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Opinions of Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Columnist: Herman Kwame Kumatsey

The rise and fall of emerging tech companies in Ghana

Ghana, over the years has seen the rise and fall of many emerging tech companies either by local startups or companies entering the market from other countries.

These companies usually fall in the e-commerce, Fashion, mobile apps and services or fintechs. A lot of these businesses come with many promises and new “creative” ways only to fold up months or a few years later. This is usually as a result of the following;

- Lack of extensive Market research,
- No Market for the product
- Poor Marketing
- Running out of money or investors

Unfortunately, most of these startups get caught in one or more of the above mentioned and end up collapsing.

Some Notable brands include;

OLX - a classified forum which saw a decline of interest by people with the uprise of social media advertisement. People preferred to advertise on social media as it was less expensive and they have control over it. It was eventually bought by JiJi.

Easy Taxi was one of the first ride hailing apps that folded up months after entering the market, It was new to the Ghanaian Market as most Ghanaians weren’t accustomed to this service and to top it up was very expensive than that the traditional taxis that were already known. They also collapsed in Nigeria around the same period of their fold up in Ghana.

OMGvoice became rather popular in their early days with creative content and young staff but folded up due to unrealistic targets. Techmoran.com reported how the “buzzfeed of Africa” had one of its founders resigning with lots of unpaid salaries due to the struggling nature of the company eventually leading to its collapse.

Most of the brands cited above did not only operate and fail in Ghana but in other African Countries like Nigeria and Kenya.

Online payment companies have not been left out either. Some of these companies that used to be very vibrant during their launch stage have been very quiet over the years. Examples of such are Slydepay and Zeepay who have been silent for some time now. With that said, it cannot be ignored that some of these online platforms have remained and continued to flourish, an example is ExpressPay.

REASON STARTUP FAIL IN GHANA

This however hasn’t stopped the influx of fintechs from springing up. The latest being OPay.


OPay, is an online payment platform developed by opera software is a platform just like any online payment that enable users to shop and pay for services and products through their mobile app or web browser.

It does sound like an easy way to pay for services but unfortunately, this Chinese company might be heading towards doom just like the previous failed companies and here is why.

OPay has failed to gather the required expertise and knowledge to run the business in this part of Africa despite having reasonable funding.

Already operating in Nigeria, the Chinese owned company has been unable to turn profit yet due to certain policies influenced by the Lagos State Government.

There has also been recent report by a research website, hidenberg.com that states that Opera has been found guilty of several misconducts in its operations across board, such as misappropriation of the company’s operational cost, poor management and some corruption crisis which has been traced to the company’s current CEO Yahui Zhou.

Here in Ghana, the company has introduced a new service to their platform which is Hire purchase. Companies offering Hire Purchase of phones and electronic appliances in this country are already faced with various risk elements in running and maintaining their business which brings the question, what new method or invention would OPay bring up to sustain their service? And how viable is this going to be? Aside this, OPay plans on running as an epayment platform, a space which is already choked and hugely dominated by epayment giant, Expresspay.

According to Askifa.ng an insider whose name will be withheld for privacy reasons, shared an insight on how the internal management looks like, and just like the rumors that have been making rounds on the internet, it wasn’t a fantastic one. According to her, the company has employed a lot of resourceful talents, while offering juicy benefits; however, fast-forward to date, the company has been slashing employees’ benefits including salaries. So we ask will this be the case whiles in Ghana??

Additionally, OPay was recently accused of falsifying numbers, which according to a reliable source, was from fake orders, and was intended to ‘promote’ or possibly increase its app usage. Whether this worked well for them or not, it isn’t the best approach for a startup that ordinarily should be after leaving behind a good first-time impression. What also happens to gaining people’s trust? I didn’t mention investors because, to them, it’s all about Return on Investment (ROI).

It is also worthy of note; OPay’s latest venture into mobile phone business. The Chinese company named its mobile phone brand - OLLA, and you are most likely not aware of what that means, I guess? This is only possible because the new devices have recorded low sales (near-zero in some cases) in over 80% of the shops they are been sold in Nigeria. That’s also aside from the fact that the devices are of low quality, forcing a lot of phone dealers and Telco’s to quit doing business with them.

The company already has a number of Ghanaian staff since its short operation in the country but what happens to them should this go south? Laying off staff leading to Unemployment?

As a Nation, we acknowledge and appreciate the evolution of fintech and the emergence of tech companies, but then raises the question, is it doing more good or rather harm to the unemployment situation in the country? Is a company like this likely to survive the laws of Ghana? has the regulator checked it's modus operandi? Has the Bank of Ghana epayment regulator made background checks about OPay Nigeria? Will it be able to keep up with the Telco led mobile money evolution in Ghana as the Telcos in Ghana play a key role in the epayment and mobile money evolution in Ghana.

The questions never seem to end.

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