By: 13 December 2023

Global insights and local innovations

Frank Molla’s strategy for Africa expansion

Frank Molla is the managing director and head of Sub-Saharan Africa at BPC Banking Technologies.  

Can you share insights into the company’s strategic approach to expanding its presence in the Sub-Saharan Africa region under your leadership and how the company aims to address the unique challenges and opportunities in this market?  

My leadership has been defined by a multifaceted strategy underpinned by a deep commitment to understanding the diverse contexts of Africa. I recognise that Africa is not a monolithic continent; its rich tapestry of cultures, economies and technologies demands a nuanced approach.  

Africa is not a monolithic continent; its rich tapestry of cultures, economies and technologies demands a nuanced approach.  

My focus has been on fostering strategic collaborations with a variety of partners, including associations, fintechs and governments. These partnerships are integral to our operations and our mission of building and growing the BPC brand across the region. By aligning our objectives with each market’s unique needs and opportunities, we ensure that BPC remains a relevant and influential player in Africa’s evolving landscape. 

How does the company aim to address the unique challenges and opportunities in this market?  

A key part of our strategy revolves around recognising and appreciating the distinctive financial landscape, regulatory environment, and, crucially, the cultural nuances unique to each African market. This understanding is vital for tailoring our solutions to fit local needs, especially regarding pricing, which is often a major concern in these markets. 

Localising our offerings goes beyond just adapting our products; it involves a concerted effort to engage with local communities. This engagement is essential to bridge the knowledge gap surrounding technology and financial services, ensuring that our solutions are not only accessible but also relevant and beneficial to the communities we serve. 

We believe in a constant and proactive approach to regulatory compliance, and we achieve this by staying continuously informed and adaptable, ensuring that our practices meet the current regulatory standards and anticipate future changes. This proactive stance not only safeguards our business but also reinforces our commitment to being a responsible and forward-thinking player in the African financial landscape. 

Technology serves as an enabler, but it’s crucial to tailor it to fit into the existing ways and cultures of people in different regions.  

How do you see the role of technology evolving in the region, and what key trends do you anticipate will shape the industry in the coming years?  

I believe the future is already here, but it’s not evenly distributed across countries. I think the future of payments is less about technology itself and more about the consumers. Technology serves as an enabler, but it’s crucial to tailor it to fit into the existing ways and cultures of people in different regions.  

For instance, while mobile technology, like M-Pesa, has been highly successful in Kenya, the same technology hasn’t achieved similar success in South Africa. This demonstrates that while technology is essential, understanding and aligning it with the consumer’s culture and needs are key to the future of payments. 

What strategies has BPC Banking Technologies employed to navigate the regulatory landscape and cultural diversity in the region?  

Our approach to regulation matters is collaborative and proactive. We participate in joint conferences and share information, ensuring we’re involved in discussions when central bank regulators draft policies. This allows us to understand the content and navigate to remain compliant with regulations while also ensuring that these regulations don’t adversely impact BPC. For instance, in countries where a local license is required for operation, we engage and collaborate closely with regulators to demonstrate how we can add value through partnerships with local market entities.  

We’ve also collaborated with the Uganda Bankers Association, participating in their annual conference for the past two years. This conference brings together stakeholders, including the central bank governor, bank CEOs, telecommunications companies, and other industry players. As sponsors, we share global insights and trends, and best practices that Uganda could adopt.  

This proactive involvement and a deep understanding of local market nuances and digital appetites help us navigate regulatory compliance more effectively.  

Can you discuss some of the key collaborations that BPC Technologies has established in Sub-Saharan Africa, and how these partnerships contribute to the company’s growth and impact in the region?  

Our growth and impact in Sub-Saharan Africa have been shaped by strategic partnerships, notably with TymeBank, the first new bank in South Africa in over a decade. TymeBank’s vision to revolutionise the local banking sector with a digital-first approach required a partnership with a seasoned and reliable payment partner.  

The challenge of building TymeBank involved complying with stringent South African banking regulations, requiring meticulous planning and coordination with stakeholders across multiple countries.  

The support we provided, both remotely and on-site, was integral to the successful launch and operation of TymeBank.

With your extensive background at Mastercard, American Express, and Barclays, how do you leverage your experience to drive innovation and growth within the Sub-Saharan Africa market?  

Following my initial experience at Barclays, my journey with American Express significantly shaped my professional growth. This transition marked my first time working outside Africa, starting in Spain and then moving to London. These roles offered me a global perspective, contrasting the technological advancements and consumer behaviours in Europe and the UK with those in Africa. I learned the importance of not just copying Western models but adapting them to suit local needs, especially in technology and infrastructure. 

Returning to Africa with MasterCard, I focused on applying this glocal approach—global practices tailored to local contexts.  

A prime example was the introduction of contactless payments in Kenya. Considering the economic realities, such as the average daily income, we adjusted the transaction limits to be more accessible for the Kenyan market. This adaptation demonstrated the importance of understanding and respecting each country’s unique pace and readiness for new technologies. 

Sharing these global experiences with partners and stakeholders in Africa was pivotal. Providing concrete examples from my time in Europe, like contactless technology in London’s transport system, helped illustrate potential applications in African contexts.  

It’s about fostering a dialogue that blends global insights with local realities, gradually building understanding and adopting new technologies tailored to each market’s needs. 

Image: BPC Banking Technologies

Josh Poyser
Josh Poyser is an editor at FinTech Intel. He has written about fintech for several years and appeared at FinTech Connect 2023 on the 'Unlocking Success: The Art of Fintech PR' panel.