanzanians used USSD for mobile money transfer since it is the simplest way back then. It was difficult enough for anyone, and it demands a strong internet connection. Besides, typing a prolonged code brought several mistakes while transferring money. It made the mobile money transfer quite disturbing. This condition of Tanzania led Benjamin to research on the possibilities of FinTech in Africa and introduce the revolutionary NALA.

How NALA Became The Top Mobile Money App In Africa

Benjamin’s Search For An Alternative Mobile Money Transfer

Benjamin grew up in Tanzania, and he always believed and dreamt of building something innovative to help the fellow countrymen. To sharpen his dreams, he flew to the US for studies. It was followed by his work in the television industry. Working in the television industry was to bring TV accessibility in rural Tanzania.  

Being an all-time enthusiast on mobile money, Benjamin realized that it is very slow in his country. He thought about an alternative for the poor interface and performance of USSD desperately. His sheer perseverance sent him again to the US to research the mobile money in Africa.

He spent two years in Seattle to be an expert in mobile money. Unlike many Tanzanians, he did not settle in the States because due to his love for his motherland.

In Seattle, he met his co-founder Sam, and they developed various prototypes to work on Tanzania. Finally, they decided to dedicate completely to NALA. He went back to Tanzania and built NALA by mid-2017. 

An Aim To Digitize The Money Transfer In Sub-Saharan Africa

By introducing NALA, the founders dreamt of bringing the most efficient mobile money not only in Tanzania but in Sub-Saharan Africa. NALA focused on Tanzania in the beginning, and it helped the users to simplify the money transfer unprecedentedly. 

It transferred money seven times faster than the USSD system. Also, the users just have to open the app, click Send Money and select the recipient. Now, NALA is available in Uganda as well. The team is planning to expand its services to other countries by the end of 2019. 

Importance Of Human-Centered Design

Benjamin always believed in the human-centered design for the app. He engaged with people to know the real needs of people. It helped him to bring the best mobile money interface with a straightforward interface.

Most of the users were bothered about security. NALA ensures security as well. To establish NALA, Benjamin’s team interviewed more than 450 people in person in the first one and a half years, and over 11,000 from online surveys as well. 

Growth Of NALA Regardless Of Challenges

Establishing fin-tech in many of the African countries, so in Tanzania. The lack of expert techies was one of the challenges Benjamin faced in the beginning. So, it demanded a lot of time and effort. The startup worked hard to raise the funding as well. By 2018, Nala could make its presence in the region. Above all, it bagged reputed awards for its innovation. 

A Man With Social Transforming Ideas

Africa has seen a lot of innovation in the business sector. More African countries are embracing technology as they develop financially. Technology plays a vital role in lifting the countries to a higher level. Benjamin is an inspiration for many African entrepreneurs to bring very innovative business models that simplify human lives.


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StartupWorld Staff

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