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The Limitations of Cash in Malawi

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The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Lilongwe was cash. While Zambia rebased its currency two years ago, there are still an inconvenient number of zeroes on Malawian Kwacha. The highest denomination note is worth less than $2 USD. This causes several inconveniences for ordinary Malawians, and Zoona agents, in particular.
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Entrepreneurship in Africa: creating Zoona

Last week during his visit to Kenya, Obama reiterated his belief in entrepreneurship as the ‘spark of prosperity’ – in Africa in particular. So far this summer, I have found no shortage of young Zambians and Malawians who share this ideology. So why aren’t there more young business owners in Africa?

I decided to speak to Brad Magrath – one of the two Zambian brothers who founded Zoona – about how they managed to become so successful in a supposedly hostile continent for new businesses. Here are the entrepreneurial lessons (with a healthy dose of Brad-style one-liners) that I have learned so far: Continue reading


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How to get a loan and start a business: when Zoona met Kiva

In my last blog post, I argued that Zoona’s agents are the ones who really make this company unique. So how does an ordinary person – even if they had a hard start in life or do not meet the minimum qualifications – become a successful Zoon franchise owner? How do they afford the start-up costs and have enough working capital? How do they get a loan without any credit history? Zoona has found a way to help budding entrepreneurs overcome these issues through a partnership with crowdfunding platform, Kiva. Continue reading


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What makes Zoona different: first impressions

This year, there are two Accion Ambassadors at Zoona in Zambia – Nile’s already explained well what Zoona does but as a brief recap for a complete mobile money novice:

  • Africa has an extremely cash-based economy – most purchases and bills are paid in paper money. Around 75% of adults in Zambia don’t even have a bank account.

  • People might work away from their families, receive a cash wage, but live far from their employer, have children studying in a different town, or maybe they’re just on the other side of the city and don’t want to have to go back home to pick up more cash.

  • Enter Zoona, with kiosks across the country (literally, everywhere) for these people to send and receive money.

  • You visit a kiosk, give the recipient’s phone number, create a pin and give the agent the cash (plus a fee). The recipient can then go to a kiosk anywhere else in the country, show the automated text, enter the pin, and receive the money.

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