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

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

The origin of HeptaPay Trace back to the data analysis company, Hepta Analytics, whose founders – expatriates in Rwanda – sought to solve a personal financial problem of micropayments into the country from their Kenyan accounts.

“It soon turned out that the problem of ‘easy, fast and secure cross-border micropayments’ resonated with many others,” one of these 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 found that expatriates in East African countries earn in their foreign bank accounts, but it is uneconomical to move US$100 or less to their local mobile money wallet for small expenses. For African expatriates especially, the costs are ridiculous, systems highly inconvenient , and options limited to mobile money interoperability pairs,” said Chebukati.

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“That’s why 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.

The update came 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 they can’t live without,” said Chebukati.

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HeptaPay users can send money to Rwanda, Kenya and Burundi to all major telcos from anywhere in the world, with the startup also preparing to go live in Uganda. Currently funded by angel investment, the startup was a recent graduate 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, in addition to HeptaPay being used by expatriates in African countries to load their mobile money wallets, it can also be used by Businesses used to trade regionally,” Chebukati said.

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“Techies and developers can also use HeptaPay to get paid by their international customers. International students in Africa can use HeptaPay to receive small payments from their loved ones anywhere in the world. And because we support merchant payments, small Instagram businesses can now worldwide Customers aim for free access to a global POS machine without the need for integration. The message of these use cases is sometimes bundled in the ‘remittance’ noise, while the said use cases are far from traditional remittance.

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