By editorial team
Developer of the world’s first mobile money accounting solution, Francis Otim from Uganda, uses Microsoft Azure to help African SMEs be more competitive.
Named MyAccounts, the solution is the flagship of Otim’s company, MMindz, and enables merchants to track all their customer and supplier payments made to and from their mobile phone. “Most businesses in Uganda were not using accounting systems. Those that were, often only had one or two users because of the cost,” he says. Traditional accounting programmes also did not allow for tracking of mobile payments which are prevalent in Africa.
MyAccounts is built and hosted in the cloud, meaning it can be accessed anytime, anywhere and has a lower cost of infrastructure, providing an affordable service for customers. MMindz chose to use Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, Azure, as its hosting and developer environment. MMindz’s other apps, mobile app APIs, dashboards and all systems are hosted on Azure, with its databases running directly on Azure storage or on a virtual machine. This enables users of MyAccounts to aggregate their transactions to produce financial and stock records, customer invoices and receipts, printable financial statements and tax returns.
“Azure helped us solve the financial inclusion challenges of the number of African merchants using mobile money. We wanted to provide unique value for our clients without spending a lot on infrastructure,” says Francis.
Azure also enabled Francis to tailor his solutions for the African market, for example developing data light apps that run on very little megabytes because of bandwidth constraints in many parts of the continent.
MMindz also wanted to build analytics tools for its customers and for itself. With Microsoft, it could easily create both with Power BI by simply adding it to the Azure platform. Through Microsoft’s MySkills4Afrika program, MMindz was provided personal mentorship to help it integrate this technology, as well as navigate Power BI for its data analysis requirements.
“By using Azure in conjunction with Power BI, businesses can turn their data processing efforts into analytics that provide real-time insights,” says Francis. “Business intelligence tools are critical for the survival of SMEs. Without data analysis, we are unable to identify our break-even point and can’t formalise our business, which has a knock-on effect when it comes to getting capital and growing the business.”
Power BI has enabled MMindz to analyse its top performing salesmen, best-selling outlets, GPS locations and market share by volume. “We can present high-level market intelligence and interactive reports to our clients across multiple platforms, and the dashboards are easy to customise. This is helping us grow our business because we are giving our clients real-time insights so they can make informed business decisions based on data, not sentiment.”
As MMindz continues to grow, Francis plans to explore Azure Stream Analytics for its real-time stream processing in the cloud capabilities. This performs real-time analytics from multiple data streams from multiple devices and applications.
“What is clear from our work on the MySkills4Afrika program is that SMEs across the continent are very hungry for innovative solutions,” says Anand Mariappan, a Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft who volunteered in Uganda to help MMindz integrate Power BI. “MMindz has shown an eagerness to adopt new technologies and methods for doing business, which is so important for any SME’s growth and sustainability. Azure has enabled MMindz to use world-class resources for the good of its own, and its clients’ businesses, in Africa.”
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