Fintech start-up redefining digital financial services in Africa


Tap2Eat, a digital mobile platform that uses cutting-edge FinTech to enable public primary school children to access nutritious food, NFC smart wristband, a product of Terra Soft Ltd

Photo credit: Pool

Huge demand and growth for digital wallets in Africa, especially in Kenya, and with no one building the infrastructure for these wallets so that customers do not have to build them themselves, gave a duo a business idea.

They established Terra Softworks Limited, a fintech start-up that serves to empower African businesses by aggregating financial services, in one platform dubbed Wallet as a Service (WaaS.

Terra was founded in 2012 while the founders were still enrolled at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat). Their goal was to leverage their course-related talents to create solutions for Africa.

“Since its inception, Terra has evolved. We were initially a software development-focused technology company. Throughout East Africa, we developed software solutions for governments, financial institutions and non-profit organisations. Around 2014, we changed our focus to payment platforms and created a payment gateway called SwypePay,” according to co-founder Muriuki.

SwypePay was a payment processing platform that enabled merchants and businesses to make payments and receive payments across East Africa. But this was short-lived as everything went crushing during the Covid-19 pandemic period.

Digital wallets

The founders, Collins Muriuki, 33, and Martin Nyaga, 34, saw an opportunity to apply their in-depth expertise in contactless payments, specifically Tap & Pay, to address an issue and brought Terra 2.0 back to life as Africa’s digital wallet infrastructure.

Terra, is a comprehensive platform for businesses to create and manage digital wallets for their customers easily and empowers African businesses with fast, seamless and all-encompassing digital solutions.

Terra Softworks Limited

Collins Muriuki, the founder of Terra Softworks Limited, a fintech start-up that serves to empower African businesses by aggregating financial services in one platform.  

Photo credit: Pool

Mr Muriuki says Terra is committed to fostering digital ecosystems across Africa and assisting businesses in thriving on a single, integrated platform.

It is aimed to accelerate growth and realise financial objectives by simplifying and enhancing complex processes. Although he admits that it was not easy.

Mr Muriuki, who also studied Accounting and Finance at Strathmore University, says that he developed a liking for technology from a young age from watching his brother open up, fix and do upgrades on their old computer and he found that fascinating.

He notes that he started the company with an initial capital of Sh20,000 loaned to them by his father. As collateral and a way for them to repay the debt, they sold a Samsung Galaxy Tablet that his co-founder Mr Nyaga had won from a gaming challenge.

“We have impressively grown a 100 per cent boot-strapped company into a profitable African venture, securing significant contracts with impact. Terra is redefining digital financial services in Africa,” he says.

About five nations are supported by the company’s WaaS platform, which has facilitated close to 40 million transactions through the platforms’ infrastructure. This accomplishment is especially notable in the highly competitive tech start-up scene, as obtaining outside money is frequently regarded as essential to expansion.

“We are a B2B business, our clientele ranges from SMEs to well-established businesses that need digital solutions to help streamline their processes and make them more effective. In most cases, our customers, will leverage our wallets to make some complex tasks, simple and efficient, while unlocking growth opportunities in Africa,” says Mr Muriuki.

Terra has had a wide variety of clients; from non-profit organisations, Ed-tech organisations, governments, financial services providers, enterprises among others.

Through the use of wallet-ready smart farmer cards, he led the development of a smart card based tea traceability platform by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA).

Mobile money

“In addition to giving farmers a sense of security and empowerment, this platform makes sure that tea can be tracked easily from the farm to the factories. It also creates chances for layering and offering digital financial services to all Kenyan tea growers on the same card and wallet infrastructure,” he says.

In their other project, Food4Education School Feeding Programme, Terra co-developed, launched and scaled Tap2Eat, a digital mobile platform that uses cutting-edge Fin-tech to enable public primary school children to access nutritious food for education.

Parents pay for the subsidised lunch using mobile money. The amount is credited to a virtual wallet linked to a smart wrist band which students Tap2Eat in under five seconds. Terra has worked with Cup of Uji for their cashless school feeding programme.

“To give tools and automation with our digital wallets, we collaborate closely with partners in the fields of education, agriculture and healthcare. We have partnerships with businesses worldwide including Motorola, Famoco, Ulefone, Google and more,” he states.

Regarding accreditation, he says that they are presently working to obtain a license from the Central Bank of Kenya to license Terra as a provider of payment services.

WaaS, Mr Muriuki says enables anyone in Africa to create, manage and deploy digital wallets without having to invest time or money in building them. Usage-based pricing begins at $150 (Sh20,000) for startups, and users can take advantage of a 30-day free trial after registering on the company’s website.

25 financial services

Mr Muriuki says the ability of WaaS to aggregate more than 25 financial services, including digital wallets, onto a single platform is what distinguishes it from the competition.

He asserts that their strategy has been multidimensional, firmly anchored in innovation, strategic alliances, consumer insight and persistence despite the competitive landscape.

“Our value offer is around the smooth incorporation of state-of-the-art technology into financial services, with practical applications that cater to the changing requirements of both consumers and businesses. Our platform offers unparalleled customisation,” he states.

By using no-code tools, they streamline complex processes, enabling one to focus on growing their business and achieving their vision in the ever-evolving.

Whether it’s for a small start-up or a large enterprise, Terra’s solution is designed to scale and evolve in alignment with their client’s growth trajectories.

Currently having a team of over 20 full time, remote employees and consultants, Mr Muriuki says that their goal is to see Terra grow into a pan-African company and we go above and beyond to turn this dream and goals into reality.

Biggest hurdle

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest hurdle we have had to get through. We lost a lot of business during the pandemic and had to close operations in Uganda and Rwanda, as well as majorly reduce our staff to four members,” he says.

By using digital wallets, Mr Muriuki hopes to facilitate financial inclusion throughout Africa. He says their wallets drive impact and that is what they want to accomplish, whether it’s a wallet for school feeding or access to healthcare.

He says by leveraging their digital wallet technology, they have made significant strides in addressing critical societal challenges, such as school feeding programmes, healthcare access, financial inclusion for economic empowerment and environmental impact by promoting cashless transactions.

“To achieve product-market fit for our WaaS service and scale at the regional level beyond Kenya, we aim to create and deploy 1 million wallets by the end of the year, become a licensed Payment Service Provider in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda by mid-next year and to create a positive impact in our society through our digital wallets,” he concludes.

Muriuki was awarded the prestigious 2023 Business Daily’s Top 40 under 40, most promising founders in 2023 by Founders Africa and has been nominated for the FortyUnder40 Africa awards for 2024.