Fonbnk is a fintech company enabling a frictionless, financial onramp for emerging markets. Leveraging the existing network of mobile phone accounts, anyone with a prepaid mobile SIM card can now have access to the global digital economy.
They say time is money, and time is literally money in Africa – specifically airtime (synonymous with the talk, text and/or data credit balances), which is time spent communicating through a mobile phone. 64% of Sub-Saharan Africans own at least one smartphone as of 20211. Compared to their US or European counterparts, mobile phone users in Africa do not have the same affordable access to unlimited data plans and widely available reception; rather, they often rely on pre-paid SIM cards and buy the data they need a certain amount for their required access.
Since airtime is so valuable and readily accessible compared to other forms of mobile money, it is actively treated as a “de facto currency” that can be swapped out for cash or used to barter for goods and services2. However, due to the lack of robust cellular infrastructure across the African continent, airtime is subject to the whims and price increases of mobile carriers. According to the Africa Report, “[d]espite a 44% mobile penetration rate, Africa still has the world’s most expensive prepaid mobile data plans in relation to median incomes” with mobile data prices, on average, representing a staggering 8.76% of income.”3