BD Insider, Letter 101: Mara Phone's controversies, Gozem expands to Cameroon

In the BD Insider, Letter 101, we covered Mara Phones’ demise in South Africa and the controversies, Gozem expansion into Cameroon.

BD Insider, Letter 101: Mara Phone's controversies, Gozem expands to Cameroon
BD Insider 101

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Hello BD Insider.

This week, we are introducing a new section tagged: "Five questions with...". In this new section, we will share five insights from our conversation with an African tech professional about the ecosystem.

For the debut, Daniel had a chat with Khalid Ismail, the Founder of Byte, a social payment app. Aside from this, what's inside?

  • COVID-19: Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia to establish mRNA vaccine production.
  • Francophone Super App, Gozem expands its operations to Cameroon.
  • Mara Phones’ demise in South Africa and the controversies

This letter is brought to you in partnership with Fincra.
Let's dive in!

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia as the first technology recipients of mRNA vaccine hub with strong support from African and European partners.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General made the announcement last week during the European Union - African Union summit in Brussels. “The best way to address health emergencies and reach universal health coverage is to significantly increase the capacity of all regions to manufacture the health products they need, with equitable access as their primary endpoint”, Tedros said.

The global mRNA technology transfer hub was established in 2021 to support manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines, ensuring that they have all the necessary operating procedures and know-how to manufacture mRNA vaccines at scale and according to international standards.


Fincra provides easy-to-integrate payment APIs to receive local & international payments and make local & international transfers in EUR, GBP & NGN. The APIs are designed to fit into any existing payments application allowing fintechs to offer more solutions like virtual bank accounts in multiple currencies to customers and scale their services across Africa. Sign up for a quick demo on Fincra here.

Pan-African Super App, Gozem expands its operations to Cameroon

Gozem has commenced its taxi-booking service in Doula, Cameroon. “We are very excited to bring Cameroonians a simplified, safer, and more convenient taxi cab solution”, Jean-Martial Moulaud, Gozem Group Director stated.

With this expansion, the Super App is now available in 12 cities across 4 countries in two sub-regions in Africa, with more than 1 million downloads and over 7 million trips. Aside from the taxi cab ride-hailing service, Gozem will offer Cameroon residents other ride-hailing and logistics services in the coming months.

Modelled after the success of Gojek and WeChat in Southeast Asia and China respectively, Goziem intends to become the top super app in Africa. While it is only one of many super app candidates in Africa, geographic expansion is a signal of strong intent.

Mara Phones’ demise in South Africa and the controversies

Two years after building South Africa's first smartphone manufacturing facility, Mara Phones has shut down and is on auction in a sale mandated by its funders: the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Standard Ban.

“Our ambitious plans to launch two subsequent facilities in Africa to manufacture 'Made in Africa' devices was untenable in South Africa due to the pandemic and lockdowns that followed only four months after opening”, Mara Phones stated.

The South African factory was opened a week after Mara Phones was set up in Rwanda. However, the company said that unlike in South Africa, the Rwandan facility remains operational and has been consistently in production.

Amidst the shutdown, Mara Phones workers in South Africa have alleged that the company is owing to their wages. Business Insider reported that “the workers who last worked in July 2021 when the factory halted operations, got paid in May 2021 for April and often had to endure late payments."

💬 Five Questions With...

I had a chat with Khalid Ismail, the founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Byte — a social payment app. The interview which happened on January 15, 2022, has been slightly edited for clarity and length.

What's Byte and how did it start?
I got the idea for Byte while working for Paga [January 2020 to December 2020]. Around October, I started working on the first version of Byte, a chatbot that allows users to pay bills from within Facebook. It was called Gista Byte. By December 2020, I stopped working at Paga to focus on working the product full time. And today [January 15, 2022], makes it a month we launched publicly.

What we’re trying to build here is a unified payment interface that banks can also integrate. So we are starting with social payments where we allow anyone to send and receive money using their email address, phone number or a tag.

Byte is like a single source of truth where you don’t have to ask people for their account number to send them money. If you have their phone number or email, whether they are a Byte user or not, you can send the money and they'd receive it.

How’s Byte different from other social payments app?
We are different in terms of who our target audience is. Firstly, we’re focusing on where millennials and Gen Z’s are — schools, which was where the idea was birthed. We're focusing on the niche that other big players have left unattended.

Secondly, we provide multiple options for users to make payments. For instance, you’re a content writer and you use emails a lot so you can send money to one of your colleagues using their email address on Byte. Also, let’s say you have just the phone number of someone who is not on Byte but they are on WhatsApp, you can easily send them money from Byte and they can redeem it into their bank account or their Byte wallet.

Our mission is to create a cashless infrastructure to power Africa’s digital economy. We want to power the cashless infrastructure for Africa by creating that unified payment interface that works across all banks.

How does Byte make money?
We’re still iterating. But currently, we charge a 1.5% fee for paying with your debit card. If you’re sending money to someone using your debit card on Byte, we charge a 1.5% fee. But we’re looking at removing that and making money through the service we provide to underserved microbusinesses. For instance, our users who are in schools across Nigeria can use Byte to pay in restaurants in their schools.

How's been your traction and growth trajectory?
So far, we have 500 customers and our transaction is growing by 40% week-on-week. We’ve processed $100,000 since we launched publicly a month ago [December 15, 2021].

Also, we’re currently looking to raise money. And Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe is one of our advisors and, as such, Tekedia Capital will participate in the funding round, too.

Who were the founders that stood out for you in 2021?
The co-founder/CEO of Treepz Onyeka Akumah. He’s a serial entrepreneur. His energy, the way he represents his companies and his demeanour is inspiring.

🧐 Interesting?

Here are some of the interesting stories that we've come across in the past week:

💼 Job Opportunities

Check out these openings. Share them with your network.


Product & Design:


  • Moove - Senior Frontend Engineer [Lagos]
  • Eden Life - Junior Backend Engineer
  • Stears - DevOps Engineer

Thanks for reading and sharing
Have a great week!
🖊 Johnstone and Daniel

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