In this week’s blog we are showcasing a Q&A with Wala’s CoFounder and CEO, Tricia Martinez, who is driving forward with a mission to provide Zero-Fee Banking to every consumer in Africa:

Can you give a brief explanation of what the Wala digital banking is and what users can expect?

Tricia: Wala is the first digital banking platform for Africa. We have created a product and model that makes banking FREE for everyone and completely changes the way consumer’s access, engage with, and use financial products and services.

What does this really mean? It means, you can open up a bank account on your phone, manage all your finances through your phone like a budget, paying bills, sending payments to friends, and this is all for FREE. The problem with banking for most consumers in Africa is that it costs money to deposit, to withdrawal, to hold money, to send money, to pay bills, etc. Literally any action you take has a fee associated with it. With Wala, you have ZERO FEES. We believe that in order for people to get on the path towards financial stability they need access to affordable products. The day you download the Wala app and sign up for a Wala account there will be zero fees, free p2p payments, and eventually access to low cost microinsurance, below market rate loans and international payments, and even a way to transact directly with merchants.

When is Wala digital banking launching?

Tricia: We will be launching the Android mobile app to the first few hundred users in February for preliminary testing! And after that, we will release it to the next few thousand users. Just a few months away for zero-fee banking!

Is Wala actually a bank with a financial institution license?

Tricia: Wala is not a financial institution. We work in partnership with banks and other financial services providers to offer free or below market rate products. The Wala platform sits in between banks and customers eliminating many costs thereby creating a more efficient system for everyone. At the end of the day, our number one priority is protecting our customers and ensuring they get zero-fee banking and cheaper financial products.

How will a customer interact with Wala? How does it work?

Tricia: Customers will download the Wala Android app, sign up for a bank account via the app, go through a banking KYC (Know Your Customer) process where we ask for proof of residence, ID cards, and a picture of you. Once you are approved for a bank account you can manage your money from the app, deposit or withdrawal at our bank partner ATMs and agents and send payments to friends and family for free!

So you work in partnership with banks and accredited institutions. That makes me feel much better, but is my money safe when I open a Wala bank account?

Tricia: Your money is 100% safe! We have partnered with one of the largest banks in Africa who holds all of your money in a bank account ensuring security. While you manage your accounts through the Wala app, you will use our bank partner’s ATMs and Agents to move money in and out.

Why should I use Wala digital banking over other services like mobile money?

Tricia: It’s simple. Wala is the ONLY company that can provide ZERO-FEE BANKING. If you use mobile payments with a telecom provider it is likely that you will incur fees to send money, receive money, hold money, withdrawal money, etc. But with Wala, we cover all fees for you and make the experience convenient so that you don’t have to deal with the additional financial stress.

What about other financial products like loans, insurance, international payments? Will you be offering those?

Tricia: Wala aims to be the “one stop shop” for all your financial products and services. We think it is kind of absurd for someone to go to a bank, then to a loan provider, then to an insurance provider, then to a payment provider all with added fees and inconveniences. I am excited to say that Wala will be offering an array of products at below market rate! We are already designing a life insurance product that you can purchase by the day. And down the line we will be offering loans international cash payments and more!

Is wala digital banking going to have offices on the ground where members can have physical interaction with administration?

Tricia: Ideally, we will not have physical locations. We need to keep costs down so that we can service more African consumers with zero-fee banking and that means cutting down operational costs. Once we launch in February we will be testing ways for customers to engage with Wala whether that be in-app messaging or other methods.

What plan do you have for those who can’t afford smart phones since all these require a smart phone?

Tricia: Great question. Smart phone penetration is on the rise, which means in the next few years more and more Africans will own smart phones especially because they are becoming cheaper. Wala works most efficiently as a smart phone application, but as we begin to grow and expand we might look into other operating systems.

How do we deposit and withdrawal cash from the bank account?

Tricia: Like I said before, Wala works in partnership with the biggest bank in Africa. As a Wala account holder you will be managing everything from the app and utilizing our bank partners ATMs and Agents to withdrawal and deposit- free of cost!

This sounds amazing! How do I open a Wala bank account and when can I do it?

Tricia: If you are interested in being one of the first few hundred users leave a comment below or send us an email at info@getwala.com. We are already signing up users so don’t miss your chance! And don't forget to check out the Wala website for more information.