Q&A with Matt Roberts-Davies, M-Changa; Create Innovative Products That Match Local Culture



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ITBusiness spoke with Matt Roberts-Davies, the Business Development Manager/Experience Director at M-Changa, a fundraiser management platform that provides cutting edge end-to-end management tools to enhance fundraising success. The session is majorly on the tech trends in Africa and the novelty of the internet of things (IoT).

1. How can you define the technology sector in Kenya?

There is a lot of buzz around tech in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. One of the main reasons for this is the success of M-Pesa, a digital wallet that has reached mass adoption in Kenya and enables cashless transactions. As a result, many Fintech companies come to Kenya to leverage existing technology and find the proof of concept for new Fintech innovation.

2. Can you walk us through how M-Changa works?

M-Changa is the largest crowdfunding platform by volume in Africa, it’s the natural link between Harambee and mobile money. Anyone in Kenya can set-up a fundraiser online or via SMS in just a few minutes.

Once you have set-up your fundraiser, M-Changa provides all the tools you need receiving payments, communication, reporting and security. Each fundraiser has a unique Safaricom Pay-bill number, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and more. You will also have a story page to add your pictures, videos, description and targets. You can share your story page easily with M-Changa’s social media integration. Fundraisers may withdraw their funds at any time to their mobile phone or bank.

Matt Roberts-Davies, the Business Development Manager / Experience Director at M-Changa

3. What is the most rewarding and challenging part of what you do?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing how crowdfunding through M-Changa is enabling thousands of people in Kenya to fund-raise more effectively and meeting their needs.

The platform has so far helped 13,000 people raise money for medical needs, education, weddings, funerals and even organizations and enterprises.

The challenging part of what I do is creating awareness around M-Changa and crowdfunding since it is a new concept in Africa.

We know from existing customers that it really helps them with fundraising activities beyond simply the funds. It can be frustrating when people fund raise without using M-Changa due to a lack of understanding or awareness.  My advice to these people would be to try the product since it is free to set-up and learn how it works.

4. What are the challenges of scaling to penetrate more market segments especially within East Africa?

The East African market is sparsely populated, the majority of people tend to be skeptical of new technology and larger corporates are bullish.

5. Are the tertiary academic institutions accommodating the industry personnel deficits?

Overall, I would say there is a large skills gap for tech in East Africa. However, there do exist a number of skilled developers and this trend seems to be improving. I would argue that academic institutions ought to place more effort on training soft skills so that graduates would develop better working habits and become more productive, particularly since the international job market is so competitive.

6. Where do you see Internet of things (IoT) going in the next 5-10 years in Kenya?

Many middle-class Kenyans, particularly in Nairobi, have an appetite for new and trendy products. I would expect the IoT to grow in the Kenyan market. I believe the pace will be slower than the West, partly because of high import duties and lower incomes.

7. What advice would you give to future Tech-preneurs?

Listen to your customers and try to create products that are not too different from the culture. M-Changa saw an opportunity in the Harambee/fundraising culture and found a way to formalize and digitize it. 

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