As digital businesses including fintech, neobanks and other data-driven companies spring up in Africa, among the challenges that face the companies is how to evaluate their customers. Notably, millions of people in Africa are unrecognised by the traditional data sets which limit their access to digitally-enabled services. These are regular folks who in this century with the fast pace of technology should be in a way recognised for their merits. dx⁵ (formerly CIO Africa) spoke to Ogo Onwuzurike, Sales Director Africa, MetaMap on how digitally-enabled businesses can improve their data infrastructure.
Question (Q): What does MetaMap do?
Answer (A): MetaMap was established in San Francisco, California in 2015. MetaMap provides identity verification solutions intended to transform anonymous strangers into trustworthy individuals online. Our platform provides a suite of trust assessment tools built on regional data sources and consolidated on a global scale. These sources range from local government checks to global watchlists, enabling businesses to fairly assess someone’s trustworthiness to provide better services to more people. Metamap operates globally and 400+ companies have outsourced their verification needs to focus on building. We focus on the fastest-growing regions of the world, where trust issues are the most prevalent and complex.
Q: Who are your customers?
A: Our most obvious customers are mostly banking, lending, crypto, remittance and gig businesses, because of the compliance and regulatory needs. However, we are seeing a growing opportunity across all industries were trusting a stranger is a key component of the business model.
Q: What problem are you trying to solve for businesses in Africa?
A: From my perspective, it’s two-fold. World over, the problem of building trust with strangers is in the shallow data, which has become the norm. Businesses don’t want to discriminate against their buyers — they want to serve more users and grow. However, the risk of being defrauded (for the company) is what holds up user onboarding at scale. In Africa, the problem is more peculiar, millions of people are unrecognised by the traditional data sets. We have many people unbanked, underbanked and excluded from financial services. These are regular folks who in this century with the fast pace of technology should be in a way recognised for their merits.
In 2021, African start-ups received 53 per cent of total VC funding estimated at about $4.3b across various segments. A large subset of these companies fall within the customers we serve today like neo-banking, lending, remittance etc. We simply want to help these businesses Unlock Borderless growth, wherever they want to expand even beyond Africa’s borders. We will enable them with the trust infrastructure needed.
Q: You keep referring to the concept of merits. What does Merit mean for MetaMap?
A: To better understand this we have to go back to the concept of meritocracy, where a person’s value was determined by how much they had accomplished in different areas. Based on their merit. Circling back to why we use this term, for us a merit is personal data point recognized by MetaMap, which is useful to at least one merchant to fairly assess their users. This could be tax data, court records, Clean AML record, work history, Gov. documents, etc. Merchants will often use multiple merits, and in fact multiple groups of merits, when planning the user experience. They may choose to string together multiple merits on our dashboard and overlay their unique business logic on these merits. This is a Metamap. Our mission as a company or North Star Metric as we call it within MetaMap is to map everyone’s merits to let people discover and navigate to each other in a borderless world.
Q: How do you turn ‘Trust’ from a compliance activity to a growth driver in an organisation?
A: A lot of our customers are highly regulated entities either by the Central bank or financial regulatory authorities in their countries. Therefore, compliance is critical for them and most times, they see it as a deterrent to achieving business growth. At MetaMap, we go into each country, understand their compliance and regulatory requirements and build the trust infrastructure required, helping merchants to meet their compliance needs. and unhinging their growth country to country. In countries where these traditional data sets are not easily accessible or excludes a large number of the population, we provide other ways for people to prove they are trustworthy
Q: What is your outlook on the East African Market and challenges in accessing trust data by businesses?
A: The East African region remains a promising region. In 2020, Kenya led in terms of funding raised by businesses across the continent. We are seeing great strides by businesses in Rwanda, and Uganda as well. However, the problem of data infrastructure remains. Having an aggregate single point for verifying user merits from compliance, financial, work, tax data point of view remains a challenge for most businesses.
Q: Do you have a success story from one of your global clients’ businesses, East Africa can learn from?
A: We support several global businesses from Binance to Dlocal to Eversend to iconic brands like Leadway Assurance to Kudabank and quite a lot of them are successful businesses and industry leaders in their fields..
Q: What is next for MetaMap in Africa and why does it stand shoulders above its peers in the identity verification space?
A: Most of our competitors only help businesses to become compliant. We invite customers to come for compliance but stay with us for merit recognition. I daresay, our mission is quite ambitious. A new generation of companies are changing how we live our lives every day, from platforms that create new fractional job opportunities to new financial services to sharing marketplaces that widen our experiences through strangers’ apartments or cars. These service providers imagine new ways for strangers to interact. We see the project of building infrastructure for services as a project of powering the future of borderless commerce — to make everyone borderless and reputable.