Paymenow, a platform launched in 2020 in South Africa, has grown significantly across the African continent, processing over half a million transactions monthly. With over 100 corporates and 290,000 users in South Africa, Paymenow has experienced remarkable growth.

Earned Wage Access allows workers to access their unpaid wages before their regular payday, providing real-time access to earnings in an economic environment with persistent cost-of-living increases.

In an interview with Paymenow founders Bryan Habana and Deon Nobrega, they discuss the platform’s growth journey and the influence of EWA on financial inclusion in the region.

  1. Could you explain the origin of the idea for an Earned Wage Access platform?

Back in 2019, I first encountered the concept of Earned Wage Access (EWA), which was gaining popularity in the US, UK, and parts of Europe. I was struck by its potential, especially considering that such innovative financial solutions were not yet available in South Africa. In a country where many workers are excluded from safe and secure financial services, leading to half of them resorting to high-interest payday loans for basic expenses, I saw a critical need for EWA.

Motivated by this gap, I dove deeper into the concept. Together with my friend Bryan Habana, we travelled to the UK to meet with major EWA players and understand its impact on employers and employees. This visit ignited our conviction that EWA could be transformative for South Africa, but it needed to be tailored to our unique market, people, and economy.

So, we got to work. Once we were back in the country, we assembled a team: I assumed the role of CEO, with Bryan Habana as Chief Commercial Officer, Willem van Zyl joining as Chief Technical Officer, and Gerbrandt Potgieter stepping in as Chief Digital Officer. That is when the fun started, and the journey began. We had to figure out how to South Africanize the EWA concept and make it fit for our market. Despite the challenges, we were driven by the belief that this financial empowerment tool could make a massive difference in our country. We started small, working out of my garage, which is so cliché, but hey, humble beginnings make our success all the more rewarding.

Today, we have over 500,000 users across Africa benefiting from Paymenow, and we continue to grow. And, while growing, it is amazing to know we are helping more and more people by giving them a financial lifeline.

  1. What financial support can Paymenow offer African workers, particularly in light of the region’s economic difficulties and growing cost of living?

In the context of persistently high inflation, economic and political uncertainty, and rising interest rates, employees are under real pressure. Paymenow’s data-free EWA platform provides a lifeline that more and more employees are eager to take. Paymenow is increasingly beneficial by supporting users through innovative solutions that not only alleviate immediate financial challenges but also empower long-term financial stability and resilience.

As our 2023 Impact Performance Report showed, 92% of customers would have had to borrow money if they hadn’t had support from Paymenow, and 94% of Paymenow customers say their quality of life has improved, with two-thirds reporting significant improvements. Financial stress significantly impacts employee well-being and productivity, and EWA mitigates this stress by enabling employees to access their wages when needed to help them stay in control.

Beyond EWA, Paymenow offers access to vouchers for essential items such as groceries, airtime, electricity, school supplies, and medical goods through our app, which is free of any fees on the gold tier. Furthermore, our in-app interest-bearing savings account promotes future financial wellness with zero fees.

Emphasizing responsible financial management, we provide free, gamified financial training modules within our app. These modules encourage better financial behaviour through improved financial literacy.

  1. Can you share some of the key benefits that users and corporate partners have reported since adopting Paymenow?

Absolutely! Over the past three years, we have partnered with 60 Decibels, an independent impact measurement company, to research the effects of Earned Wage Access (EWA) on our customers’ lives and wellbeing. Each year, the results demonstrate the significant positive impact that Paymenow has.

The data tells an inspiring story of substantial improvements in financial wellbeing and highlights the value of EWA. Both users and corporate partners have reported benefits such as reduced financial stress, increased savings, and improved overall financial management. These outcomes underscore the transformative potential of Paymenow, not only in enhancing individual lives but also in promoting financial stability and resilience across communities. Our latest report was conducted in December 2023, and some of the key results include:

94% of Paymenow customers say their quality of life has improved, with two-thirds reporting significant improvements. These customers talk about increased financial access, improved financial independence, and a decrease in stress levels as having contributed to their improved quality of life. These users also report an increased ability to save money, helping them build a more financially secure future.

