Co-founder of PayDunya, Youma Dieng Fall, says their goal is to simplify the digitalisation of sales, payments and management for all African companies regardless of size or field of activity.
PayDunya is, however, an e-payment solution company based in Dakar, Senegal.
Fall says she knows that they are operating on a continent were more than 60% of the population is unbanked.
When coronavirus broke, she said, “my first thought was, how will we survive?’’
That was on March 23 when her country’s President, Macky Sall, declared a nationwide state of emergency to fight the spread of the novel COVID-19 pandemic in the West African country.
Within a week, 70% of the company’s clients had ceased their business activities.
“As a startup in a fast-moving, competitive market, we had overcome many challenges”, she says, “but nothing prepares you for something like this.”
Since opening in 2016, PayDunya had enjoyed steady growth. The company’s employees increased from zero to more than 50 in less than four years, and its portfolio of clients spread beyond Senegal’s borders, into Benin and Côte d’Ivoire.
But many clients were in the tourism industry – one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic – and no longer required the company’s web and mobile payment solutions.
“I had never imagined such a scenario,” she says. “It was like watching a movie. I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
Just as some doors closed, others began to open as social distancing and heightened concerns over hygiene restricted cash transactions and pushed more business operations online.
“We started receiving phone calls from businesses desperately in need of digital payment solutions”, she says. Many were from new sectors, such as agribusinesses and pharmacies. Others had been wary before.
In recent weeks, the company has picked up a record number of new clients. Ms. Fall and her team are helping West African businesses limit financial loss from the crisis and advance financial inclusion in a region where more people have mobile money accounts than bank accounts.
The company has not only faced major business challenges but has also had to overcome the difficulties of confinement and telecommuting – a new way of working for most employees.
“Working from home isn’t common in Dakar or other areas where we operate”, she says, adding that the company is providing internet credit on employees’ work phones to help ensure they have a reliable connection outside the office.
PayDunya’s experience offers lessons that could help businesses in the region mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic, which could cost Africa about 20 million jobs, according to a study by the African Union.
“The crisis is creating many challenges but also opportunities for those who can work digitally”, Ms. Fall says.
When the crisis hit, PayDunya quickly put in place measures to ensure business continuity and staff safety.