How Cellulant  became the first to connect MPESA to a Bank Pioneering Mobile Banking in Africa

That Cellulant pioneered mobile banking is a fact less known beyond the Kenyan fintech and banking circles. For a company that is still considered a fintech despite having a footprint in 35 African markets, its hardly surprising. Cellulant has always let its work speak for it itself operating largely as a technical solutions provider. This was until 2 years ago when the company raised $47.5 Million in a Series C fundraise- the largest for any fintech in Africa at the time. Still, little is known of this entity that has silently pioneered some of Africa’s most innovative techbased solutions.

Pioneering Digital Content For Mobile

Cellulant was founded in 2002 when Bolaji Akinboro and Ken Njoroge met one night and realized that they bore the same vision of starting a company together.

In 2004, Cellulant launched the first mobile content services in Kenya and Nigeria with a focus on music and news. Cellulant sold polyphonic tunes directly to consumers through telco lines. Marketing for the products was done through newspapers and telcos capturing more than 8M unique consumers over time, all of whom were consuming local news and genres.

Pivoting from Ringtones to Mobile Banking

A newspaper clip of the news story on the KPMG Top 100 recognition

Finding a viable business model soon became a pain point as most consumers were unable to pay the USD 0.60 charged for each ringtone. Our venture into payments was purely out of necessity, We needed to help customers fund their mobile wallet from their banks in an easier and more convenient way. About the same time -circa 2007- Safaricom’s mobile money giant MPESA was been launched in Kenya.  We thus built a bot that simulated this process of withdrawing from the bank and depositing funds into one’s mobile one wallet thereby automating a process that was quite manual.

Mobile money was attractive because there was an opportunity in the market and a customer pain point that we could solve via this Fintech innovation.

Between 2005-2007, Cellulant began to prototype the mobile banking platforms in the region, and thus we shifted the business model from B2C to B2B. in 2007 we launched the 1st mobile banking solution and were selected as one of the top ten medium-sized company finalists out 453 at the Legatum Pioneers of Prosperity Africa Awards in Kigali Rwanda.

Mobile Banking on USSD

In 2008, we advanced the mobile payment solution by deploying the first Mobile Banking Solution on USSD for one of the first multinational banks, Standard Chartered Bank. For this achievement, we got recognised as the inaugural top medium-sized company in Kenya in the KPMG Top 100-medium sized company contest.

With this, we began expanding our footprint in Botswana, Zambia and Ghana. In 2011, we began to advance a converged eco-system that would connect Banks, Merchants, Mobile Network Operators and the consumer to create a single one-stop-shop for a seamless mobile commerce experience.

In 2014, we expanded our mobile banking offering and mobile wallet offering into a fully loaded mobile payments ecosystem.

Today Cellulant provides digital banking solutions to some of the largest banks in the region. Our payment gateway interconnects, 120 financial service providers, 40 mobile network operators, more than 600 businesses and over 220M customers across 34 countries.

If you would like to get more information on our digital banking solutions, email us on [email protected]