92% of customers would have had to borrow money if they hadn’t had support from Paymenow. This is consistent with 4 in 5 customers saying their total debt level has been slightly or much lower since they started using Paymenow.

Any success stories you can highlight?

Nearly 4 in 5 customers say Paymenow has had a positive effect on their perception of their employers. These customers talk about how they now perceive their employer as being more caring and considerate, and about how they have better financial well-being and reduced financial stress.

Paymenow’s Net Promoter Score®, an indicator that gauges customer loyalty, is 75, an excellent score that indicates customers are largely satisfied with their service.

Lastly, in a JP Morgan report published in 2022, there was independent, statistical evidence that proved Paymenow users had an improvement in their credit scores versus similar South Africans within the same income and age brackets (reference the JP Morgan report here and maybe add a link to it)

  1. Could you describe the Paymenow integration process for various African markets, such as Namibia, Zambia, and Uganda?

On one end, Paymenow integrates either directly with an employer’s payroll system or via a third-party payroll administrator, which is often the case in the public sector across Africa. This is to onboard eligible customers onto the platform. On the other end, Paymenow integrates with banking and MNO (mobile network organization) partners that allow Paymenow customers to receive funds either into their bank account or into a mobile wallet.

  1. What measures does Paymenow employ to ensure the security and reliability of its platform, particularly when handling sensitive financial transactions?

Paymenow takes information security as a top priority, and as a standard, we are ISO27001 compliant and certified. We utilize the best cloud hosting and infrastructure in the market and perform proprietary KYC verification processes that mitigate fraudulent activities and secure our customers’ data.

  1. What effect, in your opinion, do Paymenow and other Earned Wage Access platforms have on financial inclusion in Africa?

Earned Wage Access platforms like Paymenow have a transformative effect on financial inclusion in Africa. They provide immediate and equitable access to earned wages, empowering individuals who might otherwise be excluded from traditional financial systems. This access helps reduce reliance on predatory lending and high-interest loans, breaking cycles of debt and financial insecurity.

Paymenow takes the offering even further by providing access to fee-free vouchers and an interest-bearing savings account. These additional services not only enhance the financial stability of users but also encourage savings and responsible spending, further empowering individuals to manage their finances effectively.

By promoting financial literacy and responsible money management, Paymenow fosters a culture of financial empowerment and resilience. This not only enhances individual wellbeing but also contributes to broader economic stability and growth.

Moreover, the inclusive nature of our and other EWA platforms means they cater to diverse demographics, from urban workers to those in rural areas, ensuring that financial resources are available to all. This is further supported by Paymenow being a data-free app, meaning a user can access and use our platform without using or needing any data. Earned Wage Access platforms are not just financial tools, they are catalysts for positive social change, driving greater financial inclusion and fostering a more equitable and prosperous future for Africa.

On a softer note, EWA removes the subjective nature of asking your employer for an advance or borrowing money from family and friends. Our users report that this, in truth, gives them their dignity back!

  1. What are your future plans for Paymenow? Are there new features or expansions on the horizon that you can share with us?

We have ambitious plans for the future, focusing on both expanding our reach and enhancing our offerings.

From the beginning, our goal has been to deliver financial wellbeing and resilience to all our users, helping them rise out of debt, regain their dignity, and take control of their finances. We prioritize financial wellness, inclusion, and literacy, ensuring our users can safely access and responsibly manage their finances.

Our services are designed to be universally beneficial, and users can benefit from them regardless of the sectors or industries they work in, or their nationalities. So the sky’s the limit, really. We’re breaking new ground with our innovative fintech platform and crossing borders to bring Paymenow to more people. Currently, we are operational in South Africa and have successfully launched in Namibia, Zambia, and Uganda, with expansion plans not just in Africa but also beyond the African continent already in the works. We are also very excited to announce that we are rolling out to a South Asian country in Q3 of 2024 with a population of almost 250 million people, in need of financial inclusion.

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