How Rwanda’s HeptaPay links debit cards with mobile money accounts

Rwandan startup HeptaPay allows users to instantly transfer money from their debit or credit card to mobile money accounts in East Africa.

The origins of HeptaPay trace back to data analytics company, Hepta Analytics, whose founders – expatriates in Rwanda – sought to solve a personal finance problem of micropayments into the country from their Kenyan accounts.

“It soon emerged that the problem of “simple, fast, and secure cross border micropayments” resonated with many others,” one of those co-founders Emmanuel Chebukati, told Disrupt Africa.

The new product, HeptaPay, officially went live in Rwanda in 2020, and later in Kenya and Burundi.

“We noted that expatriates in East African countries earn in their foreign bank accounts yet it is uneconomical to move US$100 or less into their local mobile money wallets for small expenditures. For African expatriates especially, the costs are ridiculous, systems highly inconvenient, and options limited to mobile money interoperability pairings,” said Chebukati.

“Therefore, we decided to make it as easy as “swiping” your card online to transfer micropayments from your foreign bank account to your local mobile money wallet.”

Update surged during the COVID-19 pandemic as ATMs were inaccessible, making HeptaPay the most convenient way to load mobile money for delivery services.

“Our retention numbers are very good and for some, we are a critical service that they cannot live without,” Chebukati said.

Users of HeptaPay can send money to Rwanda, Kenya and Burundi on all major telcos from anywhere in the world, with the startup preparing to go live in Uganda as well. Currently funded by angel investment, the startup was a recent graduates of the fintech incubation program run by CcHub and Google in Kigali.

“We charge fees per transaction, make a spread on the exchange rate because we only bill in USD for now, and also earn from mobile money agency commissions,” said Chebukati.

“Because we are building a fairly new product in a noisy space, we have encountered challenges in getting the word out about our services. For example, besides HeptaPay being used by expatriates in African countries looking to load their mobile money wallets, it can also be used by businesses to trade regionally,” Chebukati said.

“Techies and developers can also use HeptaPay to get paid by their international clients. International students in Africa can use HeptaPay to receive small payments from their loved ones from anywhere in the world. And, because we support merchant payments, small Instagram shops can now target global customers with free access to a global POS machine without the need for any integration. The messaging of these use-cases sometimes gets bundled-up in the ‘remittance’ noise, whereas the use-cases mentioned are far from traditional remittance.”

